reviews\ Oct 29, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Sneakers - XB - Review

Usually, when you think of a game that has two rival gangs or some turf war, you think of a title that’s going to include weapons of some sort, possibly some foul language, and you can almost be assured of blood or gore of some kind … mostly adult themed stuff. Not so in Sneakers for the Xbox. Instead, it presents a battle for the home ground in a cute and cuddly sort of fashion, and it’s presented in a manner that caters more to the younger gamer out there.


The story to Sneakers revolves around a mouse named Apollo and his mice buddies, who gather scraps of food in preparation for a celebration and a feast in Paris, France … in the human’s house where he lives. All of the mice in the area have been invited, and it looks as though everything’s all set and ready to go. Apollo has been a little concerned as of late, since there are rats that have moved into a nearby island and have begun appearing here and there … teasing mice and stealing their food, of course. Well, to his dismay, the food that they spent so much time gathering is missing … and it’s become obvious to Apollo that the rats have shown up, taken the food, and plan to take over. Apollo and his buddies set out on an adventure to chase the rats away and make sure that the party goes off as planned.


Now … the first thing that anyone who sits down to play Sneakers will notice is the graphics. I’ll hit this first, since I was really impressed from the get go at how well done the environments and characters were done. Everything is detailed down to small bits of litter or cigarette butts here and there on the ground, and things like posters, light streaming in from windows, or wood grain has a very realistic look to it. Everything is brightly colored and realistic enough to be photographic quality at times, and the mice themselves were done so well that you almost feel like you can reach through the screen and touch them. The walking animations were OK, but the running of the mice around streets, floors, or up and down various things looked almost real, if it weren’t for the clothes that the characters wear. This is sure to bring a look of amazement to the faces of most who play it for the first time, or a shriek … depending on how you feel about mice I guess.


OK, it looks great, but how does it play? Well, the first word that comes to mind is simplicity. There are two modes that you are in during the whole game, which are search mode and battle mode. While in search mode, which is 70% of the time, you move the band of mice using the control pad or either analog stick, and it’s only pressed left or right using the A button to run. It eliminates the possibility of getting lost, since there’s no real full exploration to it, and the mice run on a set path around rooms and hallways the entire time. If it were any more linear or seemed like it was on a rail system, it could be a train. While in search mode, the X button enables a sort of first person “lock on” feature, which is used to examine objects and spot rat scouts hiding here and there throughout the environment. In each stage, you must find a certain number of them in order to fight the boss at the end, and you only have a set amount of time to do it.


The second mode … battle mode … is where the “turf war” feel comes into play in the whole thing. The map will alert you to a certain area where a group of rats have gathered and are challenging you to a fight. So, you run on your linear rail system back to the area that the rats were shown in, and it activates a new angle where your gang of 4 – 5 mice battles a gang of rats for control. The A button is used to throw a couple of punches and combos, and the B button executes a spinning attack which is useful to knock off a number of enemies if you or one of your buddies get bum rushed. It also has a lock on and block feature, and the X button enables you to issue commands to your mouse gang to tell them to pick up food if it is needed to replenish health or which rat to go after specifically.


Again, simplicity is the name of the game here … but it can also get really repetitive as time and stages go on. Each one contains the same thing to do, which is search, then fight, then search, then fight, and on and on it goes until the end. Granted, the rat scouts are well hidden at times and it will keep the youngsters busy for a while, but it can also prove to be a little dull when the only change in the game seems to be the scenery. On a brighter note, the battles … which could have used a couple of more combo ideas or powerful attacks for flash … are easy to understand and provide a good but not too violent action sequence for the kids. Sneakers will be a pretty short lived game for some players out there as well, since the whole game can be run through in a few hours for the experienced player, young or old. Younger kids may take more time running through it, and that’s where most of the appreciation will probably come in.


Let’s talk about the mousey railway system once more, since this can be a possible detractor for an older gamer (Not “Tha Wiz” old, just the 9 up range) due to the linear movements of the characters. While the point here was to make a game title that was easy for everyone to play, free roaming exploration … even if only a small area or during certain times  … really should have been added to make it a little more challenging or give you a little something more to do than run straight, pick a direction, then do it over and over again for another 5 – 10 minutes until a battle scene. Again I understand what they were doing, but I’ve got to call it like I see it for the whole crowd out there.


The sound to Sneakers is great, right along with the graphics. The music has a bouncy, French sort of feel to it, but switches up often and also gets a little more intense, classical, or jazzy sounding depending on what area you’re in. It doesn’t really set the tone for the scene most of the time, but you’ll find yourself humming along here and there and you guide your mice around on their mission. The sound effects during the battles are swooshy kinds of things and squeaks, which aren’t bad but don’t really do a whole lot either. Lastly, the voiceovers contain a high pitched, garbled mouse gibberish, which is translated down at the bottom of the screen. Voiceovers are nice, but I guess mice don’t speak English in real life either.


Sneakers can provide a decent title for the Xbox that caters a little more to the younger gamer (Not many of those titles out for Xbox, eh?), and adults may get some amusement out of it as well for a while. The graphics and cute little animations, cutscenes, and loveable characters may make up for the linear and somewhat repetitive gameplay for some, but I would still recommend renting it or hanging onto the receipt with this one, just in case.


Gameplay: 7.5
This game was done with easy gameplay and a cute little family friendly story line in mind. The controls and game aspects, while very easy to get into and simple, can also provide a somewhat linear experience for some and may cause a lack of interest after a while. It also may not provide more than a few hours of playtime for that little action veteran in your house.  


Graphics: 9.0
This game really shows off the Xbox, and was realistic to the point of being scary at times. The mice look like they can be hugged through the TV, and the backgrounds retain a cartoony style, but also somewhat realistic look to them. It will definitely get a “Wow” reaction from most people. 


Sound: 8.5
Good and not too repetitive music tracks, along with some goofy gibberish cutscenes and the pitter-patter of little running mouse feet. The battle sounds weren’t bad, but could have been a little better.


Difficulty: Easy
That’s an understatement. My three year old was able to make the mice run around and climb stuff with no help from big brother or me and was just having fun doing that much for about 15 minutes. I got to take a quick “lie down” break, which gives it a thumbs up in my book any day.


Concept: 7.8
Mice vs. rats in a cute presentation, including a rival mouse gang that does the “walk and snap” thing like “West Side Story”. It’s a neat idea, and it definitely hasn’t been done before in this fashion, but it could have had a little more to it overall. 


Overall: 7.2
It may be a good buy for some and it can be played or watched by anyone without fear or some violent image at any time. It may not be long enough or it might be too repetitive for some gamers out there, but it’s not too bad. Keep the receipt or rent it first.  


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