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Q4 2002



- Fur shading highlights better-than-average graphics
- At least Microsoft is trying to make games for all ages
- Young children (eight and under) think itís fun



- Anyone over the age of nine wonít want to play much
- Rail-driven gameplay can make everything much more difficult
- If this is a kidís game, why are some of the rats almost impossible to find?



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Score: 4.0 / 10


sneakers-1.jpg (46065 bytes)         sneakers-2.jpg (28454 bytes)


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




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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.


sneakers-3.jpg (34051 bytes)         sneakers-4.jpg (40920 bytes)

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?

- Lee Cieniawa

(December 2, 2002)


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