Over the Hedge Review

A few unique touches are overshadowed by crushingly dull gameplay in this perfunctory animated movie tie-in.

For the small cluster of game creators that regard the form as art, there is a vastly larger group that sees it as a line item on a spreadsheet--pure commodity. And, for the rare, thoughtfully executed video game movie tie-in that actually enhances the overall property (think The Chronicles of Riddick), there are a dozen games like Over the Hedge. You'll go numb from repetition before you finish Over the Hedge, but you won't be able to shake the feeling that this game exists as a contractual obligation between Activision and DreamWorks. It's a competent game to a degree, but it's also rather cold and mechanical.

Woodland creatures are rocking the suburbs in Over the Hedge.
Woodland creatures are rocking the suburbs in Over the Hedge.

As a major motion picture, Over the Hedge tells the story of a group of woodland creatures coping with the arrival of Suburbia, presumably with hilarious and perhaps occasionally thought-provoking results. The game hints at some of the conflict from the film, specifically with an overzealous exterminator and a dark-hearted bear named Vincent. We have to assume that the film also paints the suburbs as more aggressively antagonistic, because mostly what we got from the game is that woodland animals are a bunch of jerks that sneak into your house, maliciously bust everything up, and then steal your TV.

Movie-tie-in games like Over the Hedge usually lean heavily on the source material for substance, which makes the use of homegrown CG story sequences, rather than short clips from the actual film, a bit of a head-scratcher. The pinch-hitting crew of voice actors that gamely try on their best Bruce Willis, Garry Shandling, Steve Carell, Wanda Sykes, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, and Bill Shatner impressions can be a touch inconsistent, but with a game of this quality, it would be foolish to expect the A-listers (or even the B-listers) to make an appearance in the sound booth.

Playing as the crew of jerk woodland animals--which includes a charismatic and usually self-serving raccoon; a timid turtle who's brave when it counts; a twitchy, hyperactive squirrel; and a sassy skunk--you'll make your way through a series of suburban-inspired levels, trashing up the place, throwing down with brainwashed rodents, collecting various sets of seemingly arbitrary items (what possible use could a raccoon have for a DVD?), and performing some shallow "puzzle" solving. We say suburban-inspired levels because you never get a sense that these are actual places, partially because of how small and linear each level is, but also because every backyard and basement is action-packed with ridiculous gameplay contrivances such as fire-spewing laser-grid security systems, beer kegs that generate rats, and hostile flying Weber barbeques.

These sorts of challenges might sound kind of rad on paper, but the mostly one-button combat and the high-volume/low-variety ratio of enemies pretty much puts the kibosh on much of the game's fun. There are a few mildly inspired moments in Over the Hedge where it veers away from mindless beat-'em-up action, such as an early sequence where you run through the titular hedge while avoiding cattle prods and bear claws, or a later sequence where you have to run down a suburban street while dodging traffic like some kind of version of Frogger, rotated 90 degrees. These moments are few, though, and never present a real challenge.

Somewhere, someone is talking about Over the Hedge and synergy.
Somewhere, someone is talking about Over the Hedge and synergy.

One of the few unique things about Over the Hedge is the fact that, even when you're playing by yourself, there's always an artificial intelligence-controlled companion animal to back you up, and you can switch between the two of them on the fly. It ends up being kind of a so-what feature, since there's little appreciable performance difference between any of the characters, and you rarely even find obstacles that require cooperation to overcome. We ended up playing as Verne the turtle most of the time, just because we liked his double-jump animation better. The game encourages you to revisit levels that you've already completed by including several secondary objectives that can eventually earn you access to a series of minigames, which maintain the game's precedent of being easy and predictable with such activities as wrecking up golf carts, racing RC cars, and swinging at golf balls to break stuff.

We can't speak on the quality of the film Over the Hedge, since it's not in theaters yet, but the game Over the Hedge doesn't really inspire much interest in the property. The PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, and PC versions of Over the Hedge are mostly identical and are saddled with the usual quirks of their respective platforms--expect more jaggies on the PS2, awkward controls on the PC, and so on--though no one version is so different that we can really recommend it. This isn't an aggressively bad game, it's mostly just boring.

The Good

  • Simple two-player design makes it easy for parents to play along with kids

The Bad

  • Gameplay is simple and repetitive
  • Celebrity voice impersonators are inconsistent
  • Generally feels like a sell-sheet bullet point, not an actual game

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Over the Hedge

First Released May 5, 2006
  • DS
  • Game Boy Advance
  • GameCube
  • PC
  • PlayStation 2
  • Xbox

Players assume the roles of RJ the raccoon, Verne the turtle, Hammy the squirrel and Stella the skunk and turn a suburban neighborhood loaded with dangerous obstacles and traps into their personal playground.


Average Rating

576 Rating(s)

Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
Everyone 10+
Cartoon Violence, Crude Humor