Pixar has always been on the forefront of digital animation, releasing the first big computer animated movie and making not only some of the best CGI animated movies ever made, but some of the most enjoyable and impactful animated movies period. Naturally, a game claiming to not just adapt one of them but many has a lot to live up to, but even going in without any expectations, Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure is still a bit of a flawed package.
Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure has the player create a kid who heads off to the fictional Pixar Park where little play areas themed on some of Pixar’s movies exist for kids to play on. The areas themselves are actually just level hubs, as when you approach them, a different child will approach you and ask you to play pretend, the kid concocting scenes to play through that are either similar to the movie’s plot, place the movie’s characters in a new setting, or even act as small sequel stories of sorts. These levels made from imagination are certainly more video game worlds than a place to experience a story, but while you will meet familiar characters in them, the first time you play through a level you must play as a made-up new character that matches the movie’s particular setting, such as being a superhero in The Incredibles or a toy in Toy Story.
Pixar Park contains areas for Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Toy Story, Cars, Up, and Finding Dory, and they each adapt their source material with varying degrees of success. Most of the levels are platformers, but Cars and Finding Dory play differently to match the more unique body types of its central characters. Cars is a driving portion through and through, and while Finding Dory features somewhat similar controls, its about swimming forward as a fish rather than driving. No matter what movie you’re playing though, you can expect one consistent thing, and that’s a lot of visual spectacle. The game is definitely designed to wow kids playing it, with many levels prioritizing interesting moving scenery over how it could potentially impact gameplay. Ratatouille has incredibly busy Parisian rooftops and restaurants, Toy Story takes players to the Airport from Toy Story 2 only to have them freefall out of an airplane through gorgeous kites, and Cars adapts Cars 2’s spy bent to lead to some explosive car chases. Finding Dory perhaps has the most beautiful levels of the bunch, the undersea world’s coral and creatures gorgeous, but all these wonderful sights come with a price, and that they are mostly happening around the player as the actual gameplay they’re engaging with is quite boring and linear.
In Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure, most every level is a forward run to the end, that path sometimes broken up by mild jumping challenges, a shift to some sort of automatic flight section where you guide the movement, or little roadblocks that don’t ask much from the player to figure out how to overcome them. The game also has an incredible amount of slides sections, the game tossing these sections in despite them being even more basic than just running forward to get to a level’s end since now the game also controls your forward movement. The game does try to keep you slightly active though by scattering coins around the levels to collect, these coins going towards an end of level rating system and unlocks. Each movie only has three levels in this game (although Finding Dory only has two) and they’re actually pretty short, their basic gameplay helped by how much it can change in that short span and dazzle the player before it wraps up, but there is a legacy hanging over this game that weakens the experience, that being it was originally developed as Kinect Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure for Xbox 360. While it can certainly work as an interesting game for kids to control with their whole body, relying on the motion-sensing camera initially means the game can’t ask a lot out of the player, leading to the punishments for failure being light, coins popping out when you take damage or fail but that’s all. It’s definitely angling for all the focus to be on the visuals, the game sometimes set up more like a virtual theme park ride than a video game.
The small amount of content is stretched a bit as well by the unlocking process, the game allowing you to play as new characters on repeat visits if you collect enough coins or special level medals featuring a character’s face. Each character does have a unique skill that lets them access areas in levels others can’t… but these small areas are often just hallways adjacent to the one you’d normally take and they lead to the same place, just giving you more coins as you move through it briefly. Earning the unlockables for a level will add extra goals to the level when you replay it, but these are also quite shallow, simple, and barebones changes not really doing a good job justifying playing the level over again just to interact with a side objective for a few seconds. The game can impress with its visual vibrancy and bombastic setpieces one time through, but not having strong gameplay to back it up makes revisiting a stage much less exciting.
A lot of what Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure does wrong is simply underwhelming or dull rather than obnoxious, but there is one aspect that can get really grating as you play, and that’s the dialogue between characters. While it’s no surprise that imitators had to be called in to voice the roles once filled by big Hollywood names, some of them would have been passable if they had limited the frequency of their chatter. The game is terrified of prolonged silence, and since it is trying to appeal to a younger audience, it tries to talk to them constantly to keep them engaged to its detriment. Telling the player what to do next and adding some color lines in is appreciated, but nearly every character in the game is incredibly impatient, even old man Carl Fredrickson with his walking cane telling you to pick up your pace if you aren’t constantly charging through a stage at full tilt. Levels will even include small sections where you can pick up coins by exploring them slightly, but your partners during your adventure are quick to chastise you for daring to do what the game design is encouraging. Usually the characters are actually quite supportive and friendly, perhaps praising you too much for every small action you take like a jump or a climb, but if you slow down, the game is quick to get rude. Even when you fight the game’s bosses, which are set up to have dodging sections and then attack portions, the game is telling you to stop wasting time even though it is in full control of how slow these segments are. Annoyances can also be found in sliding sections, because even though they’re prevalent and often long, it seems like the Pixar cast only have two or three lines they can spout during them, meaning you’ll hear them much too often. Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure is certainly a noisy game because of all this, and it’s a shame that the audio angle taints the impressive visual spectacle you could enjoy better if you weren’t told to pick up the pace as you look at it. The only moment the game really pulls back is during Finding Dory, but the two levels it features are almost eerie in their relative quiet, Dory constantly muttering to herself as if things are going wrong but never explaining why.
If you can stomach the constant talking and let yourself enjoy the feel of the scenes rather than the gameplay, you might almost be caught up in the action just as Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure intends you to be, but there is one last oddity worthy of note. While the Cars section of the game capably adapts the driving to support its segment of the title well enough, it was the first time I noticed that despite having “Rush” in the title and constantly telling you to go faster, there is no actual reason to rush. Even in Cars, where you have high speed chases and races, if the game controlled characters get too far ahead, they’ll kindly stop and wait for you even when it doesn’t make sense that they would. There is nothing authentically time-sensitive in this game despite the game trying to sell things as such, your actions further weakened in importance as you have no reason not to dilly-dally and collect coins at your leisure, save of course the brow-beating your partners give you for breaking the illusion.
THE VERDICT: Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure is mostly a generic action platformer with levels that do give you many of the moments you’d hope to find in the areas based on the Pixar films, but the gameplay is not really focused on being thrilling itself, instead mostly facilitating how you experience the effort put into the environmental design and explosive setpieces. Sadly, despite trying to make its levels cinematic and heart-pounding, the veneer falls away when it becomes clear there is no actual pressure to act, and while having the freedom to look around and find the few hidden objects or collectibles is a nice option, the game is quick to scold you for daring to slow down and its characters lose their appeal somewhat when they spend most of their time filling the air with constant chatter. The game really is trying to make an exhilarating experience of its imagined scenarios, but everything surrounding them is either dull or annoying despite looking impressive.
And so, I give Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure for Xbox One…
A BAD rating. There are certainly many barriers to enjoyment in Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure, and even if you attempt to suspend your disbelief to ignore some of the more egregious ones, the characters talking all the time keeps it from ever being an experience you can truly get lost in. Still, the gameplay, despite not really being anything to write home about, does its job of carrying you through the imagined movie scenes and shifts things around enough that the game doesn’t stagnate, even when it isn’t doing anything special to achieve that variety. The spectacle is the game’s ace in the hole, but while impressive and entertaining at times, it can’t overcome how poorly the play implementation is done. The Kinect is still an option to play this game though, and because of that, some of the obvious fixes like more involved action scenes or being a bit harder to challenge the player at least a little bit are hampered by having to integrate the less precise way of interacting with the game. Regardless, there really should have been something done about the incessant talking. I don’t want to hate the likeable characters from some amazing animated movies, but this game certainly has the potential to make you grow irritated with Violet Parr or Russel as they constantly fill your ears with unimportant voice lines.
While not egregiously bad to play, the flaws in Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure are loud, sometimes in a literal way. Short, often uninvolved, and filled with noise, what could have been at least a passable but unengaging tour of recognizable movie locations ends up losing its luster despite how hard the visuals are working to try and make you feel like you’re having a good time.