When Activision and Vicarious Visions published Shrek 2 for the Game Boy Advance a few years ago, it was easy to overlook the game's weak presentation because the team-oriented gameplay provided a clever twist on the otherwise stale platform-jumper design. Now that they've released Shrek the Third, which is virtually the same as the last game, the flaws are tougher to swallow. The graphics and audio both feel antiquated, and the game is just a bit too kid-friendly for its own good.
Events in the game are loosely based on what happens in the movie. Shrek, Donkey, and Puss set out to find Arthur, the heir to the throne of Far, Far Away, but soon end up stranded on a desert island after Shrek and Artie have a fight. The four then seek out Merlin, who excitedly informs the quartet that he can easily zap them back to Far, Far Away. They just need to bring him some fairies that are hidden on the island first. Your job is to guide the characters through each level and collect the fairies that Merlin needs. Once you've done so, he'll punt the group to a different land and send them out to collect more fairies. Along the way, you'll encounter friendly characters, such as the blind mice and the three little pigs, as well as villains like Captain Hook, Prince Charming, and the Headless Horseman.
Getting through each side-scrolling level involves a fair amount of jumping between platforms and mindlessly pressing the attack button to punch or hack at pirates and monsters. However, in all but a few of the game's 20 levels, you have to guide two or more characters to the level's finish line. That's easier said than done since the characters have different abilities. Shrek can lift heavy objects and crash through some walls, Donkey can push things and glide short distances, Puss can climb up walls and crawl into tight spaces, and Artie can throw his shield like a boomerang and use it to float across rivers. Teamwork is the key to getting through each level. For example, Artie can float across a river and throw his shield at a switch to activate a moving platform that Shrek can then jump onto in order to safely cross the river. You can expect to swap characters dozens of times throughout each level before finally reaching the finish area. Players of all ages will likely find juggling between the different characters and their abilities interesting, but the game is probably best suited to younger players due to its mild difficulty. The solutions to most puzzles are plainly obvious, and the characters have plenty of health to absorb attacks with. You'll meet instant "death" if you fall into a river or pit, but that doesn't happen often. You get unlimited continues anyway.
Vicarious Visions put the game together using the same engine it used to produce Shrek 2 for the GBA in 2004. The graphics and audio get the job done, but they're also way behind the curve. Apart from the enemy characters you'll encounter and the occasional river, there's nothing much moving on screen. The 2D backdrops look crude, and the muddy colors are unattractive. Some enemies are more generic than others, but all of the characters move gracefully. Shrek, Donkey, and all of the other familiar characters resemble their big-screen counterparts at least. As for the audio, the music and sound effects are generic and repetitive. The voice snippets that play when you switch characters, attack, or take damage are nice, but there aren't enough of them.
Shrek the Third for the GBA would have turned out a lot nicer if Vicarious Visions and Activision had done more than simply take the engine from Shrek 2, tweak it, and conjure up a bunch of new levels. The stale presentation and easy difficulty rule out anyone over the age of eight or so getting much enjoyment out of the game.