No shockers as to how the game begins, with a pan through the interiors of the Museum of Natural History, the site of main character Larry's previous adventures with animated history pieces. The game stays true to the storyline of the film, as Larry takes on the older evil brother of an Egyptian Pharaoh, who is trying to take over the world with the ancient powerful tablet responsible for animating the exhibits. Assisting Larry are midget-sized Cowboy Jedediah and Roman General Octavius as he battles Kahmunrah's recruited henchman, famous figures Ivan the Terrible, Napoleon, and Al Capone.
As far as authenticity goes, Night at the Museum 2 does a decent job. The animated cutscenes are clean and crisp, although the model movement feels a little wooden at times. General avatar movement stutters a little, almost like Larry has a wedgie. Only one actor from the film lends their voice to the game, and even though the replacements for Jedediah and Octavius feel like clichés personified, the rest manage to keep up with Ben Stiller. The scope of the environments and attention to detail in places of historical interest certainly lend themselves well to the immersion the game offers, and the variety in gameplay derived from the various supporting character roles keeps things fresh.
Amaze Entertainment have done a decent mapping job for the Wii's controller. Played in tandem with the nunchuk, the A button takes on the role of context sensitive actions, and the B button handles jumping. One important function of the game works similarly to Indiana Jones' whip and Link's hookshot; Larry's keychain is on the nunchuk's C key, and is used to cross chasms, grab faraway items and switches, and pull him up to platforms.
Oddly enough, Larry's torch is the main gameplay element. As the game progresses, you collect parts of the tablet previously scattered by Kahmunrah, up to nine in all, with a new ability for each one. Powers like machinery repair, shields, lightning, and animal control are activated via the flash light by hitting the Z Button, and you can easily toggle through the abilities with the left and right d-pad keys. For the most part, the controls for these functions are reliable, and the pointer works excellently. Motion can be used in place of Z, although it is more of a forceful swing.
It is unfortunate how underused motion is in this game; the flashlight is the only real case of it being used. There are several missed opportunities - why not use it in a game of fetch with Rexy the T-Rex skeleton, or for swinging with the keychain? It's a real shame, as is the penultimate battle with a giant statue that completely neglects to become the widespread battle that seems to be promised.
Night of the Museum 2 does suffer from one of the most frequent failings in gaming. The main core of the game usually involves getting from point A to point B, and collecting something along the way. In fact, the whole game can be defined as a collectathon, with the goodies ranging from coins and medals, to bones and postcards. Doing so does net you unlockables, so there is reason for the dedicated among us.
The music is rather forgettable, consisting of a limited number of lively themes, and a 'pick-up' tone that will end up getting on your nerves after hearing it for the nth time. Sound effects fit rather well, although voice samples, particularly with the hint system (pulled up with the 1 key), grate after multiple repetitions.
This game is, in many ways, tailor-made for the younger crowd. Getting from A to B is often a highly linear path, and it's very rare that the player would face much of a challenge outside of the later puzzles. There is an achievements-like system that requires Token Points for a varied range of unlockables, although most, if not all, can be gained in one playthrough - and that would take even a new gamer barely half-a-dozen hours to completely finish. Even the map has a destination marker for practically everything, so players never get lost; and although the map lets the player place their own markers for places of interest (an incredibly underused feature), it is never needed here.