Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (Nintendo DS) - Review by Andrew
For years now film studios have been trying to make spy films that appeal to the younger movie goer. After all, the James Bond series has been incredibly successful and any studio which manages to grab some of that lucrative box office would surely place themselves in an enviable position. Spy Kids was one big screen outing, which managed to capture the imagination of a generation of wannabe secret agents, and the initial film was so successful it led to a number of sequels. Obviously this has also spawned several games and while the first two Gameboy Advance outings didn't fare too well this is the first DS title but with a new developer and publisher, will it be any better?
If you have seen the movie, the games plot follows very closely although most of the action has been transported to a platform setting. We won't go into the plot too much but let's just say an evil super villain, called The Timekeeper, has attempted to Kidnap OSS agent Marissa's step kids Rebecca and Cecil, but after making a hasty retreat they hatch plans to derail his sinister plot. It's then up to you controlling both kids to negotiate a variety of maze like levels collecting keys, jumping platforms and taking out henchmen. None of these are timed but you will only have a certain amount of health so keeping an eye on your gage is essential. You will also find that each level has the odd (and very useful) health pack should you require a top up but you can never seem to locate these when you really need them.
Away from the platforming you'll also get several other game types, which do help to break up the action. This first of these is a horizontal scrolling shooter, which takes place high over the city streets. Sadly, this offers little challenge and we managed to pass all of these in just one attempt. The same is true of the 'code breaker' where you must replicate a key input using the D-pad and face buttons but with only a handful of moves to remember the whole thing does feel like a last minute add-on. Finally here there the boss battles and while some of these will offer up a genuine challenge, others simply require you to place your self in a corner and lash out at your enemy which isn't so much dumb AI but rather no AI at all.
Both Rebecca and Cecil are controlled using the D-pad and face buttons but while Cecil is reasonably simple to move around the various levels, with his double jump, ability, the same cannot be said of Rebecca. This is due to the fact that she is armed with a grappling hook with the player forced to employ split second timing in order to swing from one area to another in an attempt to reach the exit. This all seems very unfair for a game aimed at the pre-teen market and the whole experience is likely to raise your stress and frustration levels to the max. This is especially true when you consider that these sections must be completed before you can progress.
The developers have played things very safe here tapping in to the platforms strengths so rather than produce a game which attempts to emulate the high end visuals of the movie that have instead gone for a 'comic book' style approach featuring big bold characters and colorful backgrounds and environments. The animation can appear a little clunky at times with everything except the main characters suffering from a severe lack of available frames making the whole experience feel a little low budget which is something we've come to expect from movie tie-in's.
While the music is well composed here it does repeat way too much and what begins, as a pleasant soundtrack will quickly develop into a major irritation.
You're not likely to require your stylus much at all during your time with the game and the touch screen is only really used for the odd menu item or selecting on of a handful of special weapons.
While Spy Kids: All the Time in the World is pleasant enough to look at and play it does seem a little too difficult for it's intended audience. It's not that there's anything too puzzling here and most of the platforms are 'sign posted' so it's difficult to get lost. The real problem is the control and while this would have been perfectly acceptable some two decades ago the incredibly troublesome 'grappling hook' should have been simplified during the testing stages with the developers aware that this would drive gamers crazy. It still represents a decent challenge and a generous length but that 'grappling hook'! Let's just say, you have been warned.
Pro: Pleasant Comic Style Visuals, A Lengthy Challenge.
Con: Frustrating 'Grappling Hook' Control, Could be Too difficult for It's Target Aud
Final score: 6.2