It must be easy to churn out your average movie-licensed game. After all, most of them merely slap some rudimentary platforming mechanics onto an exact replica of their respective film's storyline and call it a day. So credit must go to the folks at Avalanche Software, who seem to have put some actual thought into creating a game based on the upcoming Disney animated film Meet the Robinsons, which both ties its gameplay into the theme of the movie and expands on the storyline you'll see in that movie, come its late-March release. We got a look at the Wii version of Meet the Robinsons recently to see how it will tie into and further develop the movie.
The film Meet the Robinsons is itself based on William Joyce's children's book A Day With Wilbur Robinson, which imagines a family of futuristic genius inventors who live in a great house full of nifty whiz-bang gadgets. In the movie, rambunctious Wilbur Robinson will travel from the future to both meddle with the lives of characters in the past and thwart a plot by an evil bowler-hat-wearing character to boot. In turn, the game will take two of the characters whose lives are impacted by all this time-traveling nonsense and turn them into villainous types in the future, where you'll have to do battle with their nefarious creations and try to set things right.
Before that, though, Wilbur will be introduced in the game's tutorial level, where he travels back to ancient Egypt to snap some illicit souvenir photos. Meet the Robinsons is more action adventure than platformer--the only jumping is handled automatically when you hit a gap, Zelda-style--and the focus of the gameplay seems to be mostly on gadgets and solving puzzles. After you escape the booby-trapped Egyptian tomb, you'll return to the Robinsons' mansion in the future, which acts as the game's hub from which you'll begin all your subsequent missions.
As mentioned, your abilities in the game will revolve around the gadgets you can use for combat, exploration, and puzzle solving--and to build gadgets, you'll have to hunt through the environment to find the blueprints that describe how to build them. You'll also be able to deconstruct common environmental objects into the game's three component types. Once you have a gadget's blueprint (there will be about 40 gadgets in all), you'll know how many of each of the three component types you need to build it, and then it's just a matter of assembling all the materials until presto, you've got a new toy. You'll start out with a nifty scanning device that will let you see how you can interact with various objects, so this should make the process of assembling new gadgets easier.
From what we saw, it seems like the missions set in the game's dystopian future will be combat oriented. There's a war going on between the two disenfranchised science-fair students--Stanley with his empire of malevolent robots and Lizzy with her rebellious army of mechanical ants--and it seems as though you'll spend a lot of time using your gadgets to combat these two menaces. You'll occasionally run into some entirely different gameplay from the main action, though. A few Super Monkey Ball-style levels will be on offer, where you'll roll inside a bubble-like shield down a preset course. And a few unlockable 2D action levels slightly reminiscent of the old arcade classic Dig Dug will be accessible from the Robinson estate. These levels will also yield bonuses when you complete them, such as unique blueprints.
The game will be available on numerous platforms, and the Wii version we saw is said to be graphically identical to the forthcoming PlayStation 2 version. The only real difference, gameplay-wise, is the use of a Wii Remote-oriented camera control, via an onscreen cursor. The Xbox 360 will also see a version of the game, which will naturally include improved graphics, though we didn't get to see that version.
Meet the Robinsons will include the same celebrity talent seen in the film, such as Tom Selleck as the brilliant do-gooding inventor Mr. Robinson and Harlan Williams as Carl, Wilbur's helpful robot sidekick. Buena Vista promises a solid amount of replay value, as well, with the large number of gadgets and a raft of collectible action figures that you can uncover and then examine in detail in a viewing mode. From what we saw of the game, it looks to include a lot more depth than you'd normally expect to see in a game based on a kids' animated movie. Meet the Robinsons will hit shelves a couple of weeks before the movie in mid-March.