Shrek The Third

Funny thing about the Shrek The Third game cash-in: Somebody actually gave a damn about it. The puppet-style cutscenes are engaging, the backdrops are Candyland-bright, and the character animations are smooth and surprisingly varied. Rough patches in the gameplay are smoothed over with snarky dialogue: If your sidekick needs to bail so as not to get in the way of your fight scene, he actually makes a good excuse before he leaves. Instead of feeling like a cheap cash-in, it actually shows some signs of life—it's an interactive cartoon made with more love than some recent feature films.

But under that presentation, the game itself is nothing special. Shrek The Third sticks to a basic formula of clobbering henchmen and collecting meaningless objects, with a couple of boss fights and too few puzzles along the way. It's a kids' game, but that doesn't excuse the repetitive action or simplicity. But thanks to all the polish on the surface, Shrek The Third accomplishes something most tie-in games don't even try: It's actually fun to play.

Beyond the game: All the dainty fashion-horse-princess stuff will strike some as sexist—but on the other hand, you get to see a pregnant ogre do flying spin-kicks into a line of bad guys.

Worth playing for: The most—okay, only—innovative scene features Captain Hook leading a musical number, and the song (more or less) syncs up with a fight scene and a chorus line; clobber enough pirates, and the next verse starts.

Frustration sets in when: Some of the maneuvers feel rough around the edges, like jumping for a gold coin outside your sightline, or throwing a small wooden ball at a narrow target.

Final judgment: Most movie games reduce feature-film characters to kludge-y cutouts and awkward zombies; Shrek The Third finds a way to keep them alive.