Universal Studios: Theme Park Adventure (GameCube) Review

By Keza Macdonald 13.10.2003

"Even if you've never been to a theme park, you'll find yourself swept away by the movie magic in this amazing game!" screams the manual. "Check out the amazing opening screen!" it proclaims. Hmm. This game's reputation precedes it; sadly it's not a good one. For your interest, the opening screen is a floating Universal Studios globe, and a picture of the detestable Woody Woodpecker in Back to the Future's flying car; as for what the 'movie magic' consists of, you will discover in due course.

From the very second you start a file and are forced to choose between a selection of terrifyingly non-gender-specific children to be your main character, you know that your Theme Park Adventure is not going to be all smiles. Things only get worse as you are kindly introduced to the game's infuriatingly squeaky-voiced mascot Woody Woodpecker (Or rather, as he introduces himself, Whoohoohoodyyyyy Woodpeckerrrrr!) and told about the "wild stamp-collecting adventure!" (actual quote, I kid you not) that you are about to embark upon. Then you commit your first points-earning act (shaking the hand of Chilly Willy - believe it), and so commences...the boredom!

Screenshot for Universal Studios: Theme Park Adventure on GameCube

In Universal Studios, you play a kid wandering about 'a digital recreation of the world's most magical theme park', earning yourself what can only be described as Brownie Points by picking up litter (Yes! Litter!), returning people's lost property and so on. These points, when taken to The Excruciatingly Irritating Woodpecking One, can be exchanged for hats, which allow you to access the eight 'rides' that the game has to offer. Upon completing the 'rides' (which are little mini-games) you'll get a stamp for your trouble, which goes on your little card. There are also letters spelling Universal Studios scattered around, which of course you must collect. For some reason.

For the first hour of this game you will wander about, getting lost, eventually accumulate enough points for a hat, and visit the rides quite happily. Well, enduringly at least. But then, by your third ride, the realisation hits you...this is all you have to do. There really is nothing else to be done but resume your noble and heroic quest for dropped drinks-cans, and earn enough points to get onto the next boring ride. And then the next. And then...oh, you're finished.

Screenshot for Universal Studios: Theme Park Adventure on GameCube

Between the so called rides, your child runs, incredibly slowly, around the 'theme park', which consists of about thirty pre-rendered screens with nothing to do in them except pick up pieces of randomly-placed litter and talk to the other visitors, who are perfectly happy to offer you such sparkling gems of conversational interest as 'This is exciting!' 'Hello', and 'Have you decided, where you are going next?' The fact that the people look frighteningly like jerky, badly-animated mannequins does not exactly help matters, nor does the player's early realisation that they serve absolutely no purpose but to get in your way as you try desperately to exit one screen to get to another, equally boring one, when the fixed camera has lost your hapless character to view. The other problem her is that though you do usually know where you want to go (in answer to BadlyAnimatedMennequin#18497's question), it is usually a matter of luck and sheer endurance as to whether you get there or not, as the rides are few and far-between in the sea of pointless theme park screens. Additionally, though a map of the them-park is obtainable, it serves absolutely no purpose as leaving a screen from the right could send you North, South, East or West, and the theme park is no more than one big circle. Try as you may to find your way, there only ever seem to be two exits from a screen, one of which being the way you came in. There's not even anything to find; everything pick-up-able causes an exclamation point to appear above Scary Child's head, and you simply press A to pick it up. It involves all the mental challenge and stimulation of a bad Kung Fu movie.

So you'd expect that when you did, finally, arrive at one of the rides, replete with appropriate hat, it would be a reward for all the suffering and eye-meltingly horrible graphical treats you have had to endure to get there. Well, they are the highlight of the game...but only because they are so laughably, terribly, appallingly bad they provide a slight break from the theme park, which is merely mundane. There are eight of them, apparently. Jaws is the first, which has you throwing barrels at a laughably animated shark while attempts to approach your ship and bite it. A supreme piece of terrible programming, this; your radar gives a vague indication of the shark's location, but it only actually becomes visible a second before it attacks, and as it takes your eternally slow character at least that time to throw the god damn barrel, you are completely screwed from the start. Waterworld is next, providing you with the scintillating opportunity of watching a three-second video clip. From five different angles. Two of which are obscured by pillars, for the sake of the Lord! Similar delights await you on the other rides - a dreadful driving simulator with graphics that cannot rival the N64's; a picture puzzle; a ludicrously difficult trivia quiz on Universal's past and present. You are about as likely to enjoy the majority of these exercises in tedium as you are to enjoy having your fingernails pulled off, one by one, by Jeremy Beadle in full wise-cracking force.

Screenshot for Universal Studios: Theme Park Adventure on GameCube

pparently, I have to take into consideration the fact that this game is aimed at under-tens, and review it in context. But this age-old excuse that has been used to try and pass of rubbish games since the dawn of edutainment is completely irrelevant in this case. The trivia quiz, for example, involves questions that are so ludicrously difficult that only, perhaps, the President of Universal Studios might get them all right. Kemco - how, pray, are children supposed to memorise he names of secondary characters' dogs in movies that were either released before they were even born, or have an age restriction which means that they should never have been watching it in the first place? How? And why would they take any interest in the badly-executed, frustratingly glitchy and, due to their bad programming which causes the character to walk forwards instead of backwards or something, unfairly difficult rides? Why would their interest be even slightly excited by picking up trash and getting lost in a huge boring theme park populated by puppets from beyond the grave? Kids: maybe Woody Woodpecker won't be so excruciatingly annoying to your innocent little eyes, but the game's still inexcusably boring!

If you're good at the rides, you get a red stamp for your stamp-card. If you're bad at them you get a blue stamp, assuming you have the patience to complete them at all. One or two of these rides are actually excusable - I played the ET one four whole times before tiring of it, and even troubled myself to earn a red stamp. But with one or two exceptions the rides are, to be frank, cack, and the park-wandering sections are mundane, completely devoid of anything even vaguely interesting, and essentially pointless. After forty minutes, the player will be crying out desperately for something, anything, to do that does not involve other people's discarded food-packets or Woody frikking Woodpecker.

Screenshot for Universal Studios: Theme Park Adventure on GameCube

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 3 out of 10


Is this a game? Nothing actually qualifies it as one; it's not entertaining, there's no gameplay at all, and it features Woody and Winnie Woodpecker. It could probably offer slightly more entertainment to under-10s, but even your younger brother/sister will get bored of this very, very quickly. Let's be frank; it was never a good idea, really, and has turned out to be quite probably the GameCube's worst game. At first its mind-melting awfulness is funny, until you realise that your forty quid could have bought you Pikmin. Aimed at kids maybe, but still terrible. Make amulets, wear garlic, do whatever you must - just avoid this at all costs.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  3/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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