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Gamecube Reviews: Rugrats Royal Ransom


Rugrats Royal Ransom Screenshots

The Final Say!

Rugrats: Royal Ransom 
- reviewed by Rick Thorpe
Review Date: 15 February 2003
Review Score: 4/10 
Distributor: THQ

Nickelodeon's Rugrats property has been a huge earner for the company for a few years now, and like most popular children's entertainment licenses it has been the basis for a video game. This is the first time the Rugrats have appeared on the Gamecube, but they are not unfamiliar to other Nintendo platforms, Rugrats games are on most incarnations of the Gameboy and the Ninentendo64. 

I have not personally played any other Rugrats game, but I would like to hope this isn't their best video game outing. Before I get down to it, I must say that if you are a huge Rugrats fan then don't rely too heavily on my review scores. The game has no inherent flaws to make it unplayable, but really offers nothing new at all to the crowded licensed-platform-adventure game genre, and in a lot of cases doesn't even come close to the better quality exponents of it.

That said if you love Rugrats to bits, then you will more than likely enjoy this enough to warrant a purchase or at least a rent. If you aren't a fan of the Rugrats, then don't bother playing this game at all. Licensed games like this are a minefield, and try to do their best to stay true to the property while trying as hard as possible to make it an interactive adventure. 

Something has to give in this tug of war, and 99.9% of the time its the gameplay that gets reduced to cookie-cutter mundanity in the hope that the license alone is enough to sell copies. Rugrats Royal Ransom falls to this, but not to the point where it totally ruins the game, but makes it feel so overly familiar that it gets tired very quickly.

I am guessing this game is aimed at the younger children's dermographic that are obviously fans of the show as the controls and gameplay are very simple, as well the game itself holds your hand all the way through, instructing you how to do things and generally pointing out the obvious i.e., "This door is locked, you'll have to find the key" followed by a short cinema showing you exactly where the key is located. 

The games main gameplay areas are running around some fairly expansive
levels collecting the standard collection icons like coins, health power ups, etc and achieving some very basic goals and some truly pedestrian racing games. The traditional hub world has branching themed areas (stereotypically: snow, jungle, undersea, medieval etc etc) that contain a few unlockable stages. 

These require "small batteries" to unlock, which you collect while playing them, completing a goal gets a you a "big battery" which goes towards unlocking more levels. The developers have tried to make the gameplay differ between the levels to try and make the game more varied, but it really gets awfully predictable, very quickly. The racing levels are anything but exciting, and the fact you have to race each one of them three to times to complete them really is a chore. The adventure/collecting gameplay
varies a bit more, but its really nothing you haven't seen a million times before, and probably better implemented.

Graphically this game is really weak considering its running on the Gamecube. If it were running on the Dreamcast I could forgive the sometimes horrific framerate and plain geometry and textures, but unfortunately it isn't. There are no current generation special effects, like bump mapping or realistic lighting, its all very plain, very drab and very "last generation" looking. Like many licensed games a huge amount of effort and geometry go into making the characters as true to the original property as possible, completely at the expense of the world they are existing in. The sound is also fairly uninspiring with
forgettable tunes and some very repetitive sound effects, the levels of which seem oddly unbalanced most of the time.

I think the worst thing about this game overall is that is such a blatant use of licensing to sell a totally weak and unoriginal product. If this game didn't have the Rugrats license it would never have gotten passed alpha stage. This is how you can tell just how good a licensed game is, if you take away the license and its still an enjoyable, fun game, then you really do have a good game. This is unfortunately a rarity and the Rugrats Royal Ransom is, unfortunately, not a good game. 

- Rick Thorpe

Copyright 2003 www.impulsegamer.com