It’s once again time to get the popcorn at the ready, grab a ridiculously over-priced bucket of coke and switch off your mobile phone as yet another blockbuster movie receives a video-game conversion, this time in the form of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
Like the film, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs follows the story of young wacky inventor: Flint Lockwood, whose latest invention, the Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator (or FLDSMDFR for short), causes food to rain from the sky. The machine spirals out of control and it’s up to Flint to save the town from being crushed by food and to ultimately destroy the FLDSMDFR.
The game begins in Flint’s laboratory, acting as the game’s source of navigation between levels, upgrades and unlockables. This proves to be quite a successful way for the game to operate, with the setting receiving such a lengthy dose of screen time within the film.
Launching the game’s story mode greets players to a retro pixel style cutscene displayed on a television within Flint’s lab, whilst a voiceover narrates the on-goings. Although it has been excellently designed, the unique style doesn’t comply with the rest of the game, which consists of the typical cartoon manner you’d expect from a title in this genre. Nevertheless, the game’s graphics are to a very good standard. It’s a shame the same can’t necessarily be said for the audio.
It’s not that the game’s audio isn’t to a good standard, it’s just it appears there’s very little in the way of variety. Hearing Flint call out the name of the gadget he is switching to on a very frequent basis is more of an annoyance than the constant re-runs on the television at Christmas, especially with the long bizarre names the gadgets have been given. It was also disappointing to hear that the voice work for the game was done by impressionists, rather than the cast of the film themselves. Whilst they manage to fulfil the role effectively, the sense of unity between the game and film starts to fade.
The Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs story mode itself is fabricated of seven acts, each of which contains between two and five levels dependant on the act. Each mission requires players to use an assortment of gadgets in order to progress through the level, defeating the enemies and to complete the objective. The gadgets include the Chopper-er - a blade used in order to slice foods and enemies; the Bigacious Pow – a boxing glove to punch enemies and move large objects; the Upsucker Plus – a vacuum to suck up liquids, which can then be used to fire at enemies; the Hot Enougher – a heater used to melt particular items and the Forkamajigger – a giant fork that allows items and enemies to be picked up and poked. There are enough differences between each gadget to class them as unique and they all are very easy to use, even more so when they are upgraded.
Each of the gadgets can be upgraded, depending on how many hydrons the players has collected throughout each level. Hydrons are collected by players killing an enemy or destroying a particular item and contribute to the hydronometer, where reaching a certain level on the meter rewards players with the ability to upgrade. The upgrades increase the strength of the gadgets, something which comes in use throughout the later acts in the games when more enemies are evident.
A feature of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs that has to be loved is the sheer bizarreness of the enemies Flint comes up against. As witnessed within the film: Gummy bears and roast chickens make a tasty appearance, with the game additionally featuring enemies such as broccoli and spaghetti tornadoes. Each enemy requires a specific gadget (or gadgets) in order to be defeated, something players will quickly pick up on over the course of the game.
As well as enemies, players will also come across hydronic food throughout the game. Destroying these using the appropriate gadget not only increases the player’s hydrons, but destroying all thirty throughout each level unlocks a puzzle piece. This is placed in the jigsaw under unlockables which, when completed, grants players access to the ultimate weapon, which is playable within the game’s final level. Despite the fact that many players will inevitably stop playing the game once destroying the FLDSMDFR, it’s the achievement junkies who are more than likely to attempt this ever-so-slightly-more challenging fate.
The game’s achievements are practically handed to players on a plate, with almost any player being able to obtain a good 700 GamerScore, possibly even 800 GamerScore from the game on a single playthrough, with the final points being obtained by returning to specific levels to collect any missed hydronic foods. It really is as simple as that.
Unfortunately, the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs story mode is the game’s only feature. Whilst there is a slight hint of multiplayer coming in the form of co-operative play, using the drop-in/drop-out system, the game doesn’t offer any more in terms of gameplay. Whereas this may sound disappointing, it may be for the best, considering the multiplayer standards of other movie-to-game conversions.
Overall, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a great attempt at enhancing the movie experience through the medium of video games. Whilst the game’s story mode is fairly short-lived and the lack of additional gameplay is a key factor in the game’s downfall, it is definitely a title that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike.