On Shrek’s 20th Anniversary, Meet The Real-Life Shrek Console
The console we never knew we needed
20 years later, the ill-tempered ogre has lost none of his swagger. Like a swamp converted into a national wildlife reserve, Shrek has yet to cease exciting and entertaining viewers of all ages. The green ogre self-isolated long before it was deemed necessary. He remains an all-star, doused in fame eternal. Shrek was crude. And it was glorious.
A recent rewatch of the Shrek films helped me discover themes and trope-breakers ranging from animated anarchy to systemic racism. They weaved a touching narrative amidst issues like self-love and identity. The first film more than earned its happily-ever-after. No matter how accurate your memory of Shrek is, few can forget the Smash Mouth opening to a film that left a trail for an entire industry to follow.
Just as Shrek took one step for ogre and an ogre-load for animation, he snuck his way into the world of gaming as well. Shrek didn’t settle for a mere videogame. He got the console that he rightly deserved.
The Dreamworks Animation Plug It In & Play TV Game system
Once upon a time, there was a Shrek console. It wasn’t as readily available as the mainstream Xbox and PlayStation entries at the time. But it sure beats trying to get a PS5 or an Xbox Series X today. Try getting a controller with a Shrek head for a joystick, complete with flexible ears.
Like any self-respecting videogame console, this mouthful of a plug n play system had a library of exclusive titles. Gamers could pick from three distinct titles spanning multiple genres, featuring memorable characters and set pieces from the films.
In a bizarre spin on the vertically scrolling shoot ’em up genre, Donkey Dash has no shooting. The game lets you take control of the iconic Donkey (not to be confused with videogamedunkey) as he sprints downwards to clear checkpoints in a race against time. The Shrek console’s joystick is remarkably precise, letting you navigate through the game’s stages with ease.
Levels take you across locales ranging from swamps to castles peppered with unique foes and objects. While you can jump in Donkey Dash, it doesn’t really feature a lot of platforming. Instead, the challenge comes in the form of obstacles like unpredictable terrain or predictable rivals. And once things get tough, the frenzy will keep you coming back for “one more round.”
Ah, Pinball. The game launched thousands of videogame enthusiasts into a microtransaction-fed future. Pinball is given the Shrek treatment here, with Donkey and the Dragon stepping in to set the ball in motion.
Just like Donkey Dash, progressing in Shrek Pinball leads to more distinct foes showing up. Some of these enemies show up in bonus levels where one can rack up points without the sting of failure. These range from soldiers and Pinnochio to catapults and mobs. It ain’t no layered onion but Shrek Pinball remains a delightful spin on a timeless classic.
Crooked Castle Golf
The third game in Shrek’s list is fairly straightforward. Crooked Castle Golf takes you through a variety of cleverly designed stages that require some thinking (for kids at least). While you can only adjust the angle of your hit and its power level, the game managed to keep things interesting with inclined planes and interactive objects. Things are often more than they appear.
Stages turn more exotic with time, featuring elaborate sets with unique mechanisms to figure out. They also got more infuriating but I can’t speak for my present self. It’s a game I thoroughly enjoyed as a kid.
Despite the games’ crude graphics and simple gameplay, it’s evident that these titles were designed with a satisfying core loop in mind. True, the games were primarily aimed at kids. I fit the target demographic back when this green gizmo released and I didn’t complain. It was no Sega Genesis but Shrek’s console got the job done, if only temporarily. It didn’t have to compensate for anything.
Shrek remains a cornerstone of animated lore. The films defied nearly every fairytale trope to create a lasting legacy that’s always worth a rewatch. They established Dreamworks as a creative behemoth in offbeat storytelling. The memes that ensued remain a vital component of the thriving social ecosystem that we live in.
Perhaps Lord Farquaad’s insignia was more than a warning to Facebook’s meteoric rise as our supreme overlord. In a world where next-gen videogame consoles are little more than urban myths, it’s good to know that Shrek lent his everlasting charisma to a very real console.