I still have very fond memories of the early days of the Gamecube. There were only a few games out, Luigi's Mansion had been to short; Super Mario Sunshine was a couple of months away. Rogue Squadron was still fun with friends and we still couldn't beat that monster lurking at the end of Piikmin. And then of course, there was Universal Studios, the runt of the litter.
Universal Studios is probably the worst game that ever fell upon the Gamecube. It proudly displayed its "Only For Gamecube" sticker while we Nintendo fans hoped it would go grace some other console with its bad luck. So, what's it all about?
Essentially Universal Studios isn't a game at all, instead it's a very long and tedious advert for the park. The box describes it as a virtual tour of the famous Universal Studios park complete with exciting games to play. So, how does this work out in the game? Well, you're a young guest at Universal Studios... that's true. You're greeted by a more annoying than ever Woody Woodpecker who gives you jobs to do. Mainly picking up litter. Y'see, the park is very busy, very dirty and queues are so long that waiting to go on the rides isn't worth the time. Yes, that is actually how this game portrays the park. I'm quite sure the developers were slipped a backhander from Disney's PR department because I wouldn't step foot in the miserable place present here.
So Woody Woodpecker wants you to keep his tip of a park tidy for him, in return for mucking out his filth, he rewards you with magic passes that allow you to bypass the huge queues for the rides. Finally we reach the game part of the game. And after all that picking up rubbish and exploring a really boring park, the fruit must taste ever so sweet, right? Wrong. It's a collection of some of the most boring minigames ever conceived, poorly coded and with no reward for completion.
Take, for example, the game's version of the Back to the Future ride. The original ride is a simulator trip that includes a lot of footage filmed with actors from the film series and creates a seamless story and real life action scene that is a fun ride and a nice moment for fans of the films. A video game version of such a ride, complete with the original footage and a fun game based on the twists and turns of the ride would be a nice piece of merchandise for Back to the Future fans around the world who couldn't travel to America just for the ride. Sadly, that's not on offer here. Rather we are treated to a horrendous, horrible looking game that involves driving a delorean along a mostly straight track, bashin a delorean in front. It includes no footage or sound from the original ride with the exception of the Back to the Future theme song looping in the background.
I'm not going to go into all the games, they're largely the same as this. Boring, terrible looking games, very loosely based on attractions from the park. The fact that they take so much effort to unlock, with none playable until you've collected quite a lot of rubbish, is horrendous. They're also incredibly easy and can be completed in no time at all. One game in specific, based on Jaws, took me only a minute and a half to complete. They only consist of single level challenges and there's no bonus for going back and beating your high score. (No high scores either) They're so bad however, I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
It's rare to see a product that fails in so many ways as Universal Studios for the Gamecube. As a game, it fails completely. The actual "game" segments are locked away, the hub that binds these games is tedious and incredibly poorly designed and once the games are finally unlocked, they're horrible to play. It also looks incredibly poor, making nothing of the Gamecube's abilities.
As a virtual tour of the park or an advert, it achieves even less. A major focal point of the game is that the lines at Universal Studios are so ridiculously big that you have to do menial tasks for Woody Woodpecker and be granted a magic pass before you get in. Furthermore, it's full of litter and there's no much to do outside of the rides. The games representing the rides are not only poor games but make no attempt to communicate any of the charm or entertainment value I'm assuming the actual rides contain.
Where Universal Studios exceeds is as a demonstration of shoddy merchandising and cynical marketing. It offer nothing to the consumer in return for its initially rather high RRP (which soon fell, if I recall) but it has E.T and a Dinosaur on the box. So they know they'll sell a few.
Nintendo Gamecube games will run on any Wii console, though a Gamecube controller is needed to play them. However, don't buy this for anyone of any age for any reason.