Jeff Markiewicz On August 19, 2009 at 7:23 am

Night at the Museum Battle at the Smithsonian: The Video Game is the videogame to the big screen movie of the same name. The first movie did not receive a similar adaptation so Pipeworks had a clean slate for where they wanted to take the franchise. All videogames based upon movies have a hard time ascending past mediocrity so will this one fly or will it get boxed up.

You are Larry Daley, the night watchman at the New York Museum of Natural History and holographic technology is taking over. Your favorite exhibits that come alive each night are being replaced by ones that never awaken. Luckily the exhibit with the Egyptian pharaoh Akmenrah and his tablet will be staying. Since your keys were not enough, the monkey steals the magical tablet and gets shipped to Washington D.C. along with your other friends. You get to the tablet too late and everything comes alive. Kahmunrah, the evil brother of Akmenrah, steals the tablet and gives pieces of it to various historical figures for safe keeping. This starts your quest to piece together the tablet and stop Kahmunrah from calling on his army from the other world. There is very little story after this basic premise but it’s nice how they do a small twist on the movies story to make it fit into a videogame but that just made it more generic.

Night at the Museum is a third-person adventure game. Each piece of the tablet grants a special new power and there are nine all together. This is the foundation of the gameplay. Navigate the level to reach the historical figure that is holding the piece and get it from them. Along the way you’ll have to use your powers and agility to overcome adversity. Some powers will let you repair and bring things to life whereas others will let you tame animals. There uses are pretty specific though and will be required to overcome scripted challenges. Along the way you’ll have access to three neat minigames that once you beat give you quick access from the main menu but they aren’t too fun for more than one play. The coolest part of this game is that most of the exhibits have audio tours. Just walk up and press the use key and you’ll get a small snippet of education seamlessly integrated into the game. Even as a man in my 20s I enjoyed listening to them and seeing factoids during the loading screens. Hopefully it’ll spark a child’s imagination as well without it getting forced upon them. In addition to collecting the pieces to the tablet, you can collect items around the world to unlock bonus material like concept art and behind the scene videos which are somewhat neat. If you collect 4 quarters and a penny and can throw it into a penny smashing machine for achievement points and pride. As you conquer the game, a special room in one of the beginning museums will be filled with treasures from your exploits that can be accessed at any time. The game is simple enough for anyone to play and comes with a healthy dose of education. Unfortunately, it does follow a quite generic adventure game formula and is amazingly short (less than three hours) but it is nonetheless enjoyable.

One look at the game and you can tell it’s probably a direct port of the Wii’s graphics. There are low resolution textures and low polygon models but there is a nice cartoony look to the game that somewhat hides those blemishes. The back of the box claims that it uses Ben Stiller’s likeness but there is little resemblance other than the basics. Plus the rest of the actors have not been recreated but it’s not a large deal. The CGI cut scenes look pretty good but are pretty sparse. Animations can be stiff at times and never exceed average. Overall you won’t be playing this game for its looks but the style will keep it from being ugly.

Ben Stiller voices his character and it sounds great. All his quirky humor shines through gloriously. But from there is drops down pretty quickly. The rest of the cast does not reprise their roles so some characters just don’t have the same feeling as in the movie and not nearly as good. The sound effects are passable but don’t bring much more than the basics. The music is great though and sounds like it’s straight out of the movie, which is a good thing. The sound quality is okay but Ben Stiller almost makes it all worth it.

What is the purpose of a game? To entertain. I believe that Night at the Museum Battle at the Smithsonian has accomplished that goal. It never tries to be something it’s not. It doesn’t overstay its welcome. It sticks to the traditional adventure children’s game and seamlessly integrates education. It teaches yet never preaches. On the negative side, the game is short. Really short. You’ll complete the game in less than three hours with little reason to come back. The game looks like they just ported the Wii version over. It’s nice to see they got Ben Stiller on board to reprise his role but none of the other actors came back and their replacements aren’t that great. The music seems to be straight out of the film and sounds good. I almost wish they dropped the price by half and sold this as a downloadable title. The look and length would be perfect. On the bright side, it didn’t launch at $60 but even at $20 less, it’s still hard to swallow. But if you have a kid, this should definitely be a rental. It’s fun, educational, and won’t keep them in front of the television for hours on end.


Very generic standard fare story and gameplay but nonetheless enjoyable. The best part is that it’s been infused with a nice dose of education. On the opposite end, the game is short. Really short.


Low resolution textures, low polygon models and levels. The game has a nice cartoony edge to it which hides some of it but it’s still noticeable. The CGI cut scenes look fairly good. It looks like a Wii game.


Ben Stiller and the original movie soundtrack are great but everything else is quite average.


Night at the Museum is fun, educational, and won’t keep your children in front of the television for hours. At $40 the length may be hard to swallow but definitely pick it up at the rental store.

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