Up (Nintendo DS) - Review by Andrew



I'd been looking forward to seeing Pixar's latest big screen outing for some time given that here in the UK we were amongst the last in the world to get the movie. The story of a man attaching balloons to his house in order to escape his current situation had enchanted audiences everywhere and the critics loved it too. THQ have been publishing Pixar game tie-ins for some years (although the license will return to Disney for Toy Story 3) and the reviews have been varied at best. Last year's Wall-e was a great action puzzler, Cars was a bizarre collection of mini-games whilst Monsters Inc. was simply a dull platformer. Handheld veterans Altron are handling the DS version this time around but can they catch the Pixar magic that has eluded so many other developers?


If you haven't seen the film, don't worry too much because the story flips around so much that it's difficult to keep track of what's going on. You are on a trek though the jungle attempting to locate your floating house. The game begins with Carl (the old man) and Russell (the young boy) helping one another out in a kind of 'Lost Vikings' manner. Each possesses his own special skills; Carl, for example, can reach higher platforms and disable man-eating plants with a balloon whilst Russell is able to swim and play the Bugle (that is useful, trust us). Most of the games require the characters to help each other to overcome various obstacles to complete a level. Unfortunately this isn't nearly as simple as it sounds and it's not because the puzzles are too difficult, most of them in fact are incredibly simple. It's not even down to Kevin (a rather large and odd looking flightless bird) or your talking mutt not doing as they are asked. No, the biggest problems you have are the dogs and by the end of the first section you'll be completely sick of them. This is because Charles F. Muntz (the baddie in the movie) has amassed a collection of stray dogs (fitted with voice modules) that will be alerted should you make too much noise, which you can do simply by walking around. Once this happens you'll be forced to battle with up to three canines in an arena. The problem is that this is dull to begin with and after five or six times you'll simply want to switch off your DS. This should be an enjoyable break from the otherwise linear jungle sections but because it can occur every two minutes or so it becomes as tiresome as the rest of the game.


Carl and Russell are easy enough to control but just in case you do get stuck a thought bubble will appear above them pushing you in the right direction. There is the odd occasion where they appear to be a little unresponsive but a little jiggering around with the controls will soon have them back on track.


While Up is arguably the most beautifully realized movie PIXAR have produced yet, the same can't be said for this DS title. The characters are jagged and uninspired and the environments very similar with only the airship level adding anything different. The highlight is probably the cut screens where the developers have utilized the more stylized 'credit's' artwork, something that was very successful in last year's Wall-e game.


There is an attempt at bringing the orchestral score to the DS and while it's not bad this midi composition falls far short of an actual sample, although if that was the case, we'd no doubt be complaining that it repeats a little too often. The incidental music is much better and the sound effects are occasionally excellent, unfortunately there was no room left in the cart to include any voice acting (something the PSP and Wii version have) which is a shame as this would have given the characters some much needed depth here.

Dual screen

The touch screen is not used nearly as much as you'd expect and outside of turning cranks of flipping leavers the other uses are all over in the mini-game section. These can all be played from the main menu in either one or two player mode and most require the stylus for control. You've seen them all before though, Tepui Ball is a simple bat and ball game and Insect Panic is a quick reaction collection game. The highlight though is towards the end of the game, where you get a chance to get behind the controls of a plane and engage in an aerial dogfight. It's a little short and only lasts for a single level but if the developers had stretched this a little further, we'd probably be looking at a much higher score.

Final comments

It's difficult to think of anything positive to say about Up. Considering the film is a wonderful cinema going experience it's odd that the game should be such a painful one. To be fair the developers had it tough to begin with, while a developing relationship between an enthusiastic youth and a cynical old man is perfect for the screen it may not really translate to a game. As a result the endless wandering around and dog battles are the game's main challenges but after only fifteen minutes or so it becomes very dull. The only real excitement comes from the touch-screen air battles but as this only occupies a single level it's just too little to save a movie tie-in experience we'd really like to forget.

Pro: The Air Battle Section
Con: Repetitive Dog Battles, Dull Gameplay, Poor Character Designs
Final score: 3.7


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Boxart of Up (Nintendo DS)
Platform: Nintendo DS
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Altron
Publisher: THQ