Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Review

posted 12/14/2005 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: Xbox

Even though you can switch between the four characters, you're never in control of more than one child at a time.  This means as one person takes the lead the rest will hang out behind you, occasionally doing something useful like helping you fight.  But maybe that's giving them too much credit; I found that for much of the game the characters you're not playing as just stand back watching you fight.  There are plenty of things they could be doing, from using their arrows to take out enemies in the distance or maybe going as far as to heal you, but in order to perform these tasks you'll have to switch characters and do the moves manually.  On the bright side the children you are not playing against generally don't take any damage, so you'll only need to worry about your health during those tense battles.

This journey through Narnia features fifteen different levels which may sound impressive until you actually see how short they are.  Some levels are no more than a few minutes long, and most are nothing more than a few different "rooms" where you do battle and solve puzzles.  Ultimately this isn't a huge problem, but considering that more than half of the game is all set in the middle of a snow covered forest it may see like you're just playing the same level over and over.  To make matters worse, most of the game isn't very hard; it's the type of adventure that always tells you where to go and will essentially solve the puzzles for you.  In the final few levels the developers ramp up the difficulty (by throwing dozens of enemies at you), it's nice to have a challenge, but it left me wondering why more time wasn't spend on balancing it out.

To the game's credit, each of the levels open and close with full motion video segments that are pulled straight from the recently-released theatrical film.  These aren't long segments (generally only lasting a minute or two), but they do a good job of filling in the story and motives for each level.  My only complaint about these video segments is the way they transition from the FMV to the polygonal characters.  The video itself looks so good that when it shifts to the in-game graphics it can be a little jarring, especially when you see how plain some of the actors end up looking.

The graphics in Narnia are good, but nothing you haven't seen before.  You're fighting the same type of fantasy villains you've seen in countless other adventure games, none of them straying too far from the traditional look.  The backgrounds are good, but with so many snow levels it's hard not to wonder if they are just repeating backgrounds.  The animation is equally unspectacular; it's all pretty basic stuff you've seen in every other game of its type.  That doesn't mean it's bad, it's just not the highlight of this experience.

Perhaps the biggest problem with Narnia's presentation is the use of fixed camera angles.  Early on this camera system may make sense, especially if you don't know where to go and what to do … but as you start meeting up with enemies with long-range attacks you'll find yourself constantly being bombarded by objects coming from off-screen.  Although they are few and far between, the off-screen enemies are a real problem and make a few moments a lot more frustrating than they need to be.

Thankfully the audio in Narnia is a lot more impressive than the visuals.  The score sounds like it comes straight from the movie and fits the scenes nicely.  The voice acting is also quite good, both in the FMV sequences and the in-game stuff as well.  Unfortunately, the sound effects are pretty underwhelming, especially since they tend to recycle the same sound effect time after time.  Thankfully you'll be too busy fighting through hordes of enemies to concentrate on the game's sound effects.

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