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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Score: 83%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Buena Vista
Developer: Traveller's Tales
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Action/ RPG

Graphics & Sound:
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the latest literary classic turned movie turned game. While many an English professor is probably shivering at this development, they’ll be happy to know that, like the movie, the game is a faithful representation of C.S. Lewis’ masterpiece.

The Chronicles of Narnia follows the same formula found in EA’s Lord of the Rings games, by intertwining clips from the movie with in-game graphics. Each section of the game is introduced by a short clip of the film that, once the action rises, transitions into in-game graphics. Overall the transition is smooth, though the jump is just a tad jarring in some sections, bringing you into the action just a little too suddenly rather than the smooth transitioning seen in the Lord of the Rings games.

Once in-game, the world of Narnia really comes to life. Everything in the game fits perfectly with the movie and shows off an impressive array of special effects – especially lighting and reflections. If the visual presentation has any faults, it is that areas sometimes feel a little too confined, which takes away from the fun of exploring Narnia.

Sound is every bit as good as the visuals. I can’t say for sure if all of the movie’s soundtrack is included, but what is in the game is great and always fits with the action. The movie’s four main stars provide addition dialogue during in-game story sequences, aiding in the smooth transition between movie and game.

The Chronicles of Narnia follows the movie, which follows the book rather well. The story follows the four Pevensie siblings – Peter, Susan, Edmond and Lucy – who, while exploring a country manor they have been evacuated to after the German Blitz of London, discover a wardrobe that acts as a portal to the land of Narnia. The four soon discover that the world has been trapped in an eternal winter by the Ice Queen, Jadis, and that their discovery of Narnia was no accident…

Gameplay takes form as an Action RPG that is similar to something like Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles or the third Harry Potter game, Prisoner of Azkaban. In order to progress through each level, players must use each of the kid’s special talents. As the older brother, Peter is the “muscle” of the group and acts as your primary attacker. Susan is your long-range fighter, while Lucy is your party’s healer. Poor Ed is the least-useful of the group, and usually only comes into play when Peter isn’t around and you need a melee fighter, or you need someone who can climb, neither of which happen very often.

The overall action is very good and becomes quite addictive once you get into the swing of things. While you’ll encounter a lot of hack n’ slash gameplay, puzzles are a major component as well. Puzzles are of more of the action variety and usually require you to manipulate the environment in some way. Nearly every puzzle requires that you use the kid’s abilities in conjunction with one another. For example, in order to pass a log that is on fire and blocking your way, you’ll first have to have Susan throw snowballs at it to douse the flames. Sometimes you’ll even have to use her arrows to take out the source of the fire, usually an archer with fire arrows. After extinguishing the flames, you’ll then have to switch to Peter and have him destroy the log. A few areas even have you thinking about weight, as you have to use Lucy (the smallest of the four) to navigate frozen lakes to find a safe path for her siblings.

Some puzzles require the use of team-ups, where the kids will join together for a special move, such as my personal favorite move that had Peter picking up Lucy and tossing her headfirst into large blocks of ice. Like their unique abilities, all of these moves are very useful. Well, all except for poor Ed, who just seems like he’s along for the ride most of the time. But, if you ever need something climbed (or something for Peter to swing around in combat), Ed is always there.

A two-player “drop-in” mechanic is also included, so people can pick up the controller and join in the fun anytime. And, if they need to leave for some reason, they can exit out and let the A.I. resume control.

Difficulty is one area where The Chronicles of Narnia falters and almost falls flat. Things start out well enough with a few very good training levels that teach you the basics of how to use abilities to overcome obstacles. However, the slow learning curve only lasts until the first boss battle, at which point to spikes to a difficulty level that never seems to drop. Tasks become overly complicated and, while I’m sure a few older players will want to try out the game after seeing the movie, a majority of gamers are going to be kids who I could see becoming easily frustrated with later areas. There’s simply too much going on at times, adding frantic frustration that isn’t needed.

Chief among these difficult spots are boss battles that never seem to end. Instead of working down one health gauge, you instead work them down a quarter of the way each time – at which point the boss gets a small army of allies and you have to complete a simple puzzle before attacking again. So, even if you’re able to knock a boss down to half energy in the first few attacks, it will get a burst of scripted energy and make your job much harder.

Game Mechanics:
As the four children progress through Narnia, they’ll acquire tokens and other collectible objects. Tokens are the most useful of the collectibles and can be found nearly anywhere. Sometimes you’ll see them laying out in the open while others require that you either use a special ability to get to or bash the hell out of some object in the environment. Tokens are used to buy upgrades for the children, which increase their personal stats (usually health), make abilities stronger or unlock new abilities altogether.

In order to purchase upgrades, you first need to unlock them. This is handled either through meeting certain in-game milestones (like killing so many trolls or wolves) or through level progression.

Other items include bonus shields and statues, both of which I could never seem to find all there were. In the long run, it doesn’t seem to matter much as I was able to play through the entire game and unlock most of the interesting unlockables without them. Looking back, it is good that those items are more for bonus since some are a little too hard to find. On top of that, a good many of them are hidden in areas where you’re having to deal with the game’s ridiculous amount of “stuff” coming at you. Others are scattered along trails in a few of the game’s on-rails areas that are difficult to control.

The Chronicles of Narnia isn’t the best game to come out this year, but it still manages to be a fun adventure – especially if you’re a fan of the book or movie. It contends with some rough patches, not the least of which is the harder than you’d expect for this type of game difficulty, but the action is still addictive enough that you’ll somehow find the strength to will your way through that difficult area, “…just one last time.”

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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