This apple of a game may not be "bad", but it's certainly bruised with a confused identity.

User Rating: 6 | Veggie Tales: LarryBoy and the Bad Apple GBA
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Big Idea Productions, the company responsible for the long-running VeggieTales VHS/DVD series, has finally gotten up to producing its first, major handheld video game for the Game Boy Advance (GBA), and it's decided to model the game around its DVD release with the title (You guessed it!), LarryBoy and the Bad Apple.

It's an adequate effort overall, but something this game never truly establishes is a central audience. Sure, it contains the VeggieTales' sense of humor and familiar characters, yet its difficulty renders it too difficult to be played by the younger demographic. Really, it's "difficult" to judge the "difficulty" in this situation, because it's a game marketed towards little kids, yet the older fellows will most likely be the ones playing it more than them.

If GameSpot didn't require a difficulty rating from its user reviewers, this game would not be marked with one in this review. However, since its imperative that one be selected, and you (given that you don't reside in the intended demographic this game was marketed to) are the one who decides whether or not to purchase the game in the end, you'll most likely find the game unchallenging to some respect, resulting in the "Easy" label above. Keep in mind that the same mantra may not apply to others.


--------------------------------------- The Thought on Plot ---------------------------------------


There's no denying that LarryBoy and the Bad Apple revolves around the theme of temptation, and in the tradition of VeggieTales value-teaching, this game serves as an extention of the DVD it "stemmed" off of by trying to communicate the same morals to kids in a video game format. However, there's a problem here. Since the GBA lacks the capability to voice the characters completely in audio, unlike the PlayStation 2 version, the result is a story entirely advanced by text, so, younger children who can't read will most likely skip over the dialogue sequences anyway.

Nonetheless, the characters are true to their television counterparts, and capture the personalities found in them. The storyline and interaction is rather corny and silly, just like the DVD.


------------------------------------------ Critical Analysis ------------------------------------------


Larryboy and the Bad Apple's gameplay itself is surprisingly deep, perhaps excessively advanced for what's intended to be in a small child's game. Older players such as teens and adults should have no trouble breezing through the levels, but what about the kids? The characters and music for them, and the gameplay and text-reading for an older generation? Brief tutorials introduce new techniques along the way, but it's questionable if they're of much help to the younger crowd.

Each level consists of platforms, ladders, fans, pipes, levers, and many other gameplay elements, including a few generic characters that'll attempt to impede LarryBoy's progress, and a few pick-ups such as an invulnerability power-up, time influencers, and a hypnotic radio. Your objective is to navigate him towards a specific location before time depletes, all the while avoiding potential impediments, collecting keys to unlock walls, and flipping levers to activate elevators, among many other things. It's a combination of strategy and side-scrolling jointed with creative platforming, and is surprisingly fun to play for more experienced hands. Not only are the levels carefully designed, but their difficulty increases steadily as well.

After finishing a handful of levels in one environment, before moving on to the next, LarryBoy must confront one of the Bad Apple's schemes, and save one of his friends from temptation. These "boss fights" are an alternative to the other missions, but they're also rather poorly designed and unimaginative. For instance, three out of the five confrontations involve a paddle and a ball, and another is almost identical to all of the other missions; there's only one that stands out uniquely, but disappointingly, it's the shortest. There are also two "Simon says" piano missions, but they end up being flat-out boring and unnecessary.

And that basically sums up the flow of gameplay. Complete a few levels, face off against the Bad Apple, complete a few more levels in a different locale, face off against the bad apple again, and so on, until you've suddenly finished the story within an hour or two. Which brings up another issue: The game isn't very long at all. Even with three difficulties, 28 brief missions, five Bad Apple encounters, and two piano mini-games, LarryBoy and the Bad Apple still only clocks in no more than five hours of gameplay, maybe a bit more for kids (if they haven't lost interest already). Unfortunately, once you've completed the three difficulty options (each one affords less time to complete each level), there isn't a strong reason to come back to the level-select and play them again, unless you're looking for a small diversion. Another disappointment is the absence of unlockables, like a BGM player or picture gallery.

The game's graphics are a mixed bag. The characters themselves are portrayed in a 3D-like fashion, which looks nice, but the presentation could've used a LOT of work. When sifting through the menus the game has, it might remind some of the look of early GBA titles, or even Game Boy Color games, for that matter. Even the character stock art used during the dialogue repartees is poorly implemented (all characters, for instance, are always smiling, even during serious moments), and some are images that have been used countless times elsewhere in other VeggieTales products. However, on the flip side, The five main environments LarryBoy hops through during his brief journey are surprisingly detailed, and what's especially impressive is that not only does the background change with each environment, but the level obstacles change in appearance as well.

An important, yet easily overlooked, aspect of LarryBoy and the Bad Apple is its background music. Although low in quality, and largely random in their execution, the game's tunes are faithfully composed around some of the more popular songs in the VeggieTales video series. If you haven't heard these songs before, the music in the game won't mean anything to you, but Veggie aficionados will recognize the beats of "The Water Buffalo Song" and "The Hairbrush Song", among others. Another mildly pleasant ingredient of the game's audio components is its sound effects, which mimic the goofiness and character of the VeggieTales spirit, although these also share the lack of technical achievement that the BGM has.


--------------------------------------------- Conclusion ---------------------------------------------


| |[Gameplay]|---- ||||||||||||||||||||||||IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII - 6.0
| |[Graphics]| ----- ||||||||||||||||||||||||||IIIIIIIIIIIIII - 6.5
| |[Audio]| ---------- ||||||||||||||||||||||||||IIIIIIIIIIIIII - 6.5
| |[Value]| ---------- ||||||||||||||||||IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII - 4.5
| |[Overall]| -------- (((((((((((( 5.9 ))))))))))))


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Gameplay – 6.0 – Too tough for little kids, yet too easy for almost anyone else, LarryBoy and the Bad Apple ultimately fails to find its target audience. The former might become frustrated at the game's depth, but others should find it moderately entertaining… for the few hours that it takes to finish it.

Graphics – 6.5 – For a GBA release from 2006, LarryBoy manages to get some things right, while others are shamefully ignored. Sure, the Veggies look fairly decent in their new pixilated atmosphere, and the colorful environments received special attention, but other areas of the game appear rushed.

Audio – 6.5 – A decent tribute to the classic songs the Veggies are known for. There's only a few of them, they're randomized throughout, but it was a wise choice to associate the game with familiar tunes, instead of improvised ones. What they lack in technical quality, they make up for in faithfulness to the songs they're derived from.

Value – 4.5 – Experienced players will finish the game in a snap, and there's the inevitable possibility that younger ones will simply give up on it. Three difficulties cheaply add extra play time, as the only aspect that changes with each respective one is the time available to complete each level.

Overall – 5.9 – It has morals, a familiar cast, a solid gameplay mechanic... but where does all of this cohere to satisfy the needs of the youngest of gamers?


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Looking for something else? I recommend these alternatives…

- The Sonic Advance series (GBA) – Sonic's a guy that everyone recognizes, and his GBA games are a good choice for people of all ages. They might not be as easy as the one above, but there's very little text and hardly any suggestive themes.

- Frogger's Adventures: Temple of the Frog (GBA) – Simple gameplay and yet another familiar household name make this game a fitting choice for just about anyone.

- Snood (GBA) – A cool, little diversion, with incredibly simple gameplay. A ton of wacky fun, especially on-the-go.


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------