Napoleon Dynamite: The Game Review
I remember distinctly a conversation between myself and two of my friends when "Napoleon Dynamite" first hit theatres in limited release. I'd never heard of it, but they seemed to think that going to see it would be an excellent way to spend the afternoon. They convinced me, we saw the film and enjoyed it for what it was - an indie movie about a painfully nerdy kid with a funny name that sadly didn't measure up to the last popular indie movie about a nerdy kid with a funny name, "Welcome To The Dollhouse." Fast forward ten months or so and "Napoleon Dynamite" was the movie everyone is talking about. The newly released DVD was sold out everywhere and quotes from the film are on everyone's lips, replacing Lil' Jon's "What?! Yeah! OK!" as the catch phrase du jour. Skip ahead three years or so and "Napoleon Dynamite" is no longer the fad of the moment. Yet, for some reason, Crave Entertainment decided that the world needed a game based on the mildly entertaining movie. It, like the film it is based on, is uneven, bizarre and, most of all, just kind of annoying after a while.
Napoleon Dynamite on the PSP is essentially a mini game collection based on various parts of the movie. The game doesn't follow a coherent point-a-to-point-b plot, instead, it presents you with increasingly difficult little tasks, like dragging an action figure behind a school bus, timed button pressing to make Napoleon dance to J-Kwon's dance tape and, my favorite, feeding Tina the llama. Basically, if you can remember any little part of the movie, there is a great chance that it is represented here with a mini game.
Before we get to the infuriating parts of this title, I'll make quick mention of what the game does right. The art style, though unconventional, is actually fairly well done. The game looks like someone took still pictures of the various objects and setting in the movie, cut out various objects and pasted them all back together using Elmer's glue. It has an early-South Park charm to it, though the characters are a bit creepy. They are represented by cut out photos of heads and pasted on cartoonish bodies, which brings to mind images of stalkers and serial killers pasting photos of their heads onto photos of their victims or objects of obsession. Weird.
The sound is passable, though it does have quite a few lines from the movie. The background music bops along at a weird, unfamiliar pace and has little to do with the film's actual soundtrack, but the game is full of the quotes everyone has heard hundreds of thousands of times - "Sweet!" "Uhhh…" and "Whatever I feel like! Gah!" are all well represented and oft repeated.
The game looks and sounds pretty good, but it falls apart when played. The mini games, right off the bat, are ridiculously difficult. You'll start the game with the task of pressing button and d-pad directions to make Napoleon dance in time with some music. The window you have to hit the buttons as they pass a central point on the screen is reminiscent of Guitar Hero's hitting notes at the right second, but even Expert mode in Guitar Hero gives the player a bigger window in which to hit the right note. It took me nearly an hour to get the timing right, and even then, I only progressed through sheer dumb luck. Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't mini games usually short, simple distractions? If so, Napoleon Dynamite is no mini game collection - these games are crazy difficult. To be honest, if I weren't reviewing the game, I would have played for 10 minutes and sold it. The only thing worse than constant failure in a video game is constant failure in a game like this.
If you're a big fan of Napoleon, you may want to give the game a shot. It looks and sounds good enough, but an annoying and punishing difficulty level - right off the bat - kills any genuine fun most people could have would a game like this. In all honesty, the best part of this game is the precedent it might set for the future. If semi-popular indie films are going to start getting licensed games, I shudder to think about the kind of game films like "Juno," "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" or even "The Crying Game" might get. Use any time you may have wasted playing Napoleon Dynamite to ponder the horrors of what I've just suggested - just don't let it keep you up at night.
In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 30%.