Review by WishingTikal
"Not sure I've stepped in the right wardrobe"
The Chronicles of Narnia is not a series I'm a big fan of. However, I do absolutely love Lord of the Rings. Narnia, to me, is like LotR for children, and while I know some adults like it, I simply don't. The books were written by C. Lewis, shortly after Tolkien did LotR. Actually, both men were close literary friends, and even Tolkien disliked Lewis' Narnia series, because of the merge of reality into fantasy. But that's enough of that, now that the second movie is out, the game based on it is too, and well, since I hated the movie, it's not a surprise the game isn't really any better, but still just slightly better, which isn't saying much. I will nevertheless be remaining objective, of course.
Prince Caspian, the second game in the series, is very reminiscent of the first Lord of the Rings games (excluding Fellowship of the Rings, which had two versions and has nothing to do with the Two Towers and Return of the King games), as it mainly consists of a lot of hack 'n slash, and a lot of puzzle solving. The two mix together well, and it's a good thing they're both blended, as neither of the two is good enough to stand on its own, due to a lot of issues I'll be covering in a bit.
Just like in the book, there're a lot of characters in the game, and you get to take control of all of them. Yes, that's right. The game focuses on the puzzle solving using two or more characters, which you'll often need to switch between, as they all have their own ability. Sometimes you'll have two characters at a time, other times up to four, depending on the mission or level (you don't get to choose; they are assigned to you). The first few missions have you control mythical beasts, then the children, and at occasions you'll also get to ride giants, horses and gryphons.
Each child has an ability like using the grappling hook, bow, sword, daggers, etc., but some of these abilities are repeated since there are too many characters (for example, Caspian practically does the same thing as Peter, and Susan and Lucy are pretty much the same). In any given level, you'll come across interaction icons, which will prompt you to switch character if needed. For instance, if you need to climb up a cliff, you'll need the character with the grappling hook, or if you need to hit a faraway switch, you'll need someone with a bow. The use of many characters is kinda fun, but honestly, all the children play the same so this is basically useless. Only controlling the beasts is a blast, but this doesn't happen often enough, unfortunately.
The first problem with the game is that the puzzles, while some being fairly challenging, are too simplistic and repetitive. Most of them require you to break crates around to find levers and pulleys, which you need to carry to the right spot in order to turn a wheel to open a gate. This one particular puzzle is repeated at least four times per level, for at least 30 times in the whole game (I haven't counted, but I'm pretty sure this is almost accurate). There are a few other more interesting puzzles, but apart from the character switching, this, and pressing buttons to activate switches, there isn't anything worth mentioning. The only times you'll get stuck is because you don't know where to find the lever or switch you need.
Then the second problem comes from the fighting, which makes up the other half of the game. I think I've actually never played a hack 'n slash with such bad collision detection. With the amount of battling in the game, I'm surprised they didn't do anything about it. Usually, if the fighting in a game is good, a hit to the enemy can be felt. Here, there is no way to tell if you've successfully hit an enemy or not. The enemy flashes red, but you don't "feel" as if you're truly hit it. So in the end, it just feels like you're waggling your sword around, hitting thin air. And it makes no difference that you're controlling a human, a giant, a centaur or a minotaur, the battle system just feels cheap and no fun at all.
The other thing is that I'm not sure if the game is supposed to be aimed at kids or adults. The movie is definitely aimed at children, but the game is rather "dark" compared to the fantasy film. I'm not just pointing at all the fighting (no blood, but still), but rather the game's overall gloomy atmosphere. The graphics look fairly nice, moreso the outside areas than the inside areas, but the style is very bland and drab. Most of the game takes place inside castles and caves, and the world of Narnia feels boring and colorless because of that, not really how kids would picture Narnia to be. Not to mention the puzzles are somewhat difficult to figure out for anyone below a certain age.
If it wasn't of the repetitiveness, I still kind of enjoyed the game. Some parts definitely felt rushed and uninspired, but there were some more thrilling parts like the bear chase, controlling a giant to break everything, or even controlling the horses was sorta fun. However, those parts were too few far and between, and the annoyance of the other missions just really brought the game down from the start. Too much fighting, and too many repeated puzzles involving button mashing and lever pulling. I mean, c'mon, was all this lever pulling and pushing really necessary? Couldn't they think of different puzzles?
Also, if you haven't seen the movie or at least read the book, it's pretty pointless to play this game. There are a number of cutscenes here and there between the missions, some taken straight from the movie, but otherwise, it's very hard to understand what's really going on in the game. You're constantly required to do something to progress, with not enough space to explore at your own leisure, and the flow of the game just goes too fast to really appreciate anything of it. One moment you're doing that, then the next you're somewhere else doing something entirely different. Confusing.
Overall, Prince Caspian is an "okay" game to go along with the movie, or if you liked the hack 'n slash LotR games, but aside from that, it's a mediocre entry in the world of video games. There are only six lengthy levels, and apart from some replay value that involves picking up keys laying around and opening hidden chests, there isn't really much to it after you're unlocked the concept art and bonus missions. There are some cool parts in the game, but the battle system and the puzzles are way too basic and outdated. In the end, the game is more tedious than fun, and I don't see how its dull presentation would even appeal to kids, even less how the shoddy gameplay could hold an adult's attention for more than a hour.
Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 08/04/09
Game Release: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (US, 05/15/08)
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