Impressions: Shorts

How many passable movie tie-in video games have been released, exactly? If I had to wager, I’d say about five total. Five, in all of the history of gaming. With these impossible odds, still I endlessly trudge through the impossibly sadistic world of movie-inspired games. Most recently, I’ve played through Shorts, a DS tie-in from a movie I had not heard of prior to obtaining this game, so a little research was required. Shorts is actually a collection of (you guessed it) short films compiled into one feature-length movie suitable for all-ages, from the creator of Spy Kids, no less. Each yarn is spun around the fact that a mysterious rainbow-colored rock has appeared in one of your average Stepford-esque neighborhoods. Its MO? To grant any wish your heart desires.  The film features a rather motley crew whose experiences with the stone intertwine to create a cohesive narrative. Upon further investigation, the film did poorly in theaters and ratings, so right off the bat I was wary of what this strange little game could offer.
Getting the game underway, it soon became readily apparent that this was to be another platformer in the vein of Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian and a glut of other movie tie-ins that all seem to be cut from the same cloth (or at least by the same seamstress). Eventually, you’ll play through each of the main character’s exploits across 26 levels in what is essentially a puzzle-platformer that seems to borrow elements of Drawn to Life and every other platformer to ever exist.
The first episode has you following the saga of Nose Noseworthy, a child from a family petrified of germs. As Nose, you’ll make your way through a twisted playland filled with mutant, sentient boogers. That’s right. Boogers. After Nose’s story has been conquered, it’s time to explore a castle created by the likes of Loogie Short, who needs to make a quick escape from all of the raging reptiles within the castle. Finally, you’ll choose between Helvetic Black (no, not the font), and “Toe” Thompson to infiltrate an insidious Black Box factory in the town. Each level is made up of only eight stages, rendering Shorts a micro-game in that you should only need a couple hours to finish it up — I clocked in at around two and a half.
If you take any longer it might be due in part to the various puzzles within the game. While the end result is that you will need to collect a certain piece, open a door, or reach the level exit, the paths to reach the exit are actually quite entertaining. You’ll need to rely on your jumping skills in order to make real headway, as exploring every nook and cranny of each level is absolutely imperative in order to finish Shorts. The puzzle platforming is quite intuitive, though unchanging throughout each episode, which makes the game feel a bit more like homework than a challenging game.
Speaking of challenge, you’ll find plenty in the rainbow lines available to be drawn throughout the levels. You will need to call upon these lines to perform various functions such as becoming ledges or protecting you from lasers. What’s interesting is that you only have a set amount of lines to draw, and numerous puzzles to solve. It’s up to you how you will solve them, but speed and logic are key, meaning you will often resort to trial-and-error.
It’s a shame that Shorts is so repetitive, as it has some of the makings of a great platformer. No matter where you go in each level, you fight what are essentially the very same enemies, open the same doors, and wallow around in the same environment for what seems like an eternity. For such a short game, variety should be key, and you just won’t get that with Shorts. For goodness’ sake, the movie plot isn’t even clearly outlined within, so for those of us who have never seen it, we’re up the creek without a paddle unless you want to do a little bit of research, as I did. For a movie tie-in, inclusion of the main film plot is almost a necessity, especially for a video game that older children will play and get frustrated when they can’t figure out what’s going on and why.
Shorts is essentially a workable platformer with some winning elements, but it unfortunately does not overcome its dire status as a simple movie tie-in. It has some potential, but most is lost due to the repetition and sameness in what will essentially be a very forgettable two-hour adventure. Do yourself a favor and see the movie instead — at the very least, you’ll get a little more variety and an honest-to-goodness plot.

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