Movie tie-in games are legendary for providing gamers with mediocre non-canon, filler, or just plain garbage. Children's games are known to be occasionally fun, but usually go unconsidered. Low expectations can often precede impressive surprises, but what happens when you have a movie tie-in that takes the form of a children's game? Usually mediocrity. But is this the case with one of the many games I have owned for years but up until recently never had the interest to play?
Madagascar - Nintendo Gamecube
Yes, this is totally the case. Madagascar is really mediocre. I mean, duh, right? It's a "kid's game". But I wanted to play this game after noticing that I had no idea what made kid's games bad. I don't remember disliking kid's games as a child, yet I no longer play them as an adult. Why? Let's find out.
(for real) Madagascar - Nintendo Gamecube
Madagascar the video game, based on the Dreamworks movie of the same name, is an action-platformer that combines many different types of gameplay into one coherent title with a strong emphasis on plot and surprisingly little to no repetition. The main game is broken up into levels that take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes to complete. The levels are easy, and there are only enough to make up what comes out as a 4-5 hour game, but each level introduces one or more additional mechanics that keep gameplay fresh, yet never stop it from becoming boring. Each level has you playing as one or more members of the cast of the Madagascar movie, and the dialogue (as well as the entire game, for that matter) does not assume that the player is already familiar with the source material.
The constant switching of characters contributes largely to keep the gameplay fresh. Each of the 5 characters you play as have enough of the same moves in common, such as jump or attack, to ensure a smooth transition from character to character, but have enough unique moves to justify the transition in the first place. Levels are designed around the moveset of each character used to complete them: Alex with his double-jump ability is featured in many of the levels that focus on platforming, Gloria with her large collection of attacks is featured in levels that emphasize combat, etc.
Of course the argument would be made that no kids game could satisfy the needs of an experienced adult gamer, but I would be very quick to disagree. That which is known as a "skill-cap" is the amount of time or practice that must be devoted to a video game in order to master it as thoroughly as possible. If a game has a high skill cap, then it can be said that the game requires a lot of practice and/or time to master it, while a game with a low skill-cap may require virtually no practice in order to achieve mastery status. Satisfaction in video gaming comes with having achieved mastery despite a high skill-cap. Some games have a high skill cap despite being easy to play- this would be an example of "easy to play, hard to master", a phrase that adequately describes many titles. Many kids games are "easy to play, hard to master", but Madagascar is not one of them, and thereby scratches no itch.
Kid's games can be fun under particular conditions. I am familiar with many kid's games that become more fun as knowledge of their nuances is gained, but Madagascar is not an example of such a title. Though not particularly lazy in any one department, it does not pose enough of a challenge, nor does it possess a high enough skill cap, to yield a satisfying victory.