NOTE: THIS GAME DOESN’T ALLOW THE USE OF 3-D.
Movie tie-in games that release on anything other than a mobile device are something of a rarity nowadays with consumers wising up to the obvious cash-grab games that publishers shoveled onto shelves, quality be damned, to piggyback off the success of a major motion picture. Which is why it’s strange to see something like Big Hero 6: Battle in the Bay from publisher Gamemill and developer 1st Playable Productions going against this trend when Disney is normally laser focused on the mobile market, with the exception of Disney Infinity 2.0, of which two of the cast members also joined the same day this game came out. So does Battle in the Bay deserve the hate that’s normally associated with games that arrive alongside a potential blockbuster? It really depends on how old you are really. Parents who have kids that fall in the love with these characters have a decently constructed title that could serve as a few hour distraction, but the older crowd need not apply.
Battle in the Bay takes place after the film Big Hero 6 and sees the newly formed team confronted with an army of dangerous robots invading the streets of San Fransokyo. It’s up to Big Hero 6 to find out who commissioned these robots and for what purpose. Despite the fact that the Big Hero 6 property originated in the world of comics, Battle in the Bay is exceptionally anemic when it comes to both story and production values. The story is as bare bones as it comes, you’ll find no cut-scenes, animated or otherwise, nor any voice acting either from the film’s cast or a group of soundalikes. While this can be construed as a tick in the negative column, it makes the game better for the intended audience as they’re not bombarded with an over cooked story and adults are spared the bombardment of annoying puns and repetitive voice clips that normally come hand-in-hand with products such as this.
The game is a 2.5-D side-scrolling action game where the goal is to enter a level, fight a lot of robots, engage in some light platforming and occasionally fight a boss. Despite the number “6” in the title of the team, you only ever play as four members of the group: Hiro, Wasabi, Go Go, and Fredzilla with Honey Lemon providing support in the form of three different colored bomb attacks that can be activated by tapping their corresponding icon on the touch screen and Baymax showing up to support Hiro every so often to fight enemies or to hit a boss.
Each of the team members have their own unique abilities: Hiro can push and pull enemies with his electromagnetic gauntlets, Wasabi attacks with laser swords, Fredzilla can breathe fire, perform a slam attack and jump a tiny bit higher while Go Go is the fastest of the lot and can throw Tron-esque boomerang discs. Starting out it’s fun figuring out each of the team’s unique abilities but once you’ve gone through one level with them, you’ll quickly discover that no matter who you’re using, the best tactic is hitting “Y” over and over to hit robots as developer 1st Playable didn’t bother to think of anything clever to do with the rather diverse cast of characters. You can’t swap between heroes on the fly as you’re given a set team member at the onset for all of the game’s 18 stages and despite hinting at small tricks for each character during their introductory level, for example Go Go using her disc to trigger an unreachable switch, it doesn’t develop any further than that.
Outside of the simplistic combat and basic platforming, the only other objectives you’re given in every stage, with the exceptions of the boss levels, are collecting the letters H-E-R-O, a cat and five medical kits. Gathering all provides some tiny incentive to explore and replay the levels, however the only thing being a perfectionist gets are some pieces of conceptual art and “figures” in the form of static in-game character models which you can view between levels. Next to both of those options is third option labeled “upgrade” but you won’t be increasing your team’s health. damage output or gaining any additional abilities. Around the half way mark you’re simply told when a character has been upgraded, and that normally means a minor increase in the damage they perform but the difference is barely noticeable.
Completing levels in the story mode unlocks them for the games challenge mode, but whether you’re playing in this mode or the main story mode, you won’t find any real challenge. The main difference in challenge mode is that there’s no health recovery packs and the amount of collectibles are reduced to gathering 1-2-3-4 tokens from enemies that have a red glow about them. Death, whether by running low on health or falling in a pit in either mode, merely sets you back a few screens so for those who simply must get everything, know that leaping into a chasm in search of a letter or cat won’t impede your progress much.
The levels are copy and pasted versions of the San Fransokyo streets that are rather boring to look at near immediately, but special attention was put in by 1st Playable to recreate the bright and vibrant look of the characters as they appear in the Big Hero 6 film in Battle in the Bay. The roster of Big Hero 6 look really good here and their animations, in particular Go Go’s, give them a lot of character, something I appreciate given that this iteration of the team came from Disney, a company with close to a century of experience in creating characters whose personality can be read from something as simple as a picture. Though this game is pretty basic from both a gameplay and presentation standpoint, the controls for movement and attacking are very tight, a plus given the game’s young target audience. Parents shouldn’t expect to see any frustrated kids throwing their DS’s because playing Battle in the Bay proved too frustrating.
Those who grew up in the era of early NES Disney games like Duck Tales, The Little Mermaid and Rescue Rangers where those titles could be enjoyed by both kids and adults alike will come off disappointed when they put Big Hero 6: Battle in the Bay into their 3DS’s. This game lacks any real depth and can be pretty boring, as well as repetitive with its minimal challenge and scant few extras. That all being said, if you have a kid in your life who simply needs everything Big Hero 6 upon seeing the feature film, this could be a nice treat or Christmas gift and a decent introduction to games of this type.