Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, the top notch movie sequel that follows a group of scientists and oddballs on an adventure through a sort of food-themed Jurassic Park, is pretty great: fun, funny, innovative and memorable. And it features an adorable living strawberry. Sadly, though, while the tie-in game of the same name may be fun, it's far from being innovative, as it's essentially a clone of the super-popular mobile game Fruit Ninja. On the plus side, though, it does also feature an adorable living strawberry. So there's at least that.
The game's split into two modes, although from the outset you'll only be able to choose 'Story'. Once you've reached a certain point, the 'Challenge' mode will become available, as well as the 'Lab' which houses collectables and bonuses, but whether you're playing along with the story or trying out challenges like slicing specific objects, the basic idea doesn't change much. As various fruits and vegetables get thrown onto the top screen, all you have to do is swipe away at the touch screen to slice them to bits, as you try to score as many points as possible, and avoid any hazards that come your way.
During play the 3DS' top screen displays some nicely rendered scenery from the film, and once the timer starts, various food items will be tossed into play ready to be sliced into pieces with the stylus. The food's displayed on the lower screen too, (albeit as rather drab grey silhouettes) which is handy as that's where you'll be looking most of the time. That's actually one of the annoyances we had with the game: all the bright colours, animation and 3D effect is up on the top screen, but in games like these you really need to be able to look and aim where you're slicing. That's why games like Fruit Ninja and the like are so well suited to smartphones, as you're swiping the objects directly on the screen. On the dual-screened 3DS though, you're stuck swiping away on the lower screen while all the fun (and useful stuff like the timer and score info) is up at the top. It all feels disjointed and it's actually pretty disorientating to play at first. If you try and focus on the top screen only, it's hard to be precise with the stylus, but if you focus on the touch screen then you have to keep glancing up to check your score or how you're doing for time. We're used to shifting our attention between two screens, but when each stage only lasts a brisk 60 seconds (and the difficulty soon ramps up), it quickly becomes headache-inducing. In time you'll get used to using the lower screen more like a touchpad, and instinctively "knowing" where you'll be slicing, but it still makes things more awkward than they should be.
It's not all bad news though. Meatballs 2 on the 3DS looks suitably bright and cheerful, and we suspect that younger players who enjoyed the movie will get the most enjoyment from the game. The main characters are all present and correct, although we'd have liked a game based on an animated film to be a bit more, well, animated. The story gets dished out in chunks of text by largely static character portraits, while 'funny the first time' quips and quotes from the film spring from the speakers regularly.
Fun though it may be in short bursts for younger players, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is ultimately a disappointing copycat of any number of mobile games. The reason titles like Fruit Ninja work so well is that they've been designed for devices with single touch-screens, like phones and tablets, and trying to fit that kind of experience onto a device with a different display set-up doesn't really work. Mobile games are also generally designed to provide a quick-fix of gaming on the go, which is great, but we're used to more substantial games on machines like the 3DS. For a game so food-obsessed, you'd hope that it's fit to burst with content but sadly we felt the game's a little undernourished in this regard. With a repetitive main game, and Challenge mode just offering up more of the same, this tie-in is a hard sell, even if it is priced at the lower end of the 3DS spectrum. It's not a disaster by any means, and there's certainly enjoyable and accessible fun on offer for younger children, but the fun and creativity of the film hasn't translated well. Unfortunately what's left is an uninspired rehash of a game that's already been copied extensively, with not enough unique features to make it stand out. For fans of the film, it's a tasty enough snack while it lasts, but we were left craving something more filling.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo 3DS