So, I know what you’re all thinking – a licensed game – a Madagascar game no less – instant bin material. However, this is not the case here. Madagascar: Operation Penguin is a surprisingly decent game with a variety of fun game mechanics, although it is a bit short and easy.
Plot and Setting
The plot of the game is very loosely based on the plot of the first movie, but told from the viewpoint of the penguins. Although, might I say, for a game based on Madagascar, only a single level in the game is actually in Madagascar!
The implementation of the plot feels very rushed as 85% of the game does not take place in the titular location, and they seem really had to force through all the plot at the end. Although, for a game like this, the plot frankly doesn’t matter as it definitely puts a greater focus on gameplay mechanics.
Graphics and Audio
Graphics in Madagascar: Operation Penguin are passable, although generally look like a typical GBA platformer, with vague background graphics, mediocre sprites, but competent-enough animations. The game also uses still images from the film to convey certain story elements, which frankly look terrible, but you can thankfully skip these “cutscenes”.
Embark on a wild adventure with Madagascar: Operation Penguin! Dive into diverse game mechanics and enjoy a surprisingly engaging experience with your favorite penguins.
The audio design on the other hand is much better. While the music tracks are limited in number, there are just enough of them to be varied and the tracks are generally quite enjoyable. I have definitely heard worse music on the GBA and some of the tracks actually remind me of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon music in places, so that’s definitely a good thing.
Now onto the gameplay – of which the game has a surprisingly large amount. The game adopts a progression of slowly building up game mechanics as you go along. The first mechanic you learn is the sliding mechanic, where you can glide on your belly to duck through small spaces or to gain momentum on a downhill slope, which is surprisingly satisfying.
This isn’t a difficult game by any stretch. The cookie-cutter rats, birds, crabs, and guards, which make up the major share of the game’s enemies, move in set back-and-forth patterns and won’t actively pursue the heroes. Players have five health points to get through each level, and there are numerous healing items, in the form of flowers, scattered all over the place.
Now onto more level specifics. The game boasts a decently diverse range of level types – some levels are just traversing the terrain to get to the goal, others are collecting items to fill a meter up, and finally, some are pseudo-stealth levels where one of the final game mechanics rears its head. In these stealth levels, to avoid detection, you simply press up to “smile and wave”, as regardless of where you are, a dancing penguin is considered completely fine, but if you are not, you will instantly be caught and have to restart the level.
Some final other observations about the game – I like that the game encourages you to go back to previous levels to access new areas once certain mechanics have been unlocked: in the form of hunting medals, this game’s collectible. While I didn’t care to hunt all of these down, for the intended target audience of children, I can see this being really fun, having to remember where something was so you go back there later with your new-found abilities.
Lastly, I also like that collecting medals increases your max life when you collect so many of them, as again for a younger player, if they were struggling they can just get more medals to increase their max life. However, comparing to the kind of games that I played as a child, this game is still way too easy and as a result is completable in a paltry 2 hours (and I was hardly rushing).
In conclusion, Madagascar: Operation Penguin has great amounts of diverse and usually enjoyable game mechanics, with only a few tedious levels here and there. Other than the gun, it’s generally well-designed for its intended audience, and I imagine could distract a child for a while at least.
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