Shrek The Movie - Not The Game, The Movie


It’s weird, but I’ll never forget the day I discovered the Game Boy Advance Video. It was more than fifteen years ago, and I was just hanging around with my friends at school. He’d brought his GBA SP with him, and he whipped out a lighter, white-coloured cartridge; I assumed it was just a visual thing, like with Pokemon games or whatnot. And then he clicked play, and Shrek started playing. Shrek, the classic children’s movie, playing on a goddamn Game Boy Advance. Now, I see now that it looks nothing short of ass, especially when it’s blown up on my PC screen, but back then… It was insane. Like watching a DVD on a PS2, I couldn’t believe you watch a movie on a tiny little device like the Game Boy Advance.

Why am I talking about this? Well, it’s not quite an April Fool’s prank, but today on the Game Boy Abyss, we’ll be talking about the experience of watching Shrek The Movie via the Game Boy Advance Video.

Ah, what can I say about Shrek in general? It’s a classic, one so ingrained in my memory that I genuinely can’t remember the first time I’d seen it; it just always existed somewhere in my stupid little sponge of a brain. But what it’s worth - and this is barely an uncommon opinion - I love Shrek. It’s stupid, ridiculous, downright insane at times, but so many of its jokes for such a baseline of my already cracked sense of humour - the amount of times I’ve been able to work ‘that is a nice boulder’ into my jokes is pretty impressive. But yeah, Shrek is fantastic - beautifully animated, especially by early 2000s CGI standards, a fairy tale that sets itself apart, goddamn Lord Farquard (I’m not googling how to spell his name)... as loathe as I am to repeat the meme, Shrek is love, Shrek is life.

But how does Shrek translate to the far smaller screen, crammed into the confines of a GBA cart? Well…

Now, the most obvious downsides come in the visual experience. And, uh, considering this is a movie, is kind of the whole package. Via the Game Boy Video, Shrek is presented to you in glorious 240p, but even in such a shrunk down form the film appear jagged and artifact-laden. Its frame rate, rather than displaying the silky-smooth animation Shrek became famous for, presents the film as a pseudo slide-show, juddering along at an uneven pace. Hell, if you were one of the unlucky (or lucky, I’m not judging) to have this edition of Shrek be your first contact with this film, I’d forgive you for thinking Shrek wasn’t the smoothly animated gem that it was. Look, I understand they had to cram this whole ass movie onto a 64MB cart - already as large as these carts could actually get - but this is easily the one element of the film that is objectively, irreparably tarnished by its limitations. Understandable limitations, to be fair, but limitations nonetheless.

On the other hand, the actual visuals - visual design, and all that, now that’s a different story. I’m not sure if it’s due to the slightly more limited color palette displayed by the Game Boy Advance, or to compensate for the base model’s lack of a backlight, but the GBAV edition of Shrek features notably lighter colors then the theatrical release. It’s different, to be sure, but it’s not… worse, per say. It gives the film a very different kind of energy, one that I can’t quite put into words. Obviously it's a degraded experience in pretty much every way, but this is one facet that kind of tickles my fancy, so to speak. Perhaps for all of you who’ve seen Shrek at least once (seriously, how many people *haven’t* seen Shrek at this point!?), look up a few clips of the GBA Video version… It's interesting.

On the other hand, the other element of the film most irradiated by its porting to the GBAV is its audio. It’s just… just so *crunchy*. Entire lines of dialogue are nigh unintelligible - unless you’re one of the few who actually used headphones with the system - and audio artifacting is so dire that background music can entirely cut out when louder characters like Shrek are even talking. The audio quality is already so bad that it isn’t actually as noticeable as I’m making it sound, but I’m a reviewer, goddamn it! I gotta cover every facet of a game, no matter how pointless, and this isn’t just any goddamn review! It’s Shrek The Movie!

But at the end of the day… Imagine you’re a kid, not even a pre-teen. You’ve got a long car ride ahead of you, and not in the mood for a game. And you can just decide to watch goddamn Shrek on your GBA, in an era when DVDs were only really hitting widespread traction, and a portable DVD player was from a crazy future yet to come. Yes, it was janky, filled to the brim with artifacts, all rendered in picture-perfect 240p. Is it the way God - also known as Dreamworks - intended to watch Shrek? Maybe it is, but that’s neither here nor there. We were kids then, or at least I was, and the fact you could watch an entire movie on the tiny little handheld that could… that’s something special, no matter how you twist it.

Now, the Shrek/Shark Tale combo back? God, that’s a whole other ball park - I’m not even talking about the fact it runs in 144p - it’s got goddamn Shark Tale on it. Bleh.

Thanks for reading this very silly review of Shrek The Movie on the Game Boy Abyss! I’ll be off for next week, but our next game will be a metroidvania I had no idea even existed, so look forward to that! I’m on holiday from work starting this Thursday for two weeks, so hopefully I can build a backlog, or at the very least finish and get my review out for the Minish Cap for Game #40. As always, you can find me over at Twitter (at least as long as it stays standing) @Lemmy7003, or email me at if you have any requests or questions - or just message me on my Neocities profile! Thanks for reading, I’ll see you next time!