Sunday, June 19, 2011

The best of both worlds

Hannah Montana: The Movie Game
Game Category: Kids, Rhythm, Adventure, Action 
Developer / Distributor: n-Space / Disney Interactive
Release Date: 8 Jun 2009 
Rating: ESRB - Everyone

Introduction
Today I will do a simple review of a game that seems to have been shunned by most critics out there. How will we ever know if the game is good or not unless somebody out there in the world reviews it, right? Ok, I'll take on the challenge. I'll pop the disc into my PC and then click on the Install button that appears.

But then a klaxon blares over my head and my conscience tries to drive me into denial mode. It says: No! Don't do this! You will tarnish the reputation of Daily PC Game Reviews. This is a girl's game and people are going to hate you for doing this!

Frankly, I don't believe in that. If you have been reading my website, you will know that I have quite an eclectic mix of game reviews on offer. In fact, I have reviewed at least a 130 games already, but not one of them was a rhythm game that targets itself at kids (be it girls - or boys). Well, the Hannah Montana: The Movie (HMTM) game fits this role to a tee.

To bring you up to speed on the movie, brunette Miley Stewart (portrayed by Miley Cyrus) is leading a double life as Hannah Montana. Donning a blond wig to portray Hannah, Miley has fooled everyone so far. Now follow Miley as she returns to her hometown Crowley Corners with her father, Robby.

This is a game based on music rhythms  
Game Play 
Although this adventure game (with music rhythm and action elements) may be aimed for kids, it's not one of those overly dumbed down games. I think an adult could get into this game and try his hand at what HMTM has to offer, but he may come away disappointed with the experience. It's definitely not targeted at the hard core action, strategy, or RPG player, so stay away if you are already starting to feel like saying D'oh! Anyway, I am pretty sure HMTM fares better in the hands of girls.

Do note that it's a single player only experience, so don't expect to grab a second controller to play along. The story in the game follows the movie but it does add quite a lot more to the experience.

A tutorial movie on Dance Poses
The first thing you should do is to access the Tutorial since the manual is atrocious in describing the Performance mode. This mode is where you will be playing the music and rhythm game of HMTM. The tutorial throws you in fast through the concept of a rehearsal for Hannah. There are several parts to the tutorial and you can keep watching the demo movie and trying a part until you are ready to play an entire performance proper.

Let's see what you have to learn:
  • Dance Poses - If Miley poses during a song, you must press and hold the appropriate keys shown. You get more points as the stars accumulate. Simple enough considering there is some memorization work here.
  • Gestures - Hand gestures such as a High Five or Lasso are shown to you in the form of an icon enclosed in a pink circle. You just repeat the keys shown to score points. More memorization work here.
This is the most complex move in the series of Gestures
  • Guitar - A fretboard appears and you must strum by pressing the Return key when a note moves over the target zone. There are three positions for the notes - center, above, or below. You must press the corresponding arrow key if the note is above or below the center string.
  • Drums - This one is pretty simple. There are four drum with arrows on them. Notes will fall down towards these four drums and you must press the corresponding arrow keys.
  • Keyboard - A keyboard appears and three white keys are highlighted. You press the left and right arrow buttons to catch notes that fall from above. Any note that you catch in the center of the three highlighted keys earns you extra points.
Strumming my guitar
  • Singing - Hannah Montana is going to sing lots in this game and you will have to help her at that. The songs that were featured in the movie soundtrack take center stage here. An action bar sometimes appears when Hannah is using the microphone. Words from the lyrics may appear either as (blue) circles or as bars (with a yellow circle at the front of the bar). A strobe moves from left to right along the action bar during the song and you must press the Return key when the strobe passes over blue circles or press the Space bar when the strobe passes over the yellow circle; you continue to hold the Space bar for the entire duration of the bar. It may sound complicated, but it's really easy once you try it a few times.
As you can see from the screenshot below, Hannah is taking center stage and singing one of her songs. Throughout the song, you will be performing any one of the six different actions that I mentioned. Depending on the song, it could be a sequence of dance poses followed by several gestures, then you must strum several notes on the guitar, sing a couple of verses, followed by dance poses once again, etc.

This ain't a rehearsal... it's the real thing
A bigger part of the game is the adventure that takes Miley back to her roots. Her home town of Crowley Corners comes to live in six different areas:
  • Grandma's Farm - Isn't it nice to be back home as Miley Stewart and not worrying about being Hannah all the time. Move around and talk to the people within the farm, there's Grandma Ruby, Robby, boyfriend material Travis, and even Lily later on.
  • Farmer's Market - One of the first things you will do to advance the story is to follow grandma to this place.
  • Fairgrounds - What better way than to have fun at the Fairgrounds. Play several interesting mini games here.
  • Petting Zoo - Yes, you may have herd that you will be doing some pretty interesting things here.
  • University - Visit the local university in Crowley Corners.
  • Meadow Hall - Town events over at the Hall are fun.
Herd of pigs?
Miley owns a Z-Phone that is of some importance in the game. Here you can check on all the extras that you can collect, list out the current task you must do to advance the story, access the map to visit the six locales of Crowley Corners, sneak back into your tour bus, and change to a new set of clothes at the closet.

You also get the occasional phone calls from Miley's friends and relatives. Incidentally, the Z-Phone works like a holo projector that you see projected by R2-D2 in Star Wars: A New Hope. Funny but cool. Who needs the iPhone when you can have a Z-Phone?

The neat Z-Phone
The Tour Bus is Hannah's abode. Here you can change Hannah to a new set of clothes in her closet. There are also a number of rooms in the tour bus that you can decorate. Click on an object or furniture in the room and an available list of unlocked items will be shown to you. You can personalize the Tour Bus as much as you want and Hannah's going to exclaim that she loves it almost every time.

Most of the things in your wardrobe and furniture/items used for decorating the tour bus need to be unlocked. You do this by completing tasks - like fetching for things in another part of Crowley Corners, by completing an important story objective, by playing a mini-game like Bottle Toss or Frog Hop, etc.

I love this wallpaper!
Graphics
The 3D graphics is in my opinion above average. You won't find anything finely detailed like what you may see in a first person shooter like say Unreal, but instead you get to see basic shapes and textures. Incidentally, the textures look rather blurry to me. As for the 3D models, there are a ton that you will see in the game, but alas for the most important one - Hannah Montana unfortunately has a pretty pathetic hairdo.

Audio
The songs in HMTM is excellent. You will actually be playing to the songs performed by Miley Cyrus and that is a great thing. Anyway, one man's meat may be another man's poison. The sound effects are decent although I wonder why the drum music is interfering with Miley's song playing in the background. The voice over work is mostly good to excellent except for one or two clunkers.

She said that right
Pros:
  • HMTM is obviously targeted for young girls. If you are a parent, this is a perfect gift to get for your little daughter.
  • The Performance mode is a pretty simple rhythm style game that tests you on your agility and accuracy in performing under stress. 
  • The game ties in with the movie pretty well and you get to unearth more trivia about Hannah Montana and Crowley Corners.
  • There are interesting mini-games such as riding old Blue Jeans over obstacles in Meadow Fields, throwing rubber frogs onto lily pads in Frog Hop, and more.
  • Excellent music performed by Miley Cyrus with highly addictive tunes. Boy, I can't get it out my head!
  • An entire tour bus filled with rooms and a closet to personalize.
Giddyup Blue Jeans!
Cons:
  • The adventure game is very simple with fetch quests and a huge glaring arrow that points you the way to your objective. This means the only true challenges in the game are the Performances.
  • There's just way too many compulsory transitions between locales just to advance the story. 
  • Miley only walks throughout the game, so I believe this punishment was meant to build your kid's patience.
  • Not enough interesting unlockables like deleted scenes from the movie or perhaps an interview with Miley. I was kind of hoping for that.
Miley gopher this, Miley gopher that...
Conclusion
In my opinion Hannah Montana: The Movie game is pretty run of the mill. Most of the time you will be completing boring quests, going on shopping trips to spend the coins in your piggy bank (so you can get more clothes for your closet and stuff for personalizing your Tour Bus), getting to meet with your father, grandmother, that little brat of a brother, and a growing love interest by the name of Travis.

The game should however be a world of enjoyment for the right audience; that audience being kids. If you intend to get this game for your kids, I would like you to know that 3 points should be added to the final review score in consideration for them.

Any time indeed
Daily PC Game Review Score: 4.5 / 10
Review Date: 19 Jun 2011

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