GameZone visits Papaya Studios
Friday, July 31, 2009
visits Papaya Studios
By Mike David
Toy Story Mania and latest Ben 10 title shown at South California studio
Last week I was lucky enough to go down to Papaya Studios in Southern California and see what they have been up to. I was met by Richard, Lin and Johnathan - Lin, being the owner of Papaya, and Richard and Johnathan being producers on the two titles expected to release in the coming months. Those titles are a new Toy Story party game that promises to be true to the source material and a new Ben 10 game that was written by the actual series writers and has a much more adventurous flair to it then I thought possible.
The first title I was allowed to "play" with is for the Wii and it is called "Toy Story Mania." It is a party-style game located firmly in the Toy Story Universe and more accurately, in Andy's room. The Toys have come up with a series of games to play based on their own themes. There are soldier levels modeled after the plastic soldiers, there is space levels for Buzz and the Little Green Men, cowboy levels for Woody and the Round-up gang and more, 30 to be exact. Thirty mini-games that involve shooting galleries, ring tosses, bowling, wiggling the Wii mote in all sorts of fun and different ways and more. What's great about the title is that it truly looks like it belongs in the Toy Story universe; the folks at Pixar have been working closely with Papaya and it shows in the details. This is easily the closest thing to a genuinely accurately looking Toy Story title, ever. What I mean by that is in the overall design and look of the game. For example, the title screen and in-game menus are actually made from items found in Andy's room. Remember in Toy Story when Andy is playing with Potato Head as the Black Bart and Woody has to save Bo Peep from him? The Cardboard box Andy has with Sheep drawn on one side is quickly turned to reveal the jail on the other side. It's like that. Objects are held in place with springs or string or whatever, they are cut out from toy boxes and organized in the way the toys would have done it in the movies. I really was impressed - not only with the visuals but also that this is a party style game that is really over-the-top crazy with hidden objects, challenges, levels and more.
With that, I was allowed to take a look at the game "Ben 10: Alien Force Vilgax Attacks." Now, I have been the reviewer to take a stab at the last two Ben 10 titles, and I was somewhat vocal about how those previous studios handled the source material. Being an actual Ben 10 fan myself, my boys and I played the games and even my youngest questioned why the games would completely ignore already established lore and events; I was hopeful but not expecting the world either.
So it was with much trepidation that I was allowed to take a shot at the new Ben 10 game, and this is what my early thoughts are.
The game does involve the Alien Force aliens, and takes place ion a splinter of time prior to the High Breed invasion, but after Ben, Gwen and Kevin have teamed up to fight evil together. Of course, I am only deducing this based on the season's finale when it shows Ben getting new aliens after defeating the High Breed invasion. In fact, many characters and aliens come to play a part in this wholly original story that seems to be the product of one (or more) of the show's writers who must have been thinking "what if?" I say that because the game's and the first series' main villain "Vilgax," is back and he has brought many other baddies with him, but here's the kicker - Ben 10 has established that the alien DNA found in the watch is comprised of countless aliens, many of these alien home worlds have been talked about, but never seen. In this game, you get to go to those home worlds as you attempt to out run and out smart Vilgax from building a Null Void cannon. When you are on these planets, the game makes you think about what you need to do and makes it so only one of the aliens in your watch can move you forward, forcing you to get accustomed to all the aliens. In previous games, you could play primarily as your favorite and fudge your way through the action. Here, you must play as every alien, and not just once or twice, you will hop from alien to alien as the game progresses, making it a more rounded experience. More importantly, staying true to the source material.
Add to that, the game is almost played like a Tomb Raider title; these worlds you visit are dangerous and have all sorts of traps and vicious baddies to fight, but its also multi-tiered and massive in its scope, climbing up ruins, gliding down towers, running and fighting as if your life depended on it (probably cause it does). Imagine what kind of a planet that Humongousaur hails from since he is firmly rooted in the dinosaur DNA, well, I have been there, Chromastone? Been there. Brainstorm? Done that too.
It was a great visit and I am happy to see quality products in development, a big thanks to my hosts and in no way am I sucking up here; the games look pretty good. Of course neither of them were fully finished, so I still will review them fairly and accurately upon release but as they sit now, they have much potential.