Shrek The Third
| Shrek The Third

Here's a weird thing: the people who make films aimed at children don't like to hear them called 'kids' movies' – preferring instead the term 'family movies'. As if once you become a parent, you'll genuinely prefer watching Binky Bear 3: Paws For Thought rather than Saw 3. Most 'family' films are an endurance for the adult family members, not a pleasure.

Not the good ones though. Some films really do justify the family tag, because they throw in enough knowing references and sly gags for the parents. The Shrek films are a perfect example of this, working on several levels to keep cinemagoers of all ages entertained.

This must present a problem when making a spin-off mobile game. Do you target the kids, or try to appeal to their parents too? Gameloft appears to have opted for the former with Shrek The Third, resulting in a game that children will love, but that unfortunately lacks the humour or challenge to pull in many mobile gaming adults.

You play Shrek, although characters like Donkey and Puss In Boots make regular cameo appearances, dispensing advice and wisecracks. The core of the game is a traditional platformer, with cheeky nods to Super Mario Bros (the pipe you disappear down on one level) and Sonic The Hedgehog (Shrek's spin attack and the rotating platforms later in the game).

The controls are explained as you go along, teaching you to jump, spin, charge ahead, and leap into the air before landing with a thump to stun enemies or break blocks. This is the first child-friendly aspect – even on Medium level, whenever you reach a new element, there's either button prompts on-screen telling you what to do, or a quick piece of advice from Donkey.

It feels like your hand's being held throughout, which seems great for younger gamers (although actually, considering many toddlers can whip through Gears Of War on the hardest difficulty level before they can walk, possibly not). Even some way in, when you meet some nefarious tree enemies who have to be yanked and then jumped on, there's a big button prompt on-screen telling you to press '2' and then '8' to squash 'em.

When you're making a game based on a whiz-bang CGI film, it has to look good. This, Shrek The Third delivers in spades. The backgrounds look lovely, while there's some neat incidental animations, such as the flocks of birds who you can scatter as you stride along.

Like Die Hard 4.0, this game breaks up the core platform action with two other gameplay elements. First, there's three boss battles, where Shrek faces a single enemy and has to figure out and then counter their attack pattern. Donkey pops up beforehand telling you what to do, so they're not that challenging.

There's also a couple of flying levels, where you switch to controlling a dragon, swooping through the streets snorting fireballs at witches. It's a relatively simple horizontally-scrolling shoot'em up, but it's well done, with another sly nod to retro games in the shape of power-ups giving you little baby dragons who fly alongside you shooting fireballs at different angles. They're just like the drones that used to be de rigeur in any horizontal shmup back in the day.

Kids will love Shrek The Third, and we'd heartily recommend it if you have an ogre-loving child who needs entertaining on a long car journey. It's accessible, you never end up stuck after making a mistimed jump, and there are plenty of checkpoints and health-replenishing power-ups to keep you progressing smoothly through the game. It's on this criteria that we've rated the game.

What about adults? The cheeky nods to retro games will raise a smile, but the multiple-level humour of the Shrek films doesn't really feature much in this game. Meanwhile, judged as a pure platformer, it's only challenging on Hard difficulty level, which you're forced to play through the Medium level to unlock (note to developers: this is really annoying for keen gamers).

So, it's a well-crafted game that's full of platformy goodness to give your kids a treat. But us adults might be advised to wait for Saw 3: The Game. Maybe Gameloft should grab that licence...

Shrek The Third

Holding your hand throughout, Shrek 3 is unchallenging for adults, but the retro platform antics and graphical touches make for marvellous fun for the kids
Stuart Dredge
Stuart Dredge
Stuart is a freelance journalist and blogger who's been getting paid to write stuff since 1998. In that time, he's focused on topics ranging from Sega's Dreamcast console to robots. That's what you call versatility. (Or a short attention span.)