|System: DS, Wii|
|Dev: Monkey Bar Games|
|Pub: D3 Publisher|
|Release: December 07, 2010|
by Steve Haske
Yogi Bear has never been one of my favorite Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Compared to the antics of Scooby-Doo and Shaggy or even the everyday problems George Jetson faced (in the future, no less!), Yogi's flat jokes and hare-brained schemes to steal pic-a-nic baskets from under the nose of the dim-witted Ranger Smith always seemed relatively lame. Of course, it's arguable that as an adult few Hanna-Barbera shows really hold up as entertaining, at least outside of, say, a time-capsulated case study in 1960s domesticity or anthropological Americana. Regardless, that hasn't stopped Hollywood from churning out theatrical remakes of such properties, and with such celluloid garbage comes the inevitable marketing tie-ins like the Yogi Bear video game.
Now, we all know that movie tie-in games suck, but some of you may not remember just how bad they used to be. Back in the heyday of 8 and 16-bit consoles, if there was a successful brand or a media IP with the potential to make money, you'd better believe there would be a game available on every possible home system, even if had nothing to do with the series it was based on. This created scenarios like Michael Jordan dribbling his way through a post-apocalyptic Chicago (since his Airness was in fact a brand name unto himself in '94) and Tim Allen fighting dinosaurs—yes, dinosaurs—in the Home Improvement game. These are obviously two egregious examples, and not everything was so off the wall.
But the design of these games rarely varied from side-scrolling platformer types, and more often than not had level, enemy, and logistical design that seemed almost as random (or just lazy) as the more nonsensical examples. Despite being released in 2010, the developers of Yogi Bear could have probably taken a game that was made twenty years ago, given the sprites a lick of paint, and added a touchscreen menu, and no one would have been the wiser. The only difference is that in this game you're given unlimited lives.
That means that simple design isn't really going to hold most gamers' attention for more than a few minutes. As a sidescroller, Yogi's goal is to (what else?) find picnic baskets, while collecting food and gadget pieces that allow you to make new contraptions like spring boots and skates. Attracting attention from enemies will earn the would-be wrath of Ranger Smith, whose reprimands will require you to play a level over again. Levels can also be replayed again after you get enough junk to create new gadgets, but unless you really like collecting things, there's nothing here that's really worth revisiting.
Crumbling platforms and other platforming tropes are in abundance here, but the game's story mode can quite easily be blown through in less than two hours. Yogi himself is also a bit clunky to control, with a momentum-based movement that feels similar to Sonic in his latest core adventure (the somewhat sluggish Sonic 4). The controls aren't exactly broken, but it's not clear why Monkey Bar Games deemed it necessary for Yogi to feel like he's loaded down with lead-lined picnic baskets—maybe it's all his crazy contraptions he's carrying around? It doesn't really matter. Other than that, butt-stomping random dogs, Jellystone tourists, and various local fauna (why is being "attacked" by a sparrow a big deal?) just makes the game feel really lazy. Which I suppose it is.
I would never expect the digital equivalent of Citizen Kane or Lawrence of Arabia from a licensed game like Yogi Bear, but I do often feel somewhat sorry for developers that are forced into working on terrible tie-ins. Given the generally short deadline they have to make a game that at the end of the day the team hopes is at least competent in its basics, it's no surprise that so many of these games suck. With as forgettable source material as the new Yogi Bear film—which may be the most embarrassing of this type of film since Bill Murray decided to do Garfield (Justin Timberlake following The Social Network up with this is particularly sad)—the quality of any game related to it would obviously be dubious at best. And with so many other kid-friendly games available on the DS, that makes this bear particularly forgettable, even for fans. Pass.
CCC Freelance Writer