Even though it's supposedly based on the movie of the same name, the Nintendo DS version of Disney's Meet the Robinsons hardly references the movie. The narrative is loosely driven by the alternate renditions of 2037 that were depicted in the movie, and the main character under your control is Wilbur Robinson, one of the movie's main characters. However, the game doesn't emulate the movie's artistic style, and key events from the movie are portrayed only in brief still-frame images. Furthermore, the action doesn't involve interacting with the movie's characters or exploring the various realities in the adventurous manner that Lewis and Wilbur did in the movie. Instead, Disney's Meet the Robinsons on the DS is a run-and-gun-style shooter that looks and feels similar to Metroid Prime Hunters in that you primarily roam expansive environments while blasting away at the robotic enemies that constantly appear. What's remarkable is that if you let yourself ignore the fact that the game provides almost no connection to the movie, you'll discover that it's actually a varied shooter that makes good use of the system's graphical horsepower and touch-screen features.
Each of the game's five worlds consists of multiple interconnected areas and passageways. Your job in each world is to run around within those areas and blast apart enemies until you've accomplished all of the tasks necessary to unlock the master's lair. Once you defeat the master in one world, the game whisks you off to the next. Your status is always shown on the upper screen, while the action is displayed on the touch screen. The controls are simple and friendly. You use the directional pad to move, the shoulder buttons to orient the view, and the main buttons to fire a volley with the associated weapon. You can shoot while you're running, but the best way to handle enemies is to first tap them on the touch screen, which locks your aim and lets you circle-strafe without pointing your gun away from the target. Despite the third-person viewpoint and the heavy use of lock-on targeting, the game feels like a first-person shooter. Each encounter with an enemy robot lasts a few seconds; you simply strafe and shoot while the enemy does likewise. The lock-on cursor generally ensures that your shots will hit the target, which takes some challenge out of the equation, but enemies keep battles lively by occasionally jumping out of the way or attempting to pounce on you. Boss battles serve up villains that alternate between multiple forms and serve up meatier energy blasts than standard foes.
There are roughly two dozen different gadgets and items that you can use. As you go through the game, the weapons you'll rely on the most are the charge glove and the disassembler ray. They're the two weapons you start out with, along with a scanner that lets you scan objects to discover their weaknesses and what goodies they're hiding. The charge glove's energy shots are effective against the majority of enemies, and its rate of fire makes it the best overall weapon. The disassembler ray is a finisher weapon of sorts in that it shatters weakened enemies into spare parts that you can collect. You can then cash in the parts at the transmogrifier located near the entrance of each world in order to buy items, build new gadgets, and upgrade existing gadgets. Additional weapons include a lightning gun, a meatball launcher, and gloves that fire sonic waves. Some of the niftier gadgets you can build let you jump higher, stop time, hide underground, and levitate enemies.
The game's worst flaw is that it's short. Most people won't need more than five hours to finish it. Surprisingly, apart from a charge ball minigame that requires both players to have their own cartridge, there's no multiplayer to speak of. Charge ball is an interesting meshing of air hockey and brick busting games (like Breakout or Arkanoid), but it's not compelling enough to make you want to play it for more than a few minutes.
While the development team skimped on content, it did at least take the time to make the game look and sound decent. The quality of the 3D environments, polygonal characters, and textures is on par with many PlayStation and Nintendo 64 games and at times rivals Nintendo's Metroid Prime Hunters. Wilbur moves fluidly, enemies have a good variety of attacks, the frame rate is smooth, and objects never just pop into view despite the ample draw distance. On the whole, the environments are intricate and contain plenty of ledges to climb, streams to splash in, and decorative structures to hide behind. It's just a shame that the areas in each world start to look alike after a while, since enemies and certain environmental features are recycled constantly. The sound effects that accompany the action don't stand out, but the various laser blasts and metallic crunching noises are definitely appropriate. Some effort clearly went into the music too, as the tunes in each world are richly produced and feature plenty of memorable melodies.
It's anybody's guess as to what Buena Vista Games and Altron were thinking when they decided to fashion the Nintendo DS version of Disney's Meet the Robinsons into a run-and-gun-style shoot-'em-up. Fans of the movie may be disappointed by how little the game references the movie, and they probably would have been better served with a traditional adventure game. Nevertheless, the game is a solid shooter that's lively and fun--for the few hours it lasts.