Over the Hedge: The Video Game Sequel that the Movie Deserved

    Video games that are inspired by movies can be hit or miss, most are atrocious, some are decent, and very few are masterpieces. Over the Hedge (the game) is a multiplayer, action game developed by Edge of Reality, Vicarious Visions, and Beenox, and published by Activision. It was released on May 5th, 2006, for the PS2, Xbox, Game Boy Advance, Microsoft Windows, GameCube, and Nintendo DS.

    While most movie tie-ins will follow the movie practically verbatim, Over the Hedge worked as a sort of sequel to its movie counterpart. When I played the game before the movie even came out in theaters I was really confused as to why it was so different from the game and I remembered sitting there asking myself when they were going to make friends with Vincent the bear. The game starts out by following the movie’s ending scene where RJ the raccoon is leading a group of other talking woodland critters and planning a heist to steal delectable junk food from the home of the uptight HOA director, Gladys. This section of the game is largely single player and players don’t get to choose the character they’re playing as. It serves as a tutorial for some of the gameplay elements, including fighting, disarming high security pest control systems, on-rail chase sections, breaking out of cages, and tossing snack foods to NPC’s.

    After playing through the tutorial level we skip ahead to one year later where after returning from a successful food heist, the animals return to their small slice of forest to find the luxuries that they pilfered from the humans are destroyed and all of their food has been eaten. The culprit is Verm Tech, a company dedicated to wiping out pests, that is run by one of the main antagonists in both the game and movie, an exterminator known to the animals as The Sniffer. Now the players must take control of one of four animal heroes, RJ the crafty raccoon, Verne the cautious turtle, Stella the assertive skunk, and my personal favorite Hammy the hyperactive squirrel. Players start out in the forest which acts as a hub world between missions, it has a level select and mini game select cork board, allows for character swapping, and has a hat selection tree. If you walk up to some of the unplayable animals in the forest, they will talk to each other, sharing their thoughts on the current situation, having heartfelt moments with their families, and commenting on what new stuff the player has brought them. Swapping characters in this game has a unique feature, characters will say different things based on not only the characters you choose to play as but whether the character is player one or two, or player and computer controlled character if you’re playing single player. The character in the player one position will take a leading role in the dialogue and be the one to converse with other animals giving instructions over the 2006 flip phone. As a storyteller this adds replay value for me just because I want to hear all the different dialogue.

    The players’ goal throughout most of the game is to infiltrate suburban neighborhoods in search for food and items to replace what was lost in the Verm Tech raid, like a new TV in the form of a movie projector. There are other places to explore to break up the monotony of suburban heists, such as a sewer, a construction site, a theme park, a train, a national park, and there’s even a car chase section where Ozzy fights Verm Tech’s weaponized truck with a golf cart (and the players are there for support). There are numerous traps littered throughout backyards and homes, which include lawn gnome iron maidens, dog lawn ornaments that fart sleep gas, flowerpot dirt turrets, motion sensors, and the classic red lasers. Players will have to face off against Verm Tech’s mind controlled animal minions as well, such animals as rats wielding clubs, toilet plungers, rolling pins, and toy guns, bunnies that attempt to stomp on you with spiked cleats, gophers that can burrow and pop up somewhere else to beat you with their shovels, weasels that sprint at you with zapping tasers, armadillos that try to roll into you, moles that pop up under you to leave bombs at your feet, and badgers and bears that maul you. Players can pick up and use the melee weapons that the rats and gophers drop upon being defeated, but apart from an aesthetic change and filling your AOE energy meter there is no difference in damage. Picking up a toy gun, however, leads to different battle tactics, there are four guns that can be acquired, the pellet gun which shoots white plastic balls that ricochet around the area and can hit multiple targets, the fire gun which shoots bursts of fire, the freeze gun which freezes enemies in their tracks, and the bubble gun which shoots slow moving but toxic bubbles.

    Apart from melee weapons and guns, our furry and scaly heroes have more fighting styles up their non-existent sleeves. Each character has their own area of effect abilities, RJ spins with his golf club while hitting a barrage of golf balls at enemies, Verne jumps out of his shell and spins it around him to batter enemies, Stella lets out a large stink cloud so powerful that she rises into the air, and Hammy will embrace his inner Flash and dash around ramming into enemies. Players can also hop on each other’s shoulders and attack as one, swinging their melee weapons at anything in front of them or become a swirling twister of cuteness and destruction, destroying anything in their path. They’ve really outdone themselves with the combat and it’s especially fun to jump into this game with a friend and cause all sorts of havoc.

    Overall, this game is a fun and wonderful sequel to the movie I loved as a child and I recommend it to both adults looking for a good hit of nostalgia and children looking to play a great and chaotic game from yesteryear.


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