Disney and Christmas are a pretty natural combination. Heck one of my favorite holiday experiences ever was going to Disney World in 2018 right after Thanksgiving and holiday celebrations at the park were in full swing. Video games and Christmas are an equally natural combination, simply because often people who like video games either get them as gifts around this time or buy them for themselves on sale, etc. and even with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season there usually seems to be some downtime to get some game time in.
Despite this, there aren’t a ton of games that are based around Christmas and even fewer based on holiday films and then at most a handful specifically based on Disney Christmas films.
The Santa Clause trilogy is basically the story of ordinary jerk ass Scott Calvin being the new (and best) Santa Clause. Really he’s got the hang of it by the first film, but they invent snags in the second and third films to trip him up like he has to find a wife or you know the spirit of winter wants to kill him and take over Christmas or something. Still, it’s a popular franchise and the 2000s are still a time where games based off movies are a thing so it’s not that surprising there was one based off the series, but what is surprising and throws up all kinds of red flags is that it’s based off the weakest of the series and was released on the Gameboy Advance without much fanfare because let’s face it, while the GBA was a great console with tons of fantastic games, it’s also where they just dumped a ton of licensed garbage to make a quick buck.
I was ready for The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause to be utterly incompetent garbage right from the get-go because of this, and upon first playing, I was pleasantly surprised at the start? You play a very generic-looking Santa in ok-looking Christmas-themed levels that mostly take place at the North Pole in a pretty standard 2D platforming set of levels to start and it wasn’t mind-blowing but it was competent and you have plenty of health and the enemies aren’t there to just cheaply kill you. There are two other modes of play, one where you are an elf collecting parts which is less fun because for some reason in those sections you die quite easily but I suppose it’s because they are technically bonus sections and you can just fail and move on if you want. And the third is dropping presents/coal. You drop the right thing at the right house at the right angle and you score based on how well you do. Nothing mind-blowing but it seemed set to be a perfectly competent licensed game which for a game based on a movie for the Gameboy Advance in 2006 seems like a minor miracle.
Unfortunately, the cracks start showing not long in. Firstly, nothing you collect or your score really seems to matter. For example, each platforming level has an amount of milk and cookies to collect, but they don’t do anything. You don’t need a certain amount to progress, you don’t unlock anything by collecting them, so why bother? Similarly as mentioned before the sections where you play as an elf or drop presents merely grade you and you can move on if you wish. It affects a meaningless score total but you can literally completely fail those and just keep going so why put in any effort?
So the strongest sections are by far the 2D platforming ones which are competent enough but once they start getting more complicated but introducing much more precise platforming than the fat man in the red suit is capable of despite having a pretty ok double jump. It’s not impossible but after falling off a tiny iced platform for the 20th time because while you don’t need milk and cookies you do need the key above you to proceed you just don’t feel like playing much anymore.
In a way, The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause is surprisingly ambitious. It offers several different types of stages, has a surprising amount of levels, and everything sort of works so in the world of licensed movie tie-ins it arguably gets just over the very low bar of not being a complete mess or anything, but still a fairly mediocre game that does just enough to stay off the naughty list, but I’d hardly put it on the good list either.
That’s all for now, see ya real soon!