• Humanity has finally reached the nadir of its consumerist ways. With the mighty Buy ‘n’ Large corporation now owning most of the planet’s wealth (no accident that their logos are the same colour as Tescos then) and with Earth little more than a giant dumping ground for all the broken mobile phones, rusted cars and junked white goods we no longer need where is there left to turn but space?

    So Buy ‘n’ Large sponsor a massive operation to put every human being on the planet aboard luxurious space liners, until Earth can be cleansed by a brace of Waste Allocation Load Lifters (Earth Class) – WALL-Es.

    The five year mission turns into a 700 year exodus for mankind, leaving the robots behind to mindlessly continue in their quest to clean up the planet. One such robot, the titular WALL-E is left alone so long that he develops sentience.

    WALL-E’s existence is a lonely one. He collects various domestic junk, sifts through old films and befriends a cockroach.

    A chance discovery of a tiny little green seedling growing in an old boot becomes the pivotal moment in WALL-E’s story. This tiny seedling brings him into contact with the Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator (EVE), who has been sent to earth by the automated processes aboard the Axiom, a vast city-like ship now housing the last obese bloated remnants of society.

    …and so your adventure begins!

    Wall-E

    WALL-E (the game) begins with familiarisation of the controls and from the outset it’s obvious that the title’s aimed squarely at younger gamers – yet despite this, it’s actually a fairly challenging game at times that can be tricky to get to grips with.

    Control of WALL-E at first feels a little too speedy, and the aged trashbot zips around the screen a little too sprightly for a 700 year old solar-powered robot, but you’ll soon get used to the controls as they err on the simplistic side to begin with at least.

    WALL-E’s party piece is to grab any piles of junk lying around and squash them into cubes, three of which can be carried at a time and used to affect your environment, everything from activating switches to weighing down see-saw like physical puzzles.

    Though the game doesn’t follow the film to the very letter, there’s more than enough spoiler material in it to complement Disney / Pixar’s new blockbuster movie, and kids who fall for the doe-eyed robot’s onscreen antics will instantly recognise the trash-piled environments representing Earth. For some reason the whole premise reminded me eerily of an old Rob Grant / Doug Naylor Red Dwarf story in “Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers” where Earth is unanimously voted as the solar system’s dumping ground for all its rubbish.

    WALL-E must sift through the various trash-filled levels looking for bonus items, and eventually during one of the levels you’ll find the object that more or less kicks off the entire movie plot, a small green seedling.

    WALL-E first meets EVE during one of her missions to track down any vegetation still existing on the surface of the planet, and at this point in the game you’ll automatically assume control of EVE as she scans likely-looking targets for organic life. Armed with a pretty handy laser blaster, EVE can fly around the landscape tracking likely candidates for extraction.

    When she encounters WALL-E and he gives her the seedling, she shuts down automatically and is recovered by the mission spacecraft sent to gather any specimens collected. This triggers one of the game’s various race levels, where you must reach her departing ship before the timer runs down. Neatly chopping sections of the film into varied challenges is a neat idea and staves off the boredom you’d usually associate with a one-trick film licence. Heavy Iron (the development team behind the game) have given the player scope for picking up various bonuses and challenge points to maintain interest and offer a fair amount of retry value if you miss anything in each of the game’s 9 levels.

    When WALL-E follows Eve into space, he eventually ends up aboard the Axiom, and the danger steps up a notch. The sinister AUTO, a ship-based Artificial Intelligence has been told never to allow humans to return to earth despite EVE’s discovery that life can flourish there. It becomes AUTO’s sole task to stop EVE and WALL-E from reporting their findings to the captain so the danger begins anew.

    The structure of each level (whether you play as WALL-E or EVE) starts off relatively simply with a bit of hand-holding for younger players (for instance, during the first few missions you can follow WALL-E’s bug friend around for guidance) but later things get challenging even for seasoned gamers, with some pretty tricky puzzles (a couple involving rotating an entire level around a pivot in order to find the correct path across it are quite originally and neatly done).

    It’s sad then that WALL-E does let itself down in the technical department, with some pretty ugly texturing, some nasty screen tearing, and a few camera issues that make certain parts of the game nigh on unplayable. It’s also quite possible to break through the scenery as EVE and end up floating in the inky stygian blackness that exists between the game and the infinite nothingness encapsulating it. Once again it seems that younger players get the naff end of the stick when it comes to the amount of effort development teams put in, and it seems odd that we’ve got another game based on a potentially massive Disney / Pixar film that feels unpolished, ugly and pretty much the exact opposite of the film itself.

    With WALL-E like diligence though, fans of the film may find something to salvage from the scrap. It’s actually compelling enough to make you see the game through to the end (and one of the most prolonged and frustrating end-of-game battles I think I’ve ever seen in a kid’s game) and you can’t help but feel a pang of empathy with WALL-E, the little devil’s cute enough. With the added bonus of multiplayer there might be less scrapping over the joypad from your little ones but the minigames and challenges on offer feel sparse and tacked on at the last moment as an afterthought.

    As film licences go though, WALL-E definitely errs on the side of average and doesn’t have enough going for it to work as a standalone title in its own right, leaning far too heavily on its source material and the hope that fans of the flick will pick it up rather than the game attracting players looking for something that little bit different.

    Score: 5/10

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