Piglet's Big Game

Review by Toger
June 2003

When A.A. Milne first wrote about the adventures of a Bear with Very Little Brain and his friends, I wonder if he had any idea of how loved the characters would be. Or how much of a franchise Pooh and his cohorts would become once The Mouse latched onto them.

Piglet's Big Game is the newest kid's game by Take-Two's Gotham Games. Based on the movie of the same name, it's designed as a companion piece for the movie. I love the Pooh series and thought I'd give this game a spin, even though most games based on movies stink more than Limburger cheese.

PBG begins on a lovely autumn day. Everyone from the Hundred Acre Wood is out and about having a wonderful time—Pooh is stuffing his face with honey, Tigger is painting everything orange and Rabbit is working in his garden. Piglet, small, scared little oinker that he is, is certain that he's seen a Granosorus! None of the others see the dreaded Heffalump and are sure Piglet is just imagining things. So poor, pouting Piglet wanders off ...

Piglet's Big Game begins once Piglet has wandered far enough away that he needs to spy on his friends with a telescope. As the characters fall asleep, Piglet can enter their dreams to help them and show that he can truly be brave.

Gameplay consists of visiting Piglet's friends' dreams and helping them solve problems—such as getting Rabbit's carrot picker working again—collecting cookies for exchange at the Brave Face Factory, picking up inventory items and getting rid of the Heffalumps and Woozles that populate each animal's dream.

Since Piglet's Big Game is marketed as a kid's game, there really isn't any killing. To vanquish the various Heffalumps and Woozles, Piglet must scare them away by making a brave (funny) face. Piglet starts the game with a default brave face, but as the game progresses and the enemies get a little tougher, Piglet will need to upgrade his brave face repertoire. To do this, he must visit the Brave Face Factory in each dream and trade some cookies for a new, increasingly hilarious brave face.

During enemy encounters, otherwise known as grimace mode, brave faces are made with various button combinations. At first, the combos are pretty easy as you're just using the square, circle and triangle buttons. Then, as you pick up increasingly braver (scarier) faces directional buttons are thrown into the mix, with the end game using six, that's right, six, button combinations to scare off a critter.

Speaking of Heffalumps and Woozles, each comes in at least four variations ... There's your basic hefty Heffalump with the too-small-sweater and pork-pie hat, a Woozle who sports a mirror and Elvis pompadour while turning your world topsy-turvy, a mechanical Heffalump on wheels with a slot machine belly who will mix up your button combinations if you don't get it on the first try and a Woozle that does a "Snidely Whiplash" with his coat. My personal favorite was the Heffalump wearing the tuba and circus outfit. The expression on his face when Piglet scares him off is absolutely priceless.

Visually, this game is a treat. Done in full 3D, all of the backgrounds are lush, rich, beautifully colored and detailed. Rocks, trees, benches, etc. have depth and shadow with a realness to them that makes you want to reach out and touch them. The character models are almost lifelike. I say "almost" because Piglet and Pooh both have a funny, rolling walk that reminds me of penguins.

Each dream world reflects the personality of the dreamer—Owl's is filled with books, Rabbit's with his gardens and Eeyore's, surprisingly enough, is decorated with classical paintings (his ancestors, of course), statuary and marble fountains.

The decor in Pooh's dream is every kind of yummy sweet imaginable—cookies, biscuits, licorice, gumdrops, graham crackers, bread, jam and, of course, honey. As a matter of fact, one of the first things you need to do is help Pooh get unstuck from a big pool of caramel. Tigger's world is striped. Naturally. Trees, rocks and exposed ground are all subtly striped in orange and tan. Based on his gorgeous manicured garden and treehouse, he loves being out-of-doors. He's even got a carnival, which comes with a Woozle carousel (playing the song "Sugar in morning, sugar in the evening, sugar at suppertime ...") and a haunted house inhabited by tennis racket-wielding Woozles.

My favorite dream world was Roo's. His dream featured backgrounds and objects hand-drawn on cardboard, in crayon, by a child. The pieces are then cut out and taped to a larger piece of corrugated board. As you walk through his dream, you can see the texture and rippling of the cardboard on the ground. Clouds are suspended from the ceiling with string. Shrubs and trees are flat pieces of cutout board taped to the base. Even keys are flat. Upon closer inspection, you can actually see the corrugated portion of the board and the individual crayon strokes on the grass walkways and plants.

Piglet can't die in PBG; instead, he has two levels of scared—worried and panicked. If he's worried, Piglet is still able to enter grimace mode to work his facial magic on critters. If he's completely panicked, it's better to find Christopher Robin for a small pep talk before you continue your journey. If you're feeling cocky and don't chat up Christopher Robin when panicked, then Piglet will run away screaming if frightened a third time and you'll need to begin your dream sequence again, although your progress up to that point will have been saved.

As with other console games, there are save points in each level. However, when you've accomplished a milestone, the game automagically saves for you. There's only the one save game slot—since you cannot die, you really don't need any more—but up to three different people can play the game with their own personal save games.

PBG uses your basic inventory for all of the items that you'll find. Being a petit porcine, Piglet can only carry three objects at a time; however, that doesn't present much of a problem because most items are used fairly close to where they were originally found. Dreams are self-contained, so all objects found in a specific animal's dream will not be used elsewhere. Also, unless you need certain objects more than once, they'll leave your inventory once they've been used. (You know it's an adventure game when you can put a lit candle in your pocket without setting your pants on fire ... Well, they'd be on fire if Piglet actually wore pants.)

Puzzles in PBG are pretty easy—after all, this is a children's game. The narrator tends to give out huge hints on what you'll want to do next or what you'll need to look for in order to accomplish a specific task. Just the thing for a small fry wanting a taste of adventuring or a seasoned adventurer looking to give the "small grey cells" a bit of a rest.

There are several timed puzzles (I hear screaming!), but you usually have more than sufficient time in which to carry out the needed actions. One timed portion involved collecting Tigger's stripes as they cavorted about the room. The bad part was that the stripes scampered around like they were in a caffeine-induced dance, but the good part was that if I caught one of the five stripes before time ran out, I didn't have to recatch it when the sequence started again. (Bless you.)

There are a couple of instances where you'll also play as Pooh or Tigger. Both proclaim to be able to sneak by Heffalumps and Woozles—Tigger tiptoes around and Pooh just waddles quietly. (Well, he would if his tumbly wasn't so rumbly and didn't announce his presence in the room!) I disliked having to use Tigger, because no matter how far or hard I pushed that control stick, he didn't move any faster. Trying to dodge Woozles with flashlights isn't as easy as it sounds when you're moving at a snail's pace.

I just know you're waiting breathlessly for information about the camera controls ... I liked the camera! Like Clock Tower 3, the camera in PBG is based on a movie-like setting. The camera pans as the characters move about the screen, with no extra fiddling necessary on the part of the player. In long rooms, the camera moves as if on a dolly and maintains a fairly good view of each room and Piglet. Only once or twice did I find the camera view funky, in that the camera seemed to tilt on a bizarre axis or didn't travel the entire length of the room. On the other hand, you are in someone's dream, so the physics of the real world don't apply.

Voice work in PBG was superb. The actors who voice the movies lent their voices to the game as well. The only thing missing was Sebastian Cabot as the narrator. The current actor who now does the narration is pretty close, but he's not Mr. French.

I have a nit to pick—the final "world" in PBG. Whose idea was it to make the end boss battle ten times tougher than any other encounter in the game? I understand wanting to make a big statement at the end with the triumph of good over evil (or in this case, small over big), but c'mon! Consider your target audience! Who's most interested in the Pooh stories? Children. What was the target demographic for Piglet's Big Movie? Small fry. Who is working the controller for the game? Curtain climbers or their doting parents. These aren't teens with pinpoint accuracy in their hand-eye coordination honed by years of quick button mashing. It's young kids and their bumbling elders! Why would you make taking out one of the enemies so tough as to be nigh on impossible? Where's the fun in that?

I so wanted to give this game a gold star—because the game is a lot of fun!—but the final encounters made me lose whatever interest I had in seeing the big ending. I'm sure the hardcore gamers out there are mumbling "whiner," and that's okay. The above rant was for you, O Gentle Reader, you without lightning quick reflexes and unwilling to look your pride 'n' joy in the face and say, "Mummy just can't do this." On the other hand, they can't read, so they won't even know there's a seventh world to explore.

Piglet's Big Game is a sweet little story where Piglet faces his fears and learns that he doesn't have to be big to be a hero. (The game will (Wham!) make sure (Wham!) that you learn this lesson (Wham! Wham!).) Your wee ones will enjoy it—as long as their parental units help in the face-making button pushing—and so will those who are just young at heart.

Even with the heavy-handedness of the message (Wham!) and Tigger's snail's-pace tiptoeing, I thoroughly enjoyed playing this game. I giggled at the different Heffalumps and Woozles and laughed out loud when Piglet made his faces. And let's face it, not even the button mashing combinations could completely ruin it—although there was a lot of screaming on my part. The fun just never stopped. And for that, Piglet's Big Game gets the FFC thumb up from me!

By the way, I should mention that there is a PC game of the same name; however, it's completely different from the console versions. The story isn't the same—you're helping Piglet make soup—and it has four mini-games. So don't say I didn't warn you! The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Gotham
Publisher: Disney Interactive
Release Date:

Available for: Game Cube Game Boy Advance PlayStation 2

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