Mark Marrow
29 Jan, 2006

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe Review

DS Review | Put her back in, she isn't done.
The recent release of the successful The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe movie has proven to be a goldmine. The movie held top spots on the movie charts for weeks, and likewise for the games with the same title. C. S. Lewis’ fantastic Narnia series is a marvelous, fairytale-like story that children and adults alike can’t help but enjoy, which can’t be said about the Nintendo DS version of Lewis’s most well known story of the series.

Gamers plow through a very loose interpretation of the original story, only highlighting certain key story plots to keep gamers occupied and interested in the story. For those of who are hoping to gain knowledge of the original story from this game won’t have much luck, since a lot of it is told through patches. You begin the game with a small cut scene showing an English town, and then you are quickly transported to a scene of the wardrobe, giving you little understanding as to what happened in-between, and who in fact these children are. The gist of the story is four children discover a magical wardrobe that acts as a portal to the land of Narnia where they discover that it is their destiny to free the land from the crutches of the evil White Witch. The developers, Amaze Entertainment, have worked on similar movie licensed games such as The Lord of the Rings, and surprising enough, Narnia uses a similar gameplay style – a simple hack and slash dungeon crawler.

The gameplay works reasonably well for what it is, but is met with a number of shortcomings that just belittles what could’ve been a much more fulfilling experience. You control one of the four children throughout the game while the remaining characters assist you during combat. The AI of these assisting characters are reasonably well presented, and tend to be a lot more responsive then what was seen in the console version of the game. Each of the four children have their own attributes and unique fighting abilities. Peter and Edmund use swords and rely on their strength and melee abilities, Susan keeps at long range with her bow and arrow, while Lucy has a neat mix of long and short range attacks, as well as healing abilities. These are usually quite helpful for some of the later battles in the game, and tend to work a lot better when playing in multiplayer games. However, aside from Peter and Edmund (although he is only playable in the game for a short period of time) everyone else has their issues. For example, aiming in the game is a lot more difficult than it should be. It is usually hard to quickly turn and to be expected to dish out any significant damaged compared to Peter, who can block and knock down enemies with ease. So, for most of the game, it is probably best to play as Peter.

Multiplayer magic!

The game also includes RPG elements. Throughout the game you’ll come across different shards that act towards buying new equipment such as weapon upgrades, armour and quest items. The only real issue with this is that these equipment upgrades are pretty important if gamers are expected to advance through the game, and considering that the drop rate for these shards are few and far, you’re forced to sit around for an hour just killing endless amounts of enemies to accumulate enough shards to buy the better items – and the ones needed to finish the final boss. The game pans out similar to a Diablo/X-Men Legends sort of game where you’ll run around with other members killing enemies and going to dungeons. The game includes experience points that are accumulated after killing enemies. When acquiring enough points you’ll grow a level and will be able to spend a point into a certain characteristic – strength, defense, hit points etc.

The main objective of the game is to save animals that are held hostage by the White Witch in various dungeons throughout Narnia. When told to go to said dungeon you’re usually given little direction as to where these dungeons are and will often stumble upon them by pure luck or trial and error. It doesn’t help either when the environment is so repetitive and that the combat system is so poor. It is a nuisance with the amount of enemies that are littered throughout the game, and the fact that combat moves slowly, is unbalanced and having your teammates slow you down from progressing to further areas, it only becomes a lot more frustrating than it really should be. It is even more frustrating when coming across the frequent game slowdowns. The dungeons are poorly structured; a lot of the hallways look similar to one another making you wonder whether this is where you were previously or a completely new hallway. And for some odd reason when you enter a certain area, exit it and reenter again it includes breakable pots that weren’t in the room previously, confusing you even more. A lot of what is there can be enjoyable at times, but shortly after you realise that the problems outweigh the positives and you’re playing through a repetitive, broken system.

Considering this is a Nintendo DS title you’d expect that there would be some decent features included also. However, while some are quite helpful, a lot of them become more of a nuisance than they really should be. Take for instance the pipes that Lucy can use to summon creatures or heal your party members. To use them in battle you have to pull out your stylus, press one of the buttons on the touch-screen, and then press the pipe holes in a certain order – all of this is required while combat is still running. It wouldn’t be such an issue if the game paused while you did this, but considering that combat is so quick and so many enemies can fill the screen it isn’t worth it – unless you’re playing with another person. Which brings up the next feature, Wireless multiplayer. The game includes a four-player wireless multiplayer mode where gamers can play levels from the single-player mode. The only restriction is that each of the players requires a game cart to play. To say the least, the exclusive features of the DS aren’t used too effectively. The menus in the game force you to use the touch-screen to navigate through, and everything seems pushed in so the developers can say, “there’s your gimmick”.

The well rendered graphics can't even save this game from being bad.

Graphically the game isn’t too bad. The characters are all fully 3D and are quite nicely detailed – from the different outfits your characters wear to each and every enemy. Animation is a bit choppy at best, and the textures are a bit rough in areas, a common problem for the DS. The landscapes are usually well detailed – from icy cliffs, twisting trees, and native creatures such as birds and squirrels ravaging around the landscape.

A lot of the tunes from the game fit the game exceptionally well, and sound like tunes taken from certain scenes from the movie. However, the sound effects are beyond terrible. The grunts of enemies, the clanks of weapons and the movement of characters is just irritating.

I know it’s to be expected that movie-to-game adaptations aren’t suppose to be spectacular by any means, especially if they’re handheld titles, but having played the console version of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, which had a lot of potential, I was a little disappointed. While the DS version does present some absolutely fantastic gameplay elements to the console and shows what the console can do, the flaws within the game are just outrageous and ruin what could’ve been a much better experience.

One of the few positives to come out of this game though, is that The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe proves that the DS can handle a hack and slash title like Diablo or X-Men Legends quite well if given the correct dedication it deserves. Let us hope we see something of the sorts in the future.
The Score
Chronicles of Narnia presents a few neat ideas that should be used in future games from this genre, but there are far too many issues that out weigh the good. Worth a look if you’re a fan, and most definitely recommended to rent rather than buy. 5
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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  Disney Interactive Studios
  Amaze Entertainment

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