NINTENDO DS REVIEW: FINDING NEMO: ESCAPE TO BIG BLUE

Finding Nemo: Escape to the Big Blue for the DS isn't as delightful a game as it was a movie - and we all know that when the word "delightful" is ascribed to a game that it's usually the kiss of death.by Cole Smith

February 24, 2006 - Finding Nemo: Escape to the Big Blue is basically an updated version of the original Finding Nemo game released on the GBA in 2003. With the same premise, same characters, same music, sound effects and very similar gameplay, the developers are showing that they really know how to milk a dead fish.

Finding Nemo is the kind of game that will fill time between blockbusters. It's not great but the younger audience, especially those that enjoyed the movie, will find some favor with it. However there is a decided lack of personality which makes the game seem calculated and detached. We recognize the characters but they seem like mindless clones of the original with very little story and virtually no voiceovers. Gamers that have played the original GBA version are going to be a little older and wiser, and if they don't exactly feel betrayed by the similarities, they will certainly experience some degree of déjà vu.

In Escape to the Big Blue, the Tank gang has decided they've have enough of living in a fishbowl in some boring dentist's office. By enclosing themselves in water-filled baggies, they devise a portable, life-sustaining method of locomotion that can take them to the ocean. You must navigate them across the city, crossing highways and avoiding pitfalls along the way. You use the stylus to move the baggie. A jump command will allow you to leap over potholes, pits and chasms. By blowing into the microphone, you can induce some speed into the baggie which can help you outrun vehicles and other potential threats. Blowing in the microphone is not only awkward but it's not good for the system. Continued blowing can permanently damage the cartridge and diaphragm of the mic, not to mention all the damage that can be done with your bacteria-infested breath and moisture being introduced into your system. You can trigger this move without having to blow into your mic, just make a relatively loud sound close to it such as a yell or a handclap and it will do the job without potentially damaging your DS. In any case you're still going to look stupid doing it so you may not want to play this game on a bus or in a dentist's waiting room.

Once you lead your fish to the pier you will have to get them into the water and to the safety of the reef. Here is where you will run into an assortment of mini-games. Each fish has different mini-games with different levels of difficulty. These mini-games are the game's saving grace. I just wish there were more of them. We don't really need a story but it would be good if things were somewhat tied into an evolving adventure.

The mini-games make good use of the touch controls. One game requires that you bounce a blowfish around to avoid him getting caught by anglerfish. His buoyant nature makes him particularly light as he floats around like a balloon. In another mini-game you trace the outlines of different fish using the stylus. There is even a rhythm game where you tap to the tempo of a song. The mini-games all come with instructions that explain exactly what you have to do with no guesswork involved.

Items, characters and mini-games can be unlocked by collecting shells, completing mini-games and getting the high score. There is also an aquarium that you can customize with all kinds of unlockable and collectible items. It's basically just a trophy room, as you can't do much more than look at it but it might encourage some kids to strive to collect everything the game has to offer to squeeze some replay value out of it. For most of players I would imagine this kind of replay value would not entice kids to want to own this game rather than just renting it - knowing they could get their hands on another five or six rental games for the same price.

Graphically the game is reminiscent of the movie. The characters and the environments are rendered in 3D with bright colors and lots of cartoonish detail. The animations are smooth and the controls, while very simple, are responsive. There is virtually no frustration factor with the game. It's easy to play and very straightforward. The variety of the mini-games is definitely a plus but they don't all relate to the Nemo theme.

I would have preferred that the game didn't even attempt to incorporate a storyline into the gameplay. It just feels tacked on. If the developers spent more time developing more mini-games in the Wario Wares tradition, this game would have fared a lot better.

Features:

  • Help the Tank Gang make a daring break for the deep blue sea.
  • The beloved characters from the film including Nemo, Marlin and Dory lend a helping fin as their briny buddies dive deep into the unknown on an incredible journey to find a brand new home in the coral reef.
  • The game utilizes the Nintendo DS touch screen to take players on an adventure through more than 20 mini-games.
  • Players will also be able to utilize the Nintendo DS microphone and wireless capabilities for multi-player mode.

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

Rating out of 5
Finding Nemo: Escape To Big Blue (DS)
4.4
Graphics
Not a bad looking game at all. It's appearance is about the only thing it has in common with the movie.
4.2
Control
It's a very easy game to play thanks to a simple and intuitive control system. The tutorials explain all of the mini-games very concisely.
2.6
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Recycled sound effects and music from the GBA game cheapen the overall quality. Should have used the soundtrack from the movie. What's up with that?
3.0
Play Value
Unless you're one of the obsessive types that has to collect and unlock everything in a game, you'll be done with this is few hours.
3.4
Overall Rating - Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: DS
Dev: Altron
Pub: THQ
Released: Feb 2006
Players: 1
Review by Cole

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best