Disney's Meet the Robinsons is a fairly satisfying movie tie-in that borrows heavily from a number of classic adventure and action games.
- Environments offer solid dungeon crawling and puzzle solving
- different gadgets are fun to use and equally handy
- plenty to do
- Harlan Williams and Adam West lend their voices to Carl and Uncle Art in memorable fashion.
- Puzzles and enemies tend to be easy to figure out
- graphics aren't as extravagant as they could be, particularly on the PC and Xbox 360
- minigames don't allow multiplayer competition.
As video games go, Disney's Meet the Robinsons probably won't be mentioned very often in the same breath with such games as Jak & Daxter, The Legend of Zelda, or Tomb Raider. Nevertheless, it borrows heavily from those and other classic games, with generally solid results. It also does exactly what it's supposed to do, which is let players immerse themselves in the movie's futuristic world. The game revolves around the character of Wilbur Robinson, who uses a time machine to travel into the past and inadvertently sets in motion a chain of events that alters the future. You'll spend the majority of the game in that alternate future, using Wilbur's space-age gadgets to deal with the robot enemies and puzzles contained within each massive environment. You won't be impressed by the graphics, and the action will seem formulaic to you if you've been playing video games for at least a few years. But through sheer variety and a mother lode of charm, the game ultimately manages to be satisfying.
Structurally speaking, Disney's Meet the Robinsons is an action adventure that borrows heavily from genre-defining games (such as the aforementioned Zelda and Tomb Raider franchises). There are eight main environments, including the Robinson mansion in the year 2037, the science fair in the year 2007, and various twisted renditions of places in an alternate 2037. Each environment has multiple floors and areas that you have to get through, and each area has its own set of puzzles and enemies. Puzzles involve a fair amount of jumping, climbing, and sidling your way around the environment, as well pushing and pulling heavy objects. You'll also find yourself constantly using Wilbur's gadgets to manipulate objects in the environment. While you're doing all of that, you'll frequently encounter enemy robots that are programmed to attack Wilbur. Each enemy robot is vulnerable to a specific gadget. Some robots require that you use one gadget to reveal a weak spot, then another gadget to finish off the robot. Boss battles involve the same sort of gadget swapping, but they're more time consuming and visually more elaborate.
In all, you'll collect five different gadgets. The two gadgets that come into play most frequently are the disassembler ray, which can break apart certain doors and manhole covers, and the charge glove, which hurls electrical balls that can obliterate certain enemies. The disassembler ray and charge glove also have alternate uses. You can use the disassembler ray to reduce furniture and other decorative objects into spare parts that can be fed into a transmogrifier machine to build gadgets and upgrades. Meanwhile, the charge glove's electrical balls can activate distant switches that provide temporary power to machines and elevated walkways. Rounding out the list of gadgets are a scanner backpack that lets you scan enemies and structures to find weak spots to uncover hidden areas; a pair of havoc gloves that let you launch sonic shockwaves and dive underground; and a levitation ray that lets you lift enemies and heavy slabs into the air for short periods.
Minigames are thrown into the mix where you roll through obstacle courses in a protectosphere (think Super Monkey Ball), dig through underground mazes using the havoc gloves (think Dig Dug), and play a futuristic game of Pong against family members using the charge glove. These minigames are good diversions, but they're not forced on you so often that they wear out their welcome. You can replay them anytime you want. You're also free to hitch a ride on the monorail train and backtrack to areas you've already solved. Even though the layout of each dungeonlike area is straightforward, there are secret doors and chests hidden all over the place. Some secret areas can't be accessed until you acquire the havoc gloves or the levitation ray. Chests contain concept artwork, viewable action figures, and blueprints for building permanent health or energy upgrades using the transmogrifier, which means that the rewards for returning to "earlier" areas are actually significant.
You don't need to know anything about the movie to understand what's going on in the game. You play the part of Wilbur Robinson, a precocious teenager living with his family in a high-tech mansion. Wilbur and the other major characters are introduced in short order, while various minor characters make brief appearances throughout the course of the game. Incredibly, the game manages to present a story that's similar to the one from the movie without actually giving away the movie's major plot twists. In both the movie and the game, the mysterious Bowler Hat Guy steals the Robinsons' time machine and goes back to 2007 to bring about an alternate future. In the movie, a boy named Lewis is brought to the future, meets the Robinsons, and subsequently uses the time machine to undo some of the changes that the Bowler Hat Guy caused. The game tells the other half of the story and reveals what Wilbur was doing when he wasn't with Lewis. With the story put together in this fashion, the game stays true to the movie's story without recycling every single scene exactly as it was depicted in the movie. So, even if you have seen the movie, the game will still seem fresh to you.
The game also does a great job of copying the movie's attitude and style, even though the graphics don't push the hardware capabilities of any of the systems for which the game is available. On the one hand, the characters and environments often look just like they did in the film; the bosses are massive and the draw distance is such that you can see everything for miles in any direction. Locations like the Robinsons' mansion and the Ant Hive are larger than life, exhibiting some outlandish architecture. It's fun to watch furniture and chests shatter into multiple pieces after using the disassembler ray on them. You'll even notice some snazzy use of cel-shading in the clouds and streams, if you take a minute to observe them in motion. On the other hand, the quality of some visual details tends to vary, which means that some locations look like they were taken right from the film, while others look more like something taken out of a generic PlayStation 2 game. But more often than not, the game resembles the movie, which is ultimately what matters.
As for the audio, the catchy guitar music and the realistic atmospheric noise help keep the player immersed in Wilbur's world. However, what you'll probably remember most are all of the whimsical dialogue exchanges featuring the voices of the same Hollywood actors who voiced the characters in the movie. The nervous tone of comedian Harlan Williams makes him perfectly suited for the role of Carl, the stressed-out robot that's constantly badgering Wilbur over the radio. Tom Selleck's charming tone and gravely delivery totally sell his brief appearance as Wilbur's dad. And Adam West, who is best known as TV's Batman, turns in a masterful performance in a pair of cameos as Uncle Art, the galactic pizza-delivery driver.
Like so many movie-based games these days, Disney's Meet the Robinsons is available for a multitude of different systems. The versions available for the PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, and the Nintendo GameCube and Wii consoles are all similar in terms of content. The Xbox 360 version lets you earn 1,000 achievement points for your gamerscore. It also flaunts an extra, self-contained bonus game that involves blasting away at flying bowler hats from a first-person perspective using the security turrets situated inside different rooms of the Robinson house. You won't feel much desire to play it after you've collected the 200 achievement points associated with it, but it's a fun little diversion nonetheless. The Wii version makes modest use of the controller's motion-sensing and infrared-targeting capabilities. Mainly, you can use the infrared sensor on the Wii Remote to position the camera and to aim your gadgets. You can also tilt the Nunchuck attachment to cycle between targets when the lock-on cursor is activated. The waggle controls get the job done, but they're not worth the extra $20 in price compared with, say, the GameCube version. In terms of visual quality, the different versions of the game all look the same with regard to environmental detail, textures, character models, and overall graphical complexity. However, the Xbox 360 and PC versions look cleaner and sharper than the others because they render everything at higher resolutions. The gap in quality isn't huge, but it's worth keeping in mind if you have your choice of systems to play the game on and intend to pick up the game.
All things considered, Disney's Meet the Robinsons should satisfy anyone who has the urge to explore the Robinsons' futuristic world. The game won't blow you away, but Wilbur's gadgets are fun to use. There's also plenty to do between gathering blueprints, playing minigames, and getting through the puzzles and bosses in the dungeonlike environments.