Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel
A recent NPD report points out that one-third of the average U.S. consumer's entertainment budget is being spent on video games. Think about that, 33 cents out of every fun-time dollar is forked over for some kind of controller-flicking play. So I guess it only makes sense that if there's any way at all to tie games to other forms of popular pastimes—say, movies—entertainment companies are going to do it.
Now, let me think. … What kind of game could be tied to Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel? Hmmm. The Chimpmunks are small and furry and like to eat nuts. Maybe it could be a maze or puzzle game. No, that's kinda 1989. Bingo! Music/rhythm games are huge right now, and the Chipmunks love music! And, boy, do they have rhythm.
The gameplay is pretty simple and designed for, well, youngsters who think singing and sashaying chipmunks are cool. On a world tour, the Chipmunks and gal-pals the Chipettes play a different song at each of 25 concerts—in cities ranging from Chicago to Cairo. Gamers "play" along by following directional arrows and swinging their Wii Remote and Nunchuk up, to the side or down to catch icons floating on the rhythmic beat.
The game does a good job of starting out with nice and easy drum-like rhythms and then mixing things up with harder pattern challenges as the tour expands. And along the way, you're offered solo minigames that place a tiny Alvin in a small balloon that must be moved around the screen, catching beats, notes and stars while avoiding obstacles.
If you get into the rhythm of things, the Chips and the Chipettes swing and sway with all the right moves, quickly gaining a worldwide fan base and unlocking new venues. But if too many beats or notes are missed, the furry cuties onstage get dizzy, stumble through their cues and eventually just fall over sideways. Time to try that tune again. Don't worry, though, the game is very forgiving. And if the song really falls apart, only one guy gets the blame: ALVIN!
After a song is played through successfully, two other game modes become available. Multiplayer mode allows up to three friends to compete against each other and tally up the best remote-waving score. Jukebox mode replays unlocked tunes and scrolls the lyrics so that you can sing along.
The Jukebox jams will probably be pretty popular. What kid won't want to join their favorite furry singers in a bouncy tune? But this also happens to be the one part of the game that I had a few squawks, or should I say squeaks about.
It's pretty hard, in general, to hear what the Chipmunks or Chipettes are singing about. The tunes are cheerful, the dancing critters are cute and what words you can make out through the helium-voiced vocals seem innocuous. As the lyrics are spelled out on the screen, however, and young ones at home start singing along with songs such as Come Get It or Love Shack, things can feel less carefree:
There's nothing really nasty in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. But when your little tykes start crooning "All the boys are all the same, nothin' will ever change 'em/They all want one thing and, girl, you know you'll never tame 'em," or "Huggin' and a kissin', dancin' and a lovin'/Wearin' next to nothin'/Cause it's hot as an oven," then, like me, you'll probably be wondering if the song list was given enough age-appropriate thought. It would have been nice if gamemakers had cleaned up those bits before tossing the kiddos (your kiddos) into the cedar chips with their chipmunk chums.