It’s time to play the music. It’s time to light the lights. It’s time to meet the Muppets in The Muppets Movie Adventures. Kermit and his crew of mega-star pals have come to the PS Vita in this bright and colorful platformer. As a life-long fan of the Muppets, I was ecstatic to see that two of my favorite things have finally come together in one place. But is this combination something great, like chocolate and peanut butter, or does it leave a bad taste in your mouth (like peanut butter and coffee… yech)? Let’s take a closer look.
The Muppets Movie Adventures is about as classic a platformer game as you can get. It hearkens back to the tried and true formula that has been around since Super Mario Bros. Each level has you jumping from platform to platform while dodging danger at every turn. You play as one of four different Muppets character who are each trying to make it through a scene in a movie. Kermit stars in a pirate themed level as well as a sci-fi space adventure. Miss Piggy makes her appearance as a queen of a fantasy realm. Animal shows up in the Wild West, and Gonzo stars in a horror film where vegetables are coming to life.
Each stage, or movie, begins with a director giving you the story behind the scene you’re about to enter. There is also a narrated cut-scene that provides the back story for what is going on. All of these pieces of narration are cute and feature some humor that may go over the heads of younger players. These little snippets of stories are all separate from each other and aside from the Muppets characters, there is little connecting one stage from the next. There is one exception to that. You can find musical scores in all the levels that can then be used by Miss Piggy to help her collect all the stars in her stage. It feels a bit random that this is the only time actions taken in one scene directly impact another.
Speaking of collectibles, scattered throughout each scene are a number of items that you can grab along the way. Stars, film reels, and magic movie tickets all give you something to search for as you make your way to the end. Not all of the items can be collected on the first play through and after beating the level for the first time, you’ll be given extra abilities that will allow you to go back and get the rest.
This gives the game a little bit of replay value, which is good because aside from trying to collect 100% of everything, there isn’t much that will keep you coming back.
The Muppets Movie Adventures is a beautiful 2D side-scrolling platformer featuring the Muppets. It is everything I could ask for in a game and yet I find the whole thing to be a bit underwhelming. First of all, it’s short. Each one of the stages only takes about 20 minutes to complete, or a bit longer if you’re going after every collectible.
And second, it’s really easy. Yes, I know, it’s a kids’ game, it’s should be easy, but it’s more than that. There are parts in the game that offer a really good platforming challenge, or places where it’s really easy to die. The problem is that there are few repercussions for dying. You have unlimited lives and each death only sets you back a ways to a previous check point. You may lose a little progress, but not much.
But I’m probably not the target market for this game. It is a kids’ game, so I handed it to my 8 year old daughter and had her play it. She was cruised through with no problems. She’s almost as big a Muppets fan as I am, so she loved it. She really loved playing The Muppets Movie Adventures… for about a day. After a day of playing, she was done and it was back to Minecraft. Why? It was too easy.
I think there’s a false perception out there that in order for a game to be fun for kids it needs to be easy. Yet if I think back to the games I grew up on, and they were anything but easy. They offered a challenge. They were difficult, and when I finally learned how to beat them, I had such a great feeling of accomplishment. The Muppets doesn’t offer that. Maybe if you had a limited number of lives or there was a punishment for failing, there would be an actual level of excitement. But without consequences for failing, there’s less gratification in succeeding.
I may be coming across a bit harsh on the difficulty, but one place I can’t be harsh is talking about the presentation of the game. It looks amazing. The character models for the Muppets are great and the art work for the backgrounds is also top notch. To add to this, the music for each of the stages is tailor made for the genre you’re playing in. So you get the accordion heavy music in the pirate level and a thrilling orchestrated score in the sci-fi epic. It’s really great. The only disappointment is that the characters themselves don’t speak.
The controls are both a blessing and a curse. The game controls great 90% of the time as you have the basic two-button system that is standard in platformers. You can jump and you can attack (Miss Piggy, the prima donna that she is, gets two ways to attack so she has three buttons to use). Where it gets frustrating is when you’re confronted with those moments that they shoe-horned in the Vita’s touchscreen. Occasionally you’ll have to flip a switch, which of course means you need to swipe down on the screen. Perhaps the most odd use of the Vita’s motion sensors comes right at the beginning when you have to tilt the Vita from side to side to swing Kermit onto a dock. It’s something you do right away and never again. It’s so random that I question why it’s even there. In fact, removing most of the times when you’re force to touch the screen would probably improve the game.
As a huge Muppets fan, I have been greatly anticipating the arrival of this game. After playing it however, my level of excitement has dropped a great deal. There are moments in the game that are fantastic and a lot of fun, but they are greatly over shadowed by the lack of any real challenge. It’s a beautiful game that could be really good, but it’s hard to recommend it, even for kids.