Dec 11, 2007
After some 50 years of existence, Alvin and the Chipmunks are no longer hip, relevant or cool. Hey, it happens - as times change, so do tastes, and modern youngsters may not see the appeal in a trio of warbling rodents painted with broad personalities and characteristics. But that didn't stop 20th Century Fox from prepping a new franchise film (starring Jason Lee as David Seville), and it sure didn't stop the aptly named publisher Brash Entertainment from making a quick buck off the license with an in vogue rhythm action title. It sounds like a perfect formula: popular genre, licensed music, adorable cartoon pests - but it doesn't work.
Alvin and the Chipmunks essentially cribs the play interface from the Sega Dreamcast's fantastic maraca-shaking title Samba de Amigo, with notes shooting from the center of the screen to four large star icons positioned in each corner of the screen. However, it lack most of the novelty, all the personality, and the big, red, motion-sensitive maracas that made the original game so much fun. Instead, as the moving notes reach the large icons, players must tap the corresponding shoulder button to execute the note. (Yawn)
A brief story mode takes players to nine locations (including a school prom and "Rockathonapalooza"), while unlocked songs can be experienced in a quick play mode or two-player split-screen. Thirty licensed tracks (noticeably fewer than the 40 listed in a late November press release) are included, all "performed" by the Chipmunks. The usual suspects are all here (such as "Love Shack," "Karma Chameleon, and "It's Tricky"), and while the instrumentation hews closely to the original respective tracks, the high-pitched harmonies recall the Jingle Cats. It's amusing the first time through, but repeated listens may ruin these songs for you. Forever.
The problem is, for a rhythm title, Alvin and the Chipmunks isn't particularly rhythmic. The sloppy note arrangements are often noticeably offbeat, and shockingly loose gameplay allows any note within a half-beat of the icon to count. Plus, the game compensates for the notes you miss by over-rewarding players for the ones they do hit. It makes for a remarkably effortless experience, even on the highest difficulty level, which just adds more notes to the mix. This lack of tight gameplay makes Alvin an adventure in soulless button tapping for anyone with a two-digit age.
Low production values further mar the experience, as each location features a simple stage and a limited amount of animations, and the Chipmunks never appear to sing (at all) or play in accordance with the current song. Though largely inoffensive in its sloppiness, Alvin and the Chipmunks amounts to a forgettable budget title priced like a premium release this holiday season - as if you needed another reason to abstain from it.