|System: Wii, PS2, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Atomic Planet||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Destination Software||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Dec. 27, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure is an important game. Not because it plays well or is particularly interesting, but because it marks a shift in the way games are being produced and marketed. You will not find this game in any game store. Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure is based on a National Geographic film of the same name and is therefore only primarily available through museum gift shops. So why is this important? Well, name the last time that you saw a video game touted in the souvenir aisle.
As the world of casual gaming expands, it seems that the idea of video games as merely a distractive device is shrinking. Games are becoming a different medium altogether, and I would not be surprised if this game sells extremely well in its limited release simply because of the sheer novelty of the idea behind the game. I know if I had seen it at the Smithsonian after seeing the movie/exhibit that inspired it I would have been inclined to pick it up as well.
When I sat down to play this game, I tried to imagine myself as a young child who had just returned from a museum, and was happy to take a part of the exhibit home with me. The prospect intrigued me, and I was excited to see where this game took me. But sadly enough, as is the case with most games geared towards the casual sect, this game turned out to be pretty bad. I found myself disappointed, because Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure had so much potential.
Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure puts you in the role of several ancient sea creatures. They're not really monsters, but they sure look ferocious when compared to the sea life young children may have seen already. You start the game as a long-necked Thallasomedon, and it will be up to you to complete challenges to find fossils and unlock other species. These challenges include swimming, stealth, and hunting challenges, and each one will gain you a new fossil that you can use to eventually unlock new species. Among the species you'll be able to unlock is the turtle-like Henodus and the swordfish-looking Temnodontosaurus. You can unlock six of these ancient creatures in total, and each one will have different strengths and weaknesses. You will be able to use these characteristics to your advantage when playing through challenges. The more advanced your character is, the easier these challenges will be.
Sounds pretty cool, right? The premise is admittedly simplistic, but for the younger sect I think it would be perfectly suitable. But the real problem with this game is its control. The control is so bad here that it makes the game virtually uncontrollable by children, adults, or even the sea monsters themselves. The control scheme sounds simple enough; you swim around by leading your monster with an onscreen cursor and swimming in that direction via the A button. But the trouble is that the cursor is never where you want it to be. You can point the remote up and press A, and suddenly the cursor will teleport to the left corner and our Sea Monster will swim right into the jaws of an enemy. Or sometimes, if you are trying to attack something (which is done via the B button) your sea monster will do a flip instead. This was my biggest problem because the last thing I want to do when I'm being attacked is gymnastics. It is frustrating to say the least, and really ruins the experience of the game.
Visually this game doesn't look so bad. The graphics are about standard as far as the Wii is concerned, and some of the sea monsters look pretty good. However, other sea creatures that you may encounter look blocky and out of place. The sound in this title is okay, and features a few tunes that will play during different challenges and environments. The problem here, however, is that the tunes are on a very short loop and get annoying pretty fast. There's also a weird glitch that happens every once and awhile where the audio track will just forget to loop for a cycle or two. It seems odd to say, but I find this glitch merciful because it always kicks in right when you feel like you're annoyed to the point of tearing out your hair.
Overall, I applaud the makers of Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure for the idea of making a game that ties in with a museum exhibit. It is a fantastic idea that deserves some credit, and it only helps bolster the current transformation of the video game genre into a more legitimate and mainstream form of mass media. However, I can't help but feel extremely disappointed in regards to the poor quality of the game. If this game had sorted out its control issues, it would have made a decent addition to any child's library. But as it stands, this one is best left in the museum gift shop.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Freelance Writer