Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Disney Interactive The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
The pain of mediocrity
- Unique battle system, plenty of characters to recruit
- Repetitive and bland graphics, bad storytelling
A missed opportunity.
Price$ 59.95 (AUD)
Prince Caspian for the Nintendo DS is a painful game to play. Not necessarily because it's terrible or because it pulls out your fingernails, but because during the whole journey you can't help but keep mental count of the game's missed opportunities for something above mediocrity.
Prince Caspian's story follows a split plot, much like the movie. The game begins with Prince Caspian fleeing the castle of his evil uncle, Miraz the Usurper. During his flight, he meets with old Narnians who have been forced into hiding by the Telmarine race. Caspian uses the magical Horn of Queen Susan to call the four Pevensie children back into Narnia to help save the country from its invaders. However, the meet-up isn't a clean one: The children find themselves in a remote part of Narnia with no clue how they got there. They must meet up with the Prince and push onwards to fight Miraz.
While the Pevensies look for Caspian, Caspian builds and leads a secret army of old Narnians. Both parties are forced to tame bad guys often. Battles are fought by tracing actions on the touch screen according to the character's weapon; the player must trace over steel "lines" precisely before Caspian can swing his sword, Susan fires her bow according to how accurately the player can shoot a target on the touch screen, and Lucy casts spells by repeating a light-up pattern, a la the game Simon. There is some depth beyond the usual menu-based battle system, as players can stop enemy charges and counter-attack when they recognise certain cues.
Treachery, intrigue, boredom
What's most disappointing about Prince Caspian is that it has the potential to be a memorable (if somewhat light) role-playing game with its unique battle system, but the game's presentation screams of a rush job. C.S. Lewis' classic novel is one of the most beloved children's stories of all time, but the game feeds it to the player through boring walls of ill-timed text instead of cut scenes. There's no attempt to get the players interested in Caspian's plight or the state of Narnia; it's distressingly obvious that the game is meant to be an impulse buy for movie-goers who are still riding their popcorn high.
It's a shame, because playing as Narnia's old heroes is admittedly awesome. RPGs have featured an impressive variety of heroes over the years, but few are as lovably spastic as Reepicheep the warrior mouse.
A dull, grey Narnia
Though the righteous warriors of Narnia are varied, those they battle against are not. There's little variation to speak of among the enemies, and you'll fight the same waves of Telmarine soldiers, ogres, werewolves and minotaurs over and over. The monotony is made worse by the fact the enemies re-spawn after the player leaves the screen.
There are no random battles, but avoiding enemy encounters can be difficult because of Narnia's uneven terrain. Rocks, logs and puddles will impede progress whenever possible. This wouldn't be a bad thing, except the dull greens-and-browns of the forests and mountains are hard to see and navigate on the small touch screen. There is a map on the upper screen, but it's useless for indicating what's blocking the player. The character models and animations look good, but the aforementioned repetitive enemies make for unexciting viewing.
Narnia is a cherished children's property that deserves a fully fleshed-out game, not a hasty cash-in. It's sad to see Prince Caspian's potential go to waste.
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