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Gamer Tuesday

November 22, 2011

Pap the Disney Gamer's Highlights Muppet Week Special: A Letter to the Evening Star

Author's note: Instead of highlighting an specific game in particular, I wish to state the current of the Muppets in gaming in a creative manner. Hope you enjoy! - Pedro 'Pap' Hernandez

Dear Evening Star:

Hello, it is me, Pedro 'Pap' Hernandez. This week, me and my From Screen to Theme friends are celebrating the release of Disney's The Muppets. I have been a big fan of the Muppets even since I was a toddler (though, the first time I saw Kermit the Frog on a TV I was so frightened by his appearance I ran away from my house screaming). I've seen all of the movies, extensively watched the television series and the Muppet Family Christmas special remains one of my all-time favorite Holiday specials. The new movie looks to proudly keep the tradition alive of enchanting music, wacky antics and self-aware wit. My friends and I have decided to write about the many aspects of the Muppet world. I am sure Erik Anderson will highlight a great Muppet character, Albert Gutierrez will talk about one of the many wonderful Muppet films and episodes, and I am sure his bother Reuben will sing the praises of the Swedish Chef's culinary arts in some form. But what about me? That's why I am writing on this beautiful evening.

My job at From Screen to Theme is to talk about the best Disney video games ever released. When Brent Dodge announced that we would be talking about the Muppets, I was ecstatic. So much, in fact, that I got to work on my article right away! But I ran into a peculiar problem... there are no Muppet video games out there! OK, I am clearly exaggerating here. There are indeed a couple of Muppet video game releases. The problem is that not only are they extremely rare, many of them have been hailed as some of the worst games ever made! That's not to say that the attempts as bringing the Muppets to the video game world haven't been creative. For example, in 1999 two Muppet games were created for the PlayStation. One of them is a 3D adventure/platformer titled Muppet Monster Adventure starring Robin, Kermit's nephew. Kermit and the gang travel to a rundown castle in order to attend the reading of Professor Honeydew's deceased uncle's will. There, they are kidnapped and turned into famous monsters (such as Kermit being Frankenstein's monster and Miss Piggy his wife). It is up to Robin to don the powers of the monsters and rescue them all before it is too late.

The other game that came out was Muppet Race Mania, a Mario Kart clone starring the Muppet cast as they race across various tracks based on the Muppet films. The references to the films made it a curiosity rental, but the game as a whole has problems. Both Muppet Race Mania and Muppet Monster Adventure are copies of much better games, lacking the both the charm that made the Muppets pop-culture icons and the polish of gameplay needed for a game to stand out in the market.

There have been other attempts at creating Muppet games, but none of them were successful, critically or commercially. Muppet Party Cruise for the GameCube and PlayStation 2, for example, is yet another clone of a popular game series, this time being Nintendo's Mario Party series. The game received reviews so bad that it was featured on the bad games column of Electronic Gaming Monthly, written by infamous game journalist Seanbaby. I would post what he said here RAW, but I am afraid Brent Dodge would fire me. (Editor's Note: Muppet Cruise Party is one of Brent Dodge's favorite video games of all time!) This is, after all, a family website!

On the Game Boy Advance, there were several Muppet titles. One of the better ones was Muppet Pinball. The game of pinball is always fun in any of its iterations, but it didn't quite utilize the Muppet franchise. Sure the pinball tables featured the characters as well as sound clips and video, but it was yet another basic game with the Muppet license attached to it without really utilizing it to its maximum potential.

That's the problem with all these games. They featured the Muppet license but lack the timeless appeal of the characters and their wacky brand of comedy. The developers made many quick cash in games hoping parents and children were ignorant enough to buy them, unaware of their actual quality. That is why I am writing you this letter, Evening Star. Recently, the Walt Disney Company acquired the rights to the Muppet franchise. They have done everything from viral internet videos to great theme park attractions like Muppet Vision 3-D (which existed long before the deal was finalized years later). Muppets creator Jim Henson was even recently honored as a Disney Legend at last August's D23 event! The Muppets are indeed in good, capable hands.

But to cut a short story long, my wish for you tonight is to inspire the folks at Disney Interactive and their partners in game development to try and create a fantastic Muppet video game that would make Jim Henson proud. It can be done, too! As an example, let's look at the other famous Jim Henson franchise, Sesame Street. Recently, a game for the Xbox 360 and its Kinect camera was released featuring the Sesame Street franchise. Titled Once Upon a Monster, players take control of either Elmo or the Cookie Monster as they travel through a magical fairy tale world and complete its many challenges. The game looks like a bonafide Sesame Street product, all thanks to the talents of Double Fine, a world renowned video game development company. The game works because they hired a company that understood the legacy of Sesame Street and used all its assets to the fullest. It's a game so good that even adults who grew up with Sesame Street want to play it.

Disney Interactive can do the same with the Muppets. Regardless of what gaming console they go for, if they hire the right company they could release some of the best Muppet games ever. This year alone Disney Interactive has been seeing hit after hit, such as Phineas and Ferb Across the 2nd Dimension, Cars 2 and Disneyland Adventures Kinect (which looks like a highly promising and captivating gameplay experience). A Muppet game of high caliber would add yet another prestigious title to their eclectic media record.

That's my wish for this day. I feel bad that I didn't pick a proper Muppet game to showcase, but I hope that my simple wish reaches Disney Interactive somehow. I have been to the best and most amazing Disney worlds, defeated even the most horrible of Disney villains and have shared great gaming memories with friends and family. It would all be complete if Kermit and his friends were on a video game I would be proud of owning and showing off. I know I will find it, the rainbow connection. The lovers, the dreamers and me...


Pedro 'Pap' Hernandez

PS: I also wish for a PlayStation 3... a Kinect... and Skyward Sword if possible. Thank you! :D


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