Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 for the 3DS is, as one might expect, a tie-in to the popular animated movie, but rather than being a side-scrolling platform game like many film tie-ins, Meatballs 2 is more of a 'score attack' type game, and takes heavy inspiration from mobile hit Fruit Ninja.
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The game requires the player to quickly slice various foods and other bits and bobs as they appear on screen with a quick swipe of the stylus in order to earn points, progress through the story and unlock bonus goodies. It's a nice simple idea and on the whole it works well. The bonuses, while they aren't incredibly exciting (different background images and items related to the film mainly), do add some longevity to what is a relatively short game, and while it's possible to play through the main (or 'Story') mode very rapidly, older players might enjoy trying to unlock all of the extras.
Along with the main Story mode, there's a challenge mode too, which is unlocked as you play through the story, and is then accessible from the main menu. Here you'll have to complete a series of tasks like slicing as many meatballs as you can, or not missing any fruit. In gameplay terms, it's not too far removed from the main mode, and still relies on chopping stuff, but it's a welcome inclusion nonetheless.
The slicing action which is centre stage in the game feels intuitive with the 3DS' stylus, perhaps even more so than using a finger on a touch-screen phone. If your child is comfortable using the stylus with other games they'll be right at home here. Our 5 year old tester was off and running on her own after just a couple of tries, and was even able to slice multiple objects at once to earn bonus points. Oddly, while the fruits are displayed in full colour glory on the top screen, they're only displayed in grey scale on the touch screen, as though the game expects you to use the touch screen as more of a track-pad while keeping your eyes focused on the top screen, using intuition alone to "know" where your stylus will end up slicing. Either that, or you can make do with the greyscale shapes!
What's welcome is the fact that the game's entirely touch-driven, meaning young children don't have to worry about which button does what as the whole thing's controlled using the stylus and touch-screen. The game soon becomes fairly tricky, and some levels have pretty strict conditions (like only slicing certain objects, or not missing anything for example), so young players may reach a point where they're unable to progress until they've put in a lot of practice, but it's nothing some perseverance won't solve.
While it's very simple to pick up and play (our young play-tester had no problems at all), there's a fair amount of text displayed that anyone just learning to read will no doubt struggle with. Sadly instructions and other tips are all text-based, so younger children who've yet to truly grasp reading will almost certainly miss out on aspects of the game, or need some help to advance. Certain levels have particular requirements for example, like not missing any of a particular food, and we had to step in and explain this. It would be nice to have spoken instructions (or something more visual), but admittedly this is an issue with many games aimed at children. As it is, while the game is playable by young children unassisted to a point, certain bits will need an older helping hand.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is based on the popular children's animated film, and as such there's not much to be concerned with in terms of content. Characters from the film appear, but as static images, accompanied by the occasional snippet of voiced dialogue ("That's the biggest strawberry I've ever seen!" and so on). There's no violence to speak of, and no sex or bad language either. If you're happy for your child to watch the film, then they'll be fine with this too.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo 3DS