Dreamworks’ Madagascar films are notable for two things: Resurrecting Reel 2 Real’s 1994 jam I Like to Move It and spawning a zoo filled with a team of goofy penguins. Said penguins proved popular enough to get their own spin-off show on Nickelodeon, which then went on to birth TV specials, DVD collections and video games like the one you’re now reading about. Evidently the kids do love their penguins, bless their hearts, and The Penguins of Madagascar: Dr. Blowhole Returns Again caters to its audience quite well by serving up the same silly sense of humour in a simple motion-sensing obstacle course and dancing mini-game that tykes small and tall can get behind.
One thing that can be said about Blowhole Returns is that it is a cheerfully faithful adaptation of its source material — developer Griptonite hits all the same notes as the show and on the whole the game feels like a direct-to-DVD special that happens to be somewhat interactive. Jokes are as you'd expect from the show and the graphics hold up reasonably well compared to their pre-rendered source. Story? Sure, why not. You're a new penguin at the zoo, there's an evil dolphin, go.
The penguins automatically propel themselves forward and what limited influence you have over them boils down to leaning, jumping and punching, and if you’ve ever stood in front of a Kinect then you’re familiar with the actions expected of you as the team of penguins encounters obstacles along the gauntlet: jump, wave, balance, kick, bowl and so forth. Everything is deliberately simple and incredibly apparent so that you're never at a loss for what you're supposed to be doing, which helps players with virtually no gaming experience to progress. Kinect detection is generally solid but the occasional misread will rear its head every so often and cause you to crash into an obstacle — disappointing to still see nearly a year into Kinect's life. The only other hiccup that may arise is the Madagascar trivia portions that occasionally pop up mid-mission — you're generously given three chances to find the correct answer among the four options, so someone who hasn't the faintest idea of who a certain minor character is best friends with can get by through guesswork or sheer luck. Collectibles and hidden items are littered throughout the stages to encourage, granted, limited exploration and repeat play.
There's a distinct lack of multiplayer, though, and once the campaign is clocked there is little else to do with Blowhole but take on King Julien's three-song dance-off. While the tune selection is limited, they're a catchy bunch of original songs that encourage constant movement and the occasional photographed pose. Perfect for wearing out the wee ones before bed, and the snapped photos are guaranteed to be silly if our own are anything to go by.
You won't find anything particularly new or exciting from a gameplay perspective and use of Kinect is strictly serviceable, but Blowhole puts in a solid performance for what it sets out to do and may prove to be a suitable alternative for a penguin fix when watching the same DVDs over and over again starts to get stale.