This is going to be something of an unorthodox DVD review, as this is something of an unorthodox DVD package. So bear with me, as I start things off with my usual self-indulgent rant that tangentially ties back into the main review.
Back in the day - and by "the day", I am referring to my formulative years of 1979 to 1984 - one of the biggest rages among geeky kids was the series of "Choose Your Own Adventure" books. The series featured dozens of different types of stories: action, adventure, fantasy, science fiction, western, mystery, time travel, and pretty much almost any genre imaginable. You would start reading on page one, like any other novel, except that the story was told in the second-person format; i.e., you were the main character. The tone and setting, as well as your character's background, were described at the beginning of the story, after which you decided how the tale would progress. The plot would paint you into a specific scenario, and you would direct the story by turning to a specific page. For example, in one tale you'd be a knight or something akin, and off on your quest you come across a cave. At the bottom of the page, the instructions would read: To enter the Cave of Splendiferous Wonders, turn to page 67, while underneath that line you'd have some other choice: To ignore the Cave of Splendiferous Wonders and capriciously kick a pigeon, turn to page 134. And you would turn to the indicated page, and you'd witness the results of your choice, with a new set of instructions at the bottom... if you survived (that pigeon had a mean streak like nobody's business.)
I must have had three or four dozen of these things, as they published over one hundred and eighty in total (and inspired dozens of imitators with varying degrees of success.) The stories were imaginative and fun, and for the most part only slightly cheesy (they were aimed at kids, after all.) My point for even introducing them to this review is that their adventurous style, hypertextual and branching storylines, and open-ended structure made them natural candidates for any type of technology that can embrace that level of interaction.
Hmm... adventurous, hypertextual, branching, and open-ended. What modern technology could even begin to handle that level of sophistication?
(Stop scratching your head Arnie, that was a rhetorical question!)
The answer, of course, is Betamax. But since that flew by the wayside, we luckily also have the Internet and DVD as well. I've always been a Game Geek, especially any game that involved a multimedia aspect (does anyone else out there remember geeking out over the "Dark Tower" board game?), but the VHS interactive games of the late 80s/early 90s were pretty weak. They were linear, non-interactive, and depended upon different colored cards that you had to flip. In some mystery VHS games, the identity of the murderer all depended on the sequence of colors you flipped. Once you figured out the algorithm (which, if you have even minimal cerebral activity, took roughly 12 minutes), determining the murderer's identity took only slightly more brainpower than trimming ear hair.
So it is my supreme delight to report that Lilo & Stitch's Island of Adventures DVD Game is an absolute delight from start to finish. Although it doesn't contain an enormous amount of open-endedness or branching capabilities - it is, more or less a board game slightly transplanted to a DVD - it does deliver a splendid amount of fun and enjoyment. The game takes advantage of DVD's multimedia nature to present a design of play that utilizes your DVD player's internal randomizer, guaranteeing genuine gameplay and random events that keeps the interaction fun and fresh.
I had to play this game solo, since all of my oh-too-hip friends and family didn't want to be caught dead playing a kids game. So, as I couldn't procure anyone else to play along, I had to be content playing with myself. Now, this is --
(Oh, grow up!)
Now, this is how it works: the thick box contains the game DVD, a folding playing board, six "vehicles" to be used as player markers, and 50 "Experiment Pogs" that are used as points in the game. The game's setting features the lush islands of Hawaii and the world of Lilo & Stitch, in which 625 missing Experiments are scattered throughout the landscape (as we all know, Stitch himself is Experiment 626.) The object of the game is to find as many missing Experiments as possible.
You use the DVD and your DVD remote to control the game. There are no dice or spinners to control how many spaces your character moves. Instead, you select the spinner at the bottom of the screen, at which point it randomly selects how many spaces you move along the game path. The path contains five different spaces on which you can land: a Frog, a Tourist, a Tiki, and Nani, and a blank spot. The first four icons are also represented on your television screen. After you land on a specific icon, you then select the corresponding icon on the screen with your remote. If you land on a Frog, you'll play one of many mini-games on the DVD. The Tourist will make you do some kind of fun physical activity. Tiki squares are mystery cards, and Nani gets you involved in an on-screen hiding game. Depending on how you perform during the mini-game, activity, mystery, or direction, you can win (or lose) one or more Experiment. You can also be instructed to spin again, lose a turn, and move ahead or back spaces on the game board.
The activities are a blast, and often include all the players in the group. For instance, Lilo will tell the entire group to get up and start hula dancing, and anyone who participates wins an Experiment. Other times, she might send one player on a 20-second scavenger hunt, and if the player finds that item they win as well. There are gecko races, Hawaiian trivia, concentration games, sing-alongs, Elvis impersonations, chance games, weird alien variations of "Three Card Monty", and more. When the first player passes the Finish line, the player with the most Experiments wins.
Lilo & Stitch's Island of Adventures is fun from start to finish. The game is simple, but the gameplay is wonderful for both the young and the young at heart. And, to sweeten the deal, Disney threw in two episodes of the upcoming Lilo & Stitch television series to get young players in the mood for the game. This is a most impressive package, and one heck of a fun little game.
The Lilo & Stitch's Island of Adventures DVD Game comes complete with the following contents:
Analyzing the video on this DVD is something of a conundrum. What am I going to say? "Yeah, I noticed some tell-tale contrast haloing during the Scavenger Hunt, and there was definite evidence of improper color timing during the Hula contest." Seriously, this is a board game come to life. I will say that the video beautifully reproduces the lush watercolor stylings of the film and television series. Images generally looked finely rendered and demonstrated reasonable definition and sharpness. Both of the television episodes included on this DVD, showcased in the original full-frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1, demonstrated excellent sharpness, color levels, fine contrasts, and no noticeable compression noise or artifacting. In other words, this DVD looks absolutely fine, finer than you'd expect from "just a game."
The game, menus, and television episodes are all presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, and while none of them are overly aggressive they do make use of the soundtrack's discrete channels. The tropical Hawaiian background and ambient noise sound pleasant and engrossing throughout the presentation. In some of the activities, discrete activity and directionality is reasonably placed. One of the games involves the player having to find the "missing" Stitch, and it makes the game all the more interactive to hear Stitch scuttling about the soundstage. Scenes involving music and orchestrations sound rich and involving, and dialog comes across bright and strongly delivered. Disney could have delivered a straight 2.0 or mono mix, and that would have been fine enough, so the six-channel attention given to this soundtrack definitely elevates the experience.
It's a nice change of pace when the Game is the main part of the DVD, and the rest of the content are "extras." Anyway, as previously mentioned there are two episodes of the Lilo & Stitch television series included: "Mr. Stenchy" and "Clip". Each episode is about 22-minutes in length, and features the general sophistication of plot and animation to be found in most TV series based on Disney animation. That is to say, they are not bad at all, and provide for a moderately entertaining if ultimately forgettable time. Young ones will probably adore them.
There are also Sneak Peaks, which are trailers for Home on the Range, Lizzie McGuire, Recess Taking The 5th Grade/Recess All Growed Down, The Lion King 1 1/2, and Lilo & Stitch: The Series.
While playing this game, a great time was had by all, and by "all" I mean me because I had to play alone. And I still had an absolute blast. If you have young ones who are die-hard Lilo & Stitch fans, they will absolutely adore the Lilo & Stitch's Island of Adventure DVD Game. Even casual or non-fans would have a hard time not having fun while playing. There's enough excitement and entertainment to support multiple games at a single sitting. If this is a sign of what's in store for future DVD-based gameplay, then this set will be heralded as a vanguard of next-level interaction. Imagine what could be done with, say, Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, or other classic Disney animated films. I for one would like to see a The Emperor's New Groove DVD game in which the players have to undergo a madcap journey through Cuzco's ego or Yzma's Secret Lab. But that's an idea for another day. Lilo & Stitch's Island of Adventure is the perfect game for children, parents, friends, and anyone who has a thirst for fun or a love of gameplay, as all will find themselves endlessly amused and entertained by the proceedings. Highly Recommended!