Developer(s) – n-Space
Publisher(s) – THQ
Director(s) – Seth Jacobsen & Don Nauert
Producer(s) – Symar Sambar, Leyland Mah & Jym Kelly
ELSPA – 3
Released on the original PlayStation back in 1998 as part of a lucrative multi-million dollar deal between THQ and Nickelodeon, and boasting the second biggest video game marketing campaign of that year (second only to Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time) Rugrats: Search for Reptar is a good example of effective development of a game based on a pre-existing license before the standard would be even further elevated in the late 2000s. Back in the day and as a huge Rugrats fan growing up, I spent a ridiculous amount of time playing this game, and in all honesty, is still one that holds up to this day for a multitude of different reasons.
Graphics – 8/10
The visuals are simple and cartoony to go along with the tableau of the show it’s based on. It’s a lot like a precursor to the concept of cel-shaded visuals perpetuated later by Jet Set Radio and a plethora of games developed afterward. It takes place in a hub world, which is the Pickles residence as well as across a number of locations presented in a variety of classic Rugrats episodes including Grandpa’s Teeth and The Mysterious Mr. Friend. It still holds up to this day because it was never meant to be a game with cutting-edge graphics; only to portray the visual style of the cartoon, which it does exceptionally well.
Gameplay – 8/10
By design, the game is an action-adventure, but because it centers on several classic episodes of the series, it presents the player with a variety of different gameplay mechanics, such as golfing, riding a dog, and projectile combat. I almost forgot about how good this game is because it’s easy to forget and perpetuate a different idea of it after having not played it for a number of years. But after revisiting the game, I was able to appreciate the many different things it offered to gamers at the time and still does.
Controls – 10/10
One of the major issues players and critics alike had with the game’s controls was the camera angle; mainly put down to the fact that this was developed during a time when 3D gaming was just coming out of its infancy. But none of that truly bothered me back in the day, and it still doesn’t now. The camera stays behind the player character and never moves beyond that. The controls are certainly nowhere near as much of a problem as they are in other 3D games released at around the same time, including Blasto and Croc: Legend of the Gobbos. Unlike in a lot of other early 3D games, the movement is also extremely fluent in addition, and the game flows naturally despite the number of play styles the player will have to adapt to throughout.
Lifespan – 5/10
To me, the Lifespan was the most disappointing aspect of this title, as it can take less than 3 hours to complete, which fell below the established standard for 3D games even back in 1998. When considering that this game was advertised as much as what Ocarina of Time was, the difference in lifespan is eclipsing, as players can get through this game in a few hours and move on to Ocarina of Time, which takes far longer to complete to 100%.
Storyline – 7/10
The basic premise of the story is that Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, Lil, and Angelica are on a quest to recover the missing pieces of Tommy’s jigsaw puzzle modeled after his favorite cartoon character Reptar. The main story is simplistic, but it also takes place across several classic Rugrats episodes, which remain beloved by fans of the series everywhere, and to see them presented in the video game format was quite a unique thing at the time. As a fan of it growing up back in the day, it featured some of my favorite episodes of the series, so it worked particularly well for me back in the day.
Originality – 7/10
Although 3D gaming was beginning to dominate the medium at this time and clones were cropping up all over the place on every home console, there was something quite unique about this game back in the day to give players this much variety in gameplay. It’s another example of developers not just using a pre-existing license, but also celebrating it in significant ways. The developers clearly had fun putting this game together and it really shows in more ways than one.
Overall, Rugrats: Search for Reptar is an excellent example of a game based on a beloved license, and an experience that still holds up to this day. I’m glad that I not long revisited this title, because if I hadn’t, I will have undoubtedly forgotten about how good a game it truly is.