The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Whether it is a fat panda, a lonely robot or a guy in armour with a sword, I'm sure most of us over a certain age get bored very quickly with the marketing blitz that accompanies each and every release of a kids' film these days. And of course along with that comes the obligatory multi-platform cash-in - and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian fulfils its side of the deal in this respect. I've been taking a look at the PS3 version of the game, although name the console and there is of course a version for you.
The game kicks off at the main menu and allows you to choose the first level at the start of the story. This is in fact a flash-back to when Prince Caspian's countrymen conquered the land, and you play the part of the valiant defenders - that is, a minotaur, a centaur, a dwarf and a goat thing. You need to run around the walls of the castle and fight off all the invading Telmarines, while doing tasks like pulling levers, fitting cogs into slots, and clearing the ground for eagles to land.
Its a completely combat-based game, with the exception of finding certain items and taking them to the correct places, but for such a game the combat system is very shallow. Each character has a strong attack or a fast attack, along with an action button for pulling, pushing, or picking up objects. Certain characters have ranged attacks as well.
After this section is complete, the story continues back in the present day, with Caspian eventually meeting up with the gang from the last film and striking back at his evil countrymen. Each level continues in roughly the same manner; a hack-and-slash fest albeit strangely sanitised with no actual blood or obvious death to worry about.
The game's main strength is in the large set-piece battles - it rarely gets old to swing a big club through a bunch of baddies and see them go flying. However it almost does in this game - once you realise that that's about as tough as the combat gets, it becomes a blatant button masher. The enemies rarely seem to even strike back, instead choosing to walk into you shield first. It almost makes you feel bad for inserting a club into their face, as they are obviously a bit dim. However, they have obviously employed some dark magic which prevents the Narnians from jumping. This was a smart move on their part, as instead of simply jumping over obstacles our heroes now have to spend ages pushing and pulling bits into place to allow them to find another route around any obstruction, large or small.
Each level is completely segmented into certain parts - the player has to complete a task and then the next 'thing' will happen. This then appears slightly strange as for example, in the castle level, the four characters are the only defenders visible, and yet the Telmarines politely wait for them to finish off defending one section of the wall before raucously attacking the next. I'm sure other defenders were holding them off but it would have been nice to see these valiant chaps. This smacks of laziness from the designers.
The instructions are also slightly unclear - one early objective is to destroy some catapults in the fields outside the castle. Ignoring the fact that our heroes charge out happily leaving the castle undefended, the game then leaves you to guess that you can only actually destroy these catapults by taking control of one of two giants standing around outside. You climb on their back Facehugger-style and then have complete control of them and their tree-sized club. It would have been nice to know this before I had spent a few minutes whacking away at the catapults with my Minotaur's club.
Anyway, as you progress through the story you will find golden keys and treasure chests lying around. Put two and two together (or rather one chest and a varying amount of keys) and you get bonus features. These are basically artwork and similar stuff from the film - nothing too exciting. However, somewhat bizarrely, you can replay each level and the keys re-appear. So you can just play the easiest level over and over and end up with more than enough keys to unlock every chest in the game.
Finally there are a few mini-games hidden that are unlocked by performing certain tasks in-game - there are four and each task is fairly obvious. Shoot that big sparkly target, et al.
Ultimately, this game is really more of an interactive movie - the combat offers next to no challenge and there is very little replay value. A large variety of characters does offer some interest but they are all really the same, with no special moves or anything unique to offer. The best thing I can really say about the game is that it all works and that there were no annoying bugs, but any such misgivings would be unforgivable in such a simplistic game anyway. As always, a kid who liked the film will enjoy playing as their on-screen heroes but the game doesn't have anything more to offer non-fans. If you want a hack-and-slash game, there are better ones out there and if you are lucky you may even see a bit of blood!