When it comes to video games, film tie-ins have had something of a bumpy history. While GoldenEye 007 for Nintendo 64 proved that a licence can flourish in the right hands, it’s more often than not a rare exception.
However, when a game is based on a movie which itself is based on video games, it’s fair to assume that the end result might be just be something that’s worth our time. After all, the developers already have an idea to work with and all they need to do is cleverly work their own creativity in around this.
Unfortunately, this isn't the case with Wreck-It Ralph. Despite the fact that its movie counterpart draws its inspiration from video game classics such as Donkey Kong, the game is surprisingly lacking when it comes to gameplay, level design and practically every other aspect.
That’s not to say that there isn't some thought put in; in some ways Wreck-It Ralph does feel like a 2D platforming game from the early 90s, mainly due to its array of moving platforms, dangerous obstacles and switches. Yet, while it may look like a great retro romp on the surface, the truth is that it’s utterly lacking when it comes to the gameplay. There are so many ideas that could have been taken from the vibrant, magical world that Disney created for the film and expanded upon, but this sadly isn't the case here. Like many licensed games, Wreck-It Ralph is little more than a rinse and repeat effort, and one that is woefully lacking in the fun department, too.
Although it isn't really made clear, this game is set after the events of the movie, and the introduction does a pretty good job of revealing some pretty big spoilers. Ralph is enjoying life and the new found respect his new video game buddies have for him. However, this is short-lived as Ralph, in all his clumsiness, accidentally releases an entire horde of evil Cy-Bugs.
With the nasty creatures invading each and every video game, it’s up to Ralph and Fix-It Felix Jr. to team up and save the virtual video game world yet again. The player must regularly switch between Ralph and Felix and use their unique abilities in order to progress through the game.
This sounds like a great idea on paper, but the execution is quite poor. That’s because the whole thing feels like a gimmick, as their abilities are mostly trivial. For example, only Ralph can walk up ladders, while Felix is the only one who can repair certain objects. This setup could have worked really well if it weren't for the fact that it’s always blatantly obvious what you need you to do. The game even provides you with hints which explicitly inform you when to change character and which buttons to press. There’s a never a sense of challenge or urgency where you need to think and act quickly.
To make matters worse, there’s very little variety when it comes to the gameplay. Despite being spread across various game environments from the film such as Hero’s Duty and Sugar Rush, the only thing that really changes is the visuals. Assets are simply repainted and reused in different levels. For example, a laser barricade that blocked your way in Hero’s Duty is remodelled into a golden gate in Sugar Rush, and works in exactly the same way. Nothing has been done to make each of the game’s areas feel like its own world and the simplistic puzzles are duplicated throughout.
As a result, Wreck-It Ralph becomes tedious very quickly. It truly is a shame that the developers didn't approach this with more creativity, especially considering the fact that the game is not based directly on the film. It’s a fairly short title and although there’s an enhanced mode you can experience upon completing it, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll actually want to go back through it all again.
Wreck-It Ralph also disappoints when it comes to its overall presentation. Character models look crude, and the environments look remarkably bland for a Disney game. Naturally, the 3D effect adds some depth, but it’s not used in any meaningful way beyond that. It would have been great to see Ralph charging through enemies, only to them see them fly towards the screen.
The game’s soundtrack is surprisingly authentic, sounding very much like something you’d hear in a NES game. Nevertheless, it isn’t very good; there were game soundtracks made more than 20 years ago which are infinitely more catchy.
Wreck-It Ralph could have been so much more. Disney clearly spent a lot of time injecting the film’s world with strong gaming influences and tons of variety, and it’s baffling that the developers didn't build upon this. Instead, it feels like nothing more a half-hearted attempt to cash-in. It looks and feels like a retro game in some ways, but it’s simply far too shallow and devoid of fun to draw you in. As a result, you should probably save your quarters for a more worthwhile effort on 3DS.