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Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

Written by Jennifer Lam on 1/12/2005 for PS2  

It’s tough to find family-oriented games that your kids will want to play. Each week it seems like games are becoming more and more violent and less and less kid-friendly. That’s just a common misconception though, there are actually some really great children’s games out there but they don’t get the publicity and due notice that they deserve. One such game is Activision’s Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, an adventure game based on the Jim Carrey vehicle that launched late last year. And while it’s not as wholesome as some of Activision’s earlier releases, it’s still a lot of fun for the whole family.

Lemony Snicket is actually the pen name that author Daniel Handler uses for this line of books. Aimed at children, the series is much darker than one might expect from that genre of books. They tell the tale of the three Baudelaire children who were orphaned after their parents were killed in a tragic accident. Shortly thereafter, the children are adopted by a supposed family member who they’ve never heard of named Count Olaf. It turns out that Count Olaf has an ulterior motive and is only offering to adopt the children so that he can bamboozle them out of their inheritance. As his relationship is based upon greed rather than love, he proceeds to make their lives a living hell by tormenting them for the rest of their dying days.

It’s a much darker type of story but it’s one that’s suitable for younger audiences of all ages. That’s because the developers take great care to translate the author’s intricate method of storytelling. Just because the story is dark it doesn’t have to be violent or inappropriate, the developers did a great job of translating this into the video game. The game contains elements that could have been portrayed violently, but the manner in which the game handles them makes them appropriate for younger audiences. Better yet, the game is fun and doesn’t really succumb to the pitfalls generally found in children’s games.

From the opening moments of the game it’s apparent that the designers were in love with the project. As the story unfurls the player is treated to a set of sketches that are progressively drawn in as the narrator talks. It’s a really unique style that’s similar to what you might find in the time lapse sequences on the Discovery Channel. Pay close attention and you’ll recognize the voices of Jim Carrey, Tim Curry (of Clue fame) and the actual actors who portray the Baudelaire kids in the upcoming major motion picture. As you might imagine, the voice acting is superb and is equitable to what you would come to expect from a Hollywood production. You don’t need to kill zombies or run over hookers to have fun and ASOUE proves this. From time-to-time players will be called upon to dispatch pesky rodents and the like but it’s often done so in a non-violent way. In an early sequence Count Olaf asks the children to clear his mansion of rodents. To do this the player will need to gather the proper objects for Violet’s punching machine device and then banish the rodents. Throughout the course of the game you will have to utilize all three characters in order to survive. Each of them has a practical purpose whether it’d be Violet’s amazingly ability to build crazy contraptions out of junk or Klaus’s physical prowess, all of the characters have their own roles in the adventure. As the game progresses you’ll have the opportunity to use a bevy of contraptions in order to complete the tasks. The designers should be applauded for finding non-violent alternatives to situations that would otherwise call for violent solutions.

A common misconception about kid’s games is that they’re rushed to the market and are generally of poor quality. That had been true up until recently when Activision and THQ had started to rededicate themselves to this particular market. Following in the footsteps of Shrek 2 and Shark Tale, ASOUE is the next game in a line of well designed children’s games. It might be marketed towards kids but there’s not one part of the game that doesn’t feel at place in a high budget title. Everything looks superb, handles well and just feels entirely solid and complete.

There’s not much depth here and any experienced gamer can probably finish the game within six hours. That’s not to say that the game isn’t great though; it’s one of the best children-oriented titles to arrive in years. If you’re a responsible parent who is looking to foster their child’s growth by supplementing it with sound logical reasoning as opposed to meaningless violence, you really need to own a copy of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Aside from the title, the only unfortunate facet of this release is the fact that some people may disregard it as just another kid's game. Give it a chance and you'll come away pleasantly surprised.

Rating: 8 Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

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