Although there are a few serious fits of action in the Game Boy Advance version of Over the Hedge, it is, by and large, a puzzle game. You have to push and pull logs, find your way through trap-filled mazes, and sneak past humans, all just to recover a bushel of food that RJ the raccoon swiped from Vincent the grizzly bear. The level layouts are as simple as the story is, so this one is best suited for young children who aren't quite ready to tackle tougher games.
The 24 levels in the game are split into four types: hedge maze, street, yard, and house. A full chapter consists of one each of the hedge maze, street, and yard levels, along with two or three house levels. Hedge maze levels are simple mazes, without enemies, where you have to push and pull logs and rocks out of the way to make your way toward the exit. In street levels, you have to advance down the street and dodge cars, while also staying out of sight of humans. These levels feel very much like a cross between Frogger and Metal Gear Solid. Yard levels let you cut loose. They're filled with traps and animals, such as cats and dogs, which you can wale on with RJ's golf club or Verne's shell attack. Wrapping up each chapter is a collection of house-based levels, which task you with sneaking past patrolling humans, this time to collect food items.
You can pick and choose which levels to play in each chapter and also whether to play as RJ the raccoon or Verne the turtle. Although RJ and Verne don't look alike, their abilities and attacks are roughly identical. At specific points in the story, Hammy the squirrel, Stella the skunk, and Ozzie the opossum are playable for brief periods. Any candy that's collected in the process of retrieving Vincent's food stash can be spent at the porcupine store to buy decorations for the forest or upgrades to RJ's and Verne's abilities.
While it may seem like there's a healthy variety of levels and plenty to do, the harsh reality is that most of the levels look the same, involve the same weak goals, and don't offer much in the way of excitement. In the hedge maze, street, and yard levels, you must simply reach the exit. Hedge maze levels are especially tedious, since all you're ever doing while making the lengthy trek to the exit is moving boulders and logs out of the way. Street levels are slightly better, but only because there are humans and cars to watch out for. It's also amusing the first couple of times you watch RJ put a newspaper in front of his face as a disguise. Yard levels provide a healthy dose of action and probably should have been the main focus of the game, since they let you go absolutely assault-happy on an endless parade of cats and dogs. They're ridiculously easy, though, because all you need to do to leave is grab the collar off one of the cats and take it to the exit. Some players may enjoy the house-based levels. A fair amount of thought is required to figure out which appliances to activate to distract the humans inside. Beyond that, though, collecting food items while sneaking past generic people gets old fast.
That's the main problem with Over the Hedge on the GBA. After you've played through each type of level once, the novelty wears off. Unfortunately, you have to play through each chapter multiple times to collect all the food that's required to unlock subsequent chapters and eventually beat the game. Most people don't have the patience to tolerate that much tedium. The exception, of course, is really young children, who will likely be more receptive to the simplistic and repetitive nature of the levels than anyone over the age of eight will.
Certainly the graphics and audio are kid-friendly. The top-down graphics emphasize colorful environments and large characters. RJ, Verne, Hammy, and Ozzie are easily recognizable during gameplay. Little animated touches, such as splashing puddles and rotating traps, may not have been necessary for a game like this, but they're nice to see regardless. After each chapter, still frame scenes taken from the movie keep the story rolling. As for the audio, the music is toe-tappingly upbeat, and the sound effects consist of a good assortment of digitized growls and critter comments.
You may want to pick this one up for a younger sibling, son, or daughter, but if you can read through this entire review without help, you're way too old to get anything out of Over the Hedge on the GBA.