Over the Hedge (DS game)
|Over the Hedge|
PAL region cover art
Over the Hedge is a platform game with stealth game elements developed by Vicarious Visions and published by Activision for the Nintendo DS handheld video game console. It was first released in North America, and was later released in Europe. The game is set immediately after the events of the DreamWorks movie Over the Hedge, unlike the console versions which follow the events of the film. Vicarious Visions is responsible for many handheld versions of licensed video games. Publisher Activision has a longstanding business relationship with animation studio DreamWorks and has exclusive global rights to publish games based on DreamWorks animated films.
Gameplay involves guiding three playable woodland creatures through suburban houses to collect items and return them to their forest. House inhabitants and traps must be avoided or neutralized to succeed. The game's plot concerns Gladys Sharp's attempt to turn what's left of the animals' forest into a swimming pool; the animals try to prevent this by luring endangered species to the forest, making the forest a protected habitat. Over the Hedge received positive and average reviews from the gaming press, as well as gaming website IGN's 'Best Game No One Played' award for 2006. The game was praised for the technical achievement of displaying full 3D on both of the Nintendo DS' screens, but some reviewers found the gameplay repetitive.
The game has been likened to both Tomb Raider and Metal Gear Solid due to the 3D platforming and stealth gameplay respectively. Players guide the forest inhabitants through 20 levels, during which they must infiltrate a series of suburban homes in order to steal a variety of items and destroy construction materials. The items needed to lure endangered animals to the forest must be collected from houses and carried back to the forest one at a time. Each level requires several trips to be completed. Security systems must be avoided or deactivated in order to progress through each level. Household members and their pets must also be avoided, distracted or stunned by a thrown object. For example, a phone card can be used to make a prank call to lure a householder away, catnip can be used to distract cats.
Each character has their own unique abilities. Verne has the strength to push and carry large items and can retract into his shell in order to avoid detection, but cannot jump as high or run as swift as the other characters. RJ has average strength and agility. He can climb, lift items and also throw Verne. Hammy is the most agile of the three, running swifter and jumping higher. This enables him to circumvent security more easily.
Over the Hedge is presented in full 3D on both of the Nintendo DS' screens, which is not often seen in a Nintendo DS game. The upper screen displays the game in an over-the-shoulder third person perspective, whereas the touch screen shows an overhead perspective. The lower screen indicates the sight range of enemies and can be used as a touch screen to target enemies to attack. The console's microphone is used to attract the attention of dogs or to rouse the woodland creatures should they be knocked unconscious.
A multiplayer mini-game is included and allows two players to compete via the DS' wireless connection, only one player needs an Over the Hedge game cartridge for two separate DS consoles to play. Stella the skunk is available in this game mode, alongside the three playable characters from the main game. Players navigate a maze to collect food before the timer runs out. The player with the most food wins the game. A most of five pieces of food can be carried at once, these must be carried to a collection area before more food can be picked up.
Over the Hedge is set immediately after the events of the animated film. Gladys Sharp, president of the homeowners' association, plans to bulldoze the forest in order to build a swimming pool. She has been joined by a new character, the taxidermist. The animals decide to lure endangered species to the forest in order to have it declared a protected habitat, preventing its destruction. The householders have been warned about RJ and company's intentions, and have created traps from everyday objects to repel the thieves.
Unlike the home console versions, the Nintendo DS version was created as a separate game by Vicarious Visions. As well as differing from the other versions, this version was designed as a sequel to the animated film. Vicarious Visions by this point were responsible for bringing many series to the DS, including games in the Tony Hawk and Spider-Man series. During development the team had to work with the handheld system's limited 3D capabilities, such as "video RAM and software limitations", techniques they would later discuss at a lecture held during the 2007 Game Developers Conference.
The game received both positive and average reviews from the gaming press, with an average score of 73% from both Game Rankings and a 71 from Metacritic. Over the Hedge was awarded IGN's "Best Game No One Played" award during their 2006 game of the year awards.
Several reviewers were impressed by the game's 3D graphics, considering the graphical limitations of the Nintendo DS. GameZone's Louis Bedigian commented "Three-dimensional worlds are such a rarity on the DS that you'll definitely take notice". In particular, the technical accomplishment of using the DS' two screens to show gameplay in two different angles and in full 3D was praised.
Critics are divided over the game's difficulty level and target audience. Some found the game too easy for adult players. Nintendo World Report's Lasse Pallesen stated Over the Hedge is not engaging to adults or children due to "the repetitive collect-a-thon nature of the game and the one-dimensional gameplay". GameZone's Louis Bedigian had similar reservations, "Players young and old will be turned off by the lack of excitement". Other reviewers felt the game was suitable for children and adults. Cheat Code Central's Cole Smith stated "It's not just for kids. It's loaded with variety and will engage your mind, not just your reflexes". Deeko's Pete Sellers found the game "a well designed adventure that requires patience and planning".
Some reviewers found the gameplay, focused mainly on collecting and returning objects, as repetitive. In his GameSpot review, Frank Provo stated "Games geared toward younger players are typically repetitive, but Over the Hedge for the Nintendo DS sets a new standard for repetition". He lists one of the negative aspects of the game as "Whole game feels like housecleaning or a real estate tour". GameZone's Louis Bedigian also found the game repetitive, saying "..the game stays far away from anything deep, opting for a simplistic series of missions that redefine the meaning of the word rehash".
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- Pallesen, Lasse (2006-06-12). "DS Review: Over the Hedge". Nintendo World Report. Retrieved 2007-10-14.