Madagascar Operation Penguin (Game Boy Advance) - Review by Andrew



It's fair to say that last year's Madagascar was a bit of a let down and even my nieces thought it was all a bit long winded and, more importantly, not funny. One thing was clear though, even from the various trailers, was that the group of militaristic Penguins had real star quality. Dreamworks clearly thought so too and anyone who bought the special edition of the DVD will have found the quartet in their own festive adventure. It seems fitting then that Activision should follow suit and give the penguins their own GBA outing. Let's hope it's better than the rather mediocre handheld versions of the original movie.


Operation Penguin takes place some time after the Christmas Caper short although the first level does take place in the same New York apartment. Basically the penguins have decided to regroup and attempt yet another escape but drawing from their past mistakes they've decided to be fully prepared this time and that means training. Your training! This is where the whole things turns into a mission based platformer/collect 'em up and as in Madagascar you only have a handful of abilities to start with so you'll need to re-visit levels later on to fully complete them. The levels themselves all start from a central hub (the penguins' underground lair) and it's from here all missions take place. Each of these is cleverly devised to fully exercise the use of a new move or gadget which can be a little confusing at first because whilst these gadgets are still available on the earlier levels there's no way of interacting with them.

There has been an attempt to make the levels as varied as possible and while some require you to collect an allotted amount of fruit and smash fans, others require you to sneak around the zoo using boxes and trees to avoid being seen. Better still are the bobsleigh levels which require the penguins to slide on their bellies whilst avoiding spiky objects and rocks. It's not all about the penguins either and not wishing to completely ignore the Madagascar audience the penguins also seek help from the various stars of the original outing so you'll still get to play the likes of Alex the Lion or Marty the Zebra. These are only really cameo roles and are there to help the penguins out but it's still a welcome addition to the whole package.


As with the first Madagascar game this has been kept simple but even if it hadn't you are always fully briefed in what all the controls are and what they do. I've always found this far more sensible than filling the manual with pages of control instructions and the fact that you are also allowed to practice them without any danger of losing health or even a life makes the whole experience that much better.


Clearly this uses the same engine as the original so you can expect the same vibrant environments and humorous animation. The latter is particularly effective here thanks to the comical nature of the penguins. It is a shame all games aimed at kids don't attain this standard of visuals. Operation Penguin is actually a great deal better looking than the last few Disney releases..


It's difficult to actually review the music, as it's neither annoying nor particularly memorable. Let's just say it's there. On the other hand the sound effects are much better and the manner in which they have been added to the various scenes in the game brings the whole thing to life.

Final comments

As with the original movie, this one's definitely for kids but refreshingly it's a great deal better that the first outing. This is mostly due to the developers focusing on the more positive gaming elements of Madagascar and using them here. The only things sadly lacking from Operation Penguin are variety and any sense of replay value. This could easily have been addressed with the inclusion of some mini-games and while the initial play through is very satisfying there's little reason to revisit Central Park Zoo. It's a shame, but with a perfectly pitched learning curve and enough attainable challenges for the average eight year old the whole thing is still highly recommended.

Pro: Looks Incredible.
Con: Not Much replay Value, A Little Too Samey.
Final score: 7.1


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Boxart of Madagascar Operation Penguin (Game Boy Advance)
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Genre: Action
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Publisher: Activision