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Score: 4.0 / 10
Anyone out shopping for a new Xbox game
this Christmas season be aware that there are a few warning signs that
clue you in to the fact of whether a game is good or not. When
considering a potential purchase, if a particular title was released in
Japan first, changed its name for its stateside release, is infested
with rodents and set in France, is priced at a mere $30US while Xbox
games usually cost $50US, and is only available at one retail outlet
(Toys R Us, a kiddie-store no less), expect red lights to be flashing
bright and sirens to be shrilling at a high decibel level when you pull
out your wallet.
If you choose to ignore the warning signs and buy this awful and poorly
designed game please put your money back in your wallet, go home, sit
down at your computer and send me an email at the address listed below.
Iíll send you my home mailing address right away. Because if youíre
willing to throw away your money on a coaster such as Sneakers, then if
you send that $30 bucks my way I can go buy a
new Xbox S controller and at least one of
us will enjoy an Xbox-related purchase.
Originally released in Japan as Nezmix, the game has you in the role of
the hero, the mouse Apollo and his band of fellow mice in their battle
against the evil rats (is there any other kind?), complete in their
evilness with their Nazi-inspired garb. The rats steal Apollo and the
other miceís food, and itís up to Apollo and his mice
crew of Brutus, Tiki, Bonnie, Watt, and
Pete to defeat the rats and reclaim their meal. The action takes place
in the houses and the streets of Paris, France.
Make no mistake about it, with its sugary-sweet story and characters,
the cutesy Sneakers is designed for the extremely younger gamer. The one
positive about the game is that for the first time I was actually able
to sit my four-year-old daughter Leah on my lap and play an Xbox game
together that she enjoyed. Unlike the PS2 or GameCube the Xbox doesnít
gear itself in any manner towards younger children, which makes the
arrival of Sneakers on the Xboxís roster even stranger. In a household
with four kids, only Leah and her eight-year-old sister Samantha showed
any interest when I played Sneakers.
Their two older siblings (age 11 and 14) had absolutely no desire to
play. For the initial few days I loaded up the game for this review (I
wouldnít play this game for pleasure, thatís for sure) I was asked at
every opportunity, ďDaddy, can we play Sneakers with you?Ē Although
playing a game with my children was enjoyable, the fact that it was
Sneakers they wanted to play made me cringe every time they asked me.
Nowís probably a good time to explain why I donít like this game much.
It comes down to the very weak gameplay and control of Sneakers. As I
said, the game is geared towards a young audience, so Sneakers basic
gameplay isnít very challenging and can be downright sleep inducing for
older gamers. It breaks down to performing two main goals: finding the
rats on each level, eliminating them from each mini-section of the
level, and then battling them. None of these goals require much gaming
skill. In an attempt to make the game a little bit of a challenge, the
developers make it almost impossible to find the last rat of the
approximately 30 you must find on each level.
When a rat is found, it adds to the amount of time left on each stage.
Once that timer winds down to zero, the game ends unless you have found
and defeated in battle all the rats. Finding most of your vermin enemies
is relatively easy. The rats do nothing to avoid being caught. Oh, they
sometimes are hidden in what are supposed to be hard-to-see places, but
again it comes down to just one rat being difficult to find on each
stage. Once a rat is found, pushing the controllerís X button to target
him and then the A button eliminates him from the total of rats.
Another difficulty with Sneakers is that it is rail-driven, meaning you
are relegated to going only in the direction that the game will allow
you on any particular level. This is extremely frustrating, because a
game where there are hidden enemies playing a game of hide and seek
needs to have complete freedom for the gamer to go exploring. This
rail-driven action was probably done to make it easier for young
children to navigate through the levels, but it actually made it harder.
My youngsters were unable to play without my assistance because of the
inability to avoid going in rail-driven circles while searching for
rats. If you do actually find all the rats, you must return to their
turf (red-hatted rats populate one area of a level, blue-hatted another,
and so on) and battle them. Hereís another non-challenging undertaking.
Hit two buttons and defeating rats is a snap, even against the
supposedly tougher boss rats. It takes less than a minute for each
battle to end. There is supposedly the threat of you losing some of your
comrades in battle, but donít believe it. Tap a few buttons, and the
rats are easily dispatched.
The shame is that the lousy and simplistic gameplay takes away from the
fact that this is actually a nice-looking Xbox title. The most
impressive feature is the fur shading effects applied to the mice. Fur
shading allows the developer to show each and every strand of the miceís
fur, and the results are impressive. The levels are bright and cartoony
in their appearance and are just as sharp looking as Sneakerís mice.
Sound effects are again right out of Saturday-morning cartoons, and have
that annoying tendency to get you humming them after you have stopped
playing the game. But good looks and sound are wasted on a title with
such appalling gameplay, even for a kidís title.
Sneakers is nothing more than a showcase of the Xboxís graphical
abilities which anybody over the age of nine wonít even want to play
more than once. What could have potentially been a fun game that could
be enjoyed by youngsters in Xbox-owning households is a total disaster
in most facets except the gameís visuals and music. Microsoft would have
been wiser scrapping Sneakers instead of trying to sell this
embarrassing title -- this is one game that should have never made it
out of development. Just because kids think itís cute and fun doesnít
mean itís actually good. Anybody remember Teletubbies?