Review by Martin G

"These unfortunate events are 'shallow', a word which here means 'not at all as interesting as the books, or the movie for that matter'"

The series of books called A series of unfortunate events, which at the moment of writing is awaiting its last episode, is a wonderful masterpiece both for the kids who enjoy the countless misadventures of three very, very unlucky orphans, and for the adults who undertake the enormous task of keeping track of the many and intricate mysteries that span from one book to another. Unfortunately, and what an appropriate word this is, the computer game is only aimed at the former audience, that of children. Clever and educated children, of course, but it leaves the challenge-seeking population out.

It needs to be said that five minutes of gameplay are enough to notice that the makers of this game have both read and enjoyed the books: there are numerous references to V.F.D. secrets that never made it to the movie or are referenced in Lemony Snicket's Unauthorised Autobiography. Hypnotism, tickets for the Prospero, a horseradish factory… But it's all superficial. They are references and nods to the books, not an actual feature in themselves. There is no mention of Beatrice, and V.F.D. only appears by name, for example. At this point of the reasoning one comes to think: the developers had to work with what they had, they couldn't get new information from Daniel Handler. Well, why not? This is the ‘official' Unfortunate Events game, there is no excuse for it not to have a more “canon” feel to it.

That being said, this product is quite satisfactory as a stand-alone game. It mixes a not very demanding action/adventure setting with a few puzzles scattered around. It's broken down in several missions that are more or less similar in structure. The orphans have an objective, and in order to achieve it they need to acquire several hidden objects. These can be instruments that will form one of Violet's inventions or ingredients for pasta puttanesca, but they will always be hidden and protected by several layers of corridors, fake walls and puzzles. Thus, the actual core of the game is exploring every inch of several extensive sceneries like Count Olaf's and Uncle Monty's mansions.

Said sceneries are, albeit a bit repetitive, generally pleasant to stare at. The design follows largely that of the movie, and all the characters have been modelled after the actors who played them in it. The only change is that, maybe to please that aforementioned younger audience, all the visual are more colourful than they were in the movie. If there is one book series that demands dark, depressing and grim aesthetics, that's Unfortunate Events, so this new look feels like a sheepish concession of the videogame conversion.

Such a concession are the boss fights, in which the orphans will have to throw rotten eggs at Olaf's henchmen and then actually hit them and knock them out. For children who have spent eleven books outsmarting all the evil in the world and proving, time after time, that wit and cunning are better than brute force, this sure is a violent turn. Apparently, videogames aren't satisfying unless you get to brutalise virtual characters.

In the sound department, the most remarkable aspect is the flawless voice acting, carried out by the actors from the movie. See, that is an example how you take advantage of being an official game: getting the proper actors! Curiously, one missing is Jude Law, who narrated the movie as Lemony Snicket and has been now replaced by Tim Curry. I say it's curious because Curry happens to be much more interesting to listen to and actually sounds a lot more like you'd imagine Snicket to sound than Law did. Unlocking the several ‘new words' and ‘reviews of Olaf's plays' is worth the effort not because of their actual content, but because it gives you another chance to listen to Curry's perfect speech rhythm and modulated tone.

Lastly, I need to point out that the game was pretty unstable in my computer. This was an important problem because the game is autosave-only, that is, you can't manually save the game yourself. The game saves only when it wants to, so if it crashes you will have to go through thing again. Furthermore, the game doesn't allow saving in multiple files, so if your only file is corrupted, you will have to start from the very beginning. That happened to me twice and I am sorry to say it's not the nicest of experiences, but you know how computers are –it all might work properly in your system.

In general, the videogame version of Unfortunate Events will be entertaining and fun for the youngest fans of the series, or those who never bothered to look much into it. If you have a theory about who the famous Beatrice is or you pay attention every time a bell chimes and start looking for the Sebald code, this game will be shallow and overly simple and the impeccable narration might really be the only reason to kep playing.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 02/10/06

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