Madagascar First Look

We get an early look at Activison's upcoming action game based on the forthcoming DreamWorks movie.


LAS VEGAS--Tucked away in one of the corners of Microsoft's booth on the CES show floor is an early version of Activision's Madagascar for the Xbox. The third-person action game is being developed by Toys for Bob and is based on the upcoming DreamWorks computer-generated movie that's currently being crafted by PDI. The film revolves around four New York Zoo animals: Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe, and Gloria the hippo. All four wind up making a break from their cozy home in the city to head out to the wilds of Madagascar. The game will use the film's narrative as a base but will flesh it out to provide a proper framework for its action.

While we couldn't play the game, a rep from Activision was on hand to give us a brief tour of it. Madagascar will let you play as one of five characters: Alex, Marty, Melman, Gloria, or one of the conspiracy theory-spouting penguins that stirs the animals in the zoo into a frenzy. As you'd expect, each of the characters will have his own unique abilities to help him get through areas. One of the levels demoed was set in the zoo and served as both a gameplay tutorial and an introduction to the cast of characters and their unique moves. Alex can roar, which puts a fright into nearby characters. Marty can kick, thus opening the way to new areas. Melman can fly by spinning around and hovering for brief periods of time, which helps when jumping onto platforms. Gloria can tumble and hip-check foes. You'll find collectibles, such as tokens, as you explore the game's levels. These tokens can be used to access new areas.

The next level demoed offered a showcase for the penguins as they slunk around a ship at sea. The gameplay mechanics for the penguin level were a pretty funny rip of stealth action games, such as Metal Gear Solid and Syphon Filter. Your task is to sneak past humans that are milling around the boat to reach bugles that you'll use to call your cohorts. After the penguin showcase, we had a brief look at a beach level that showed off the tikis you'll use to switch between the main four characters.

The final level of the game we were shown was one of the minigames that will be included in the game. Madagascar will feature three minigames: Tiki Mini golf, shuffleboard, and Lemur Rave. The game we saw, shuffleboard, has one of the characters riding the puck over an enormous board. Tiki Mini golf is exactly what it sounds like: a rousing game of minigolf. Lemur Rave will arguably be the highlight of the three games since it's essentially a Dance Dance Revolution-style rhythm game that features lemurs. While we haven't seen it in action, the notion of dancing monkeys is pretty masterful.

The presentation in the game, while still very much a work in progress, is looking sharp and does a great job of capturing the look of PDI's artful designs for the film. The animation is understandably a little rough in spots, but the characters are already showing signs of personality, which is cool. We didn't hear the audio too clearly (mainly because the insanely loud Forza Motorsport kiosk next to Madagascar's drowns out most sound), but it's safe to expect either soundalikes or clips from the film voice cast, which will add to the game's experience.

While the version of the game we saw is still very much a work in progress, Madagascar looks to be shaping up well. The visuals nail the movie's stylized look, and the gameplay seems to be accessible. The minigames are looking like fun extras that should go down well with players of all ages. Madagascar is currently slated to ship this May, which is around the same time the film will be released in theaters.

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