Based on the 2009 feature film, in turn loosely based on a classic children's picture book by Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are on Nintendo DS is an action platformer game where the player controls a boy in wolf pajamas named Max as he explores the island inhabited by fantastic monsters. In his adventures he will be assisted by half a dozen friendly creatures - The Wild Things - Carol, K.W., Bull, Ira, Judith and Douglas.
The game plays mostly like a standard sidescrolling platformer where the player can run, jump, and pick up enemies and inanimate objects to use as weapons. Inside each level Max will locate up to three of the six Wild Things, who will follow him around. Each creature has a single special ability executed by touching its portrait on the touch-screen. The abilities range from creating an impromptu platform to help Max get to higher places, to hurling boulders at out-of-reach targets.
The gameplay of Where the Wild Things Are is mostly limited to a flat plane, but at certain key points the player can hop between up to 4 parallel scrolling layers. Throughout the early portion of the adventure Max is attacked by various fantasy creatures such as furballs and giant birds. Later levels, however are populated by ominously glowing dark ash monsters.
The game features a variety of locales connected via a central hub. The locations include a beach, a temperate forest, desert ruins, cliffs, caves and lava fields.
In addition to the main gameplay mode the game features 6 challenge minigames themed around each of the Wild Things abilities.
The game also allows the player to record his own custom roar to be used in the game.