It's not often that a game on a last-generation system is able to thoroughly trump its current console counterparts, but Wall-E on the PlayStation 2 is able to hold that prestigious claim. Though Pixar movies appeal to both children and adults by creating lovable characters with lifelike motivations, the games have often ignored their older audience entirely. This is not the case with Wall-E. A variety of gameplay mechanics that not only expand on the scenes from the movie, but provide a healthy amount of challenge and fun as well, make this a legitimately good game rather than another slapdash licensed cash-in.
The story of Wall-E follows the same path laid out by the movie it's based on. Wall-E is a lone robot on a filthy planet, and the early levels highlight the weight 700 years of isolation will bring. When he meets Eve, he not only falls head-over-wheels in love, but catches a ride to a space station in the process. From here, you'll learn about the power of plants and the consequences of rampant consumerism. Though the game doesn't dwell on the evils of a corporate-run society quite as harshly as the film, the stream of advertisements lining the walls and pouring from the loudspeaker still hammer the point home. The cutscenes are mostly based on scenes from the movie, though they are created in-game and feature a few twists thrown in for good measure. Dialogue takes a backseat to old-fashioned mimed drama, but the animation is rich enough to properly tell this robot love tale.
The gameplay doesn't break new ground for platformers, but the sheer variety of well-designed tasks makes this enjoyable throughout. The most common objective is to navigate from one section to another using various jumping skills along the way. Your main maneuver is simply jumping from one precariously placed platform to another, but because Wall-E was not gifted with impressive hops, you'll have to use some different tools to traverse the tricky terrain. Some levels are littered with skateboard ramps, allowing you to build up momentum before you can make the leap. Other times you'll have to toss magnetic cubes to form a pathway or turn elevated lifts to the optimal position. The level design is constantly throwing new tricks in your path, making exploration one of the strong points of this game. Unfortunately, your slippery wheels make precise placement difficult sometimes, leading to a few accidental deaths.
Other levels have you race through as quickly as possible. Sometimes you'll control Wall-E, using speed bursts to make tricky jumps and crunching down into a cube to slide under low-hanging bars. Other times you'll control Eve, flying through narrow tubes while avoiding propellers and falling ceilings. These sections are not as deep as the platforming portions, but they provide an unexpected amount of thrills. Since the levels last only a few minutes, every obstacle is stacked one after another, making survival as important as speed.
Unfortunately, the combat is not nearly as engrossing as the platforming or flying aspects. You're equipped with a laser that does nominal damage, and you can toss blocks at attacking enemies. Neither approach is satisfying. Boxes can be knocked from your hands by rampaging robots, and Wall-E is too clumsy to quickly recover from said blows. Your laser is too weak to attack enemies head-on, so you'll only be able to use this from afar or hope the robots forget to shoot you with their own lasers. The core of the game is navigation, so even though the combat is lacking, it doesn't bring the overall experience too far down. Still, it's disappointing that the pure action sections are the weakest link in the adventure.
The graphics are impressive for the most part. The levels are confined, but the vibrant colors and clear textures add personality to each section. The game also runs quite smoothly, even when you're racing through levels with sand beating against your metal body. The sound can't quite match the visuals, though. The music is repetitive and the sound effects have no impact. One nice touch, though, is Wall-E's built-in recorder. You can let loose some old-time hits with the push of a button. It brings a little levity to the hectic levels and also serves as a gameplay tool--friendly robots will follow your siren song, helping you pass difficult sections.
The levels are loaded with collectibles that can unlock hidden goodies, but the rewards are less than enticing. Concept art just isn't a very strong draw. However, the act of finding said items is worth it. Each level has buried treasures that you can find when you go in first-person mode. These trinkets would be deemed trash by greedy humans, but Wall-E finds them fascinating. Each unearthing provides a humorous cutscene in addition to bonus points. For instance, when you uncover a beach ball you'll watch a frantic fight between metal and plastic, a duel far funnier than it should be. With plenty of these treasures in every level, it's worth finding them all just to see Wall-E's ridiculous reactions.
Wall-E is a surprisingly solid platformer. The game maintains a captivating pace throughout by constantly mixing up objectives and adding new tricks to conquer. The multiplayer mode doesn't add much value to the package; the split-screen duels focus on the simple racing and combat mechanics from the single-player, making it interesting only in short bursts. But the single-player adventure provides enough replay value to make this entertaining even after the credits roll.