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CONSOLE: Game Boy Advance DEVELOPER: 1st Playable Productions PUBLISHER: Buena Vista Games
RELEASE DATE (NA): October 19, 2006 GENRE: Platformer
// review by EscapeRouteBritish

Put On The Suit — The Reindeer Will Know What To Do.

Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause is a platformer based on a Christmas movie I haven't seen and doubt I ever will. It was only released in the USA, and it is balls. It doesn't even have the distinction of being the first platformer where you can play as Tim Allen because that damn Home Improvement game was made (I just can't get over that). It does, however, have the distinction of being the worst platformer where you can play as Tim Allen. This game was developed by "1st Playable Productions", whose name comes from their tendency to release only the first playable build of their games.

It's a fact, look it up.

Escape Clause begins with still photographs overlapped with text. Nice to see we've put our best foot forward here, our text on photographs foot. Santa Allen is explaining that the "Secret of Santa" should remain a mystery and that until some namedropped characters I don't know leave his abode, he has to maintain the illusion that he's just an ordinary guy running a Canadian toy manufacturing plant. Should I have watched the film? Nah, I'm sure it's fine. Things happen, right? Christmas things. Like snow, ice, and stuff. Is knowing the plot important? I dunno.

JACK FROST, played by Martin Short (who definitely picked the SHORT straw with this role, AM I RIGHT!?), promises to stay out of the way, but we all know he'll freeze the place over and be a nuisance because that's what Jack Frost does. I'm disappointed they didn't go for the design from the 1997 horror movie, but you can't win them all. He's like the modern day Judderman, and marginally less funny.

This mundane and rather repetitive platformer consists of "get to the goal" stages littered with delectable Christmas treats such as milk and cookies, which can be collected for the sake of full completion. There are also snow globes which serve much the same purpose, but there are fewer of those and they are better hidden. Collectibles, to make the game last longer. But much like Christmas Day, it goes by oh so fast.

Santa's repertoire of moves includes the traditional law-breaking double jump that I love so much, and he can also glide to the ground using his cape. Old Saint Nick ain't scared of a little combat, attacking enemies with a jack-in-the-box or what looks like a hairdryer? These moves are used to navigate what feels like ten thousand levels consisting of rough sandpaper being applied to your crotch.

The graphics are hideous, Star X hideous. This Santa looks nothing like Tim Allen playing Santa. My guess is that this game started as a generic Christmas game then attained the Santa Clause license. What's my proof to back up this gut feeling? I got none. Just a gut feeling, a hunch.


Sheesh, this is the real nightmare before Christmas...

I was not expecting to see a level called Canadian Bacon. SoyBomb, is there such a thing as Canadian bacon, and if so, how does it differ from my British bacon? [Editor's Note: British bacon is far more lean and intelligent-sounding. Plus, it comes with a dark umbrella because all things British do.] These levels aren't that different as a whole, littered with the same icicle traps and floating platforms. While they all look different, they play the same way. Gad through one level, you've gadded through them all. And they're all Gad-damned boring.

I'm sure 1st Playable had some masterpiece of platforming bliss in mind, but the game doesn't match the vision. These levels are dotted with NPCs who say the most inane crap. "Did you catch the game last night?" What game, and why, was it falling? This game is falling, all right, it's falling all the way down to the centre of the Earth, where it will combine with the planet's core and create an explosion which will kill everybody. "Everyone around here is so... short." They're ELVES. Oh wait, it's a joke. Ha ha ha. "Do you want some bacon, eh?" Damn right I do.

There are a bunch of side-scrolling flying levels that should play like Gradius but instead play like Grody-us... Gonorrhious... Grad School ee-us. You have to drop coal on houses where really awful people live, and drop presents onto houses where really good people live. Or rather, press A on some houses and B on some other houses. It's such a different play style, with so much creativity, honest! Can we have our paycheck now?

This game has no damn right to contain such good music. This is inarguably the best facet of the entire product, and while there is little variation in it, it is still great throughout. Some of the instruments used are gorgeous retro-inspired synthesizer sounds slap-bang from off the Commodore Amiga. It's a shame the rest of the sound design is so generic. Sound effects are stock and plain, and the game contains no voice acting of any kind.

Escape Clause is mediocre in both its design and "hookness". Much like when I try to bake gingerbread men, the stages could use more time in the oven. Well, any time at all in the oven. This is by no means a terrible video game. It simply brings to the mix exactly what you expect from a tie-in platformer based on such a flop of a film.

The game can be completed within an hour if you're playing with the intention of getting it over with. If you're going for everything, a measly two hours is all you need. This is mini-golf in the rain, or in this case, the snow.


Am... am I playing Melrose Place: The Game now?


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