Spiderwick Chronicles Xbox 360 Review

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That Harry Potter has a lot to answer for. Not only has he caused major annoyance to a hell of a lot of people, but he’s made children’s fantasy fiction popular again. And now J.K. Rowling has (allegedly) shut the book on Master Potter there’s no shortage of also rans stepping up to take his place. Of course books get made in to films, then films somehow become games and that leaves us here, with the latest lacklustre game that does its best to let you relive the film of a book you‘ve never heard of.

For those of you with no idea what the book/movie/game is all about you’re going to be disappointed if you’re expecting anything to do with spiders. The name comes from a character, one Doctor Spiderwick who discovers an unseen world of fairies and ogres that exist all around us. After discovering this world, and no doubt having lots of undocumented adventures with its denizens, he locks his discovery away in the form of a book. Then along come his family, years later, and discover his book, and all the hidden dangers of the unseen world, which I take is the plot of the books/movie/game. Throughout the game you play the parts of the families children, Jared, the main character, an adventurous young boy, and Simon, Jared’s twin brother. Although looking alike they are very different, and are joined by their old sister Mallory, who happens to be a dab hand with a fencing foil. You’re not restricted to playing as the game’s human components though, the unseen world does offer up a few friendly faces to go with all the evil ogres. You can also play as one of the friendlier faces of the unseen world, Thimbletack, but you’ll have to keep him sweet with a little honey if you want his help.

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So, you get to play as four different characters in the game, each with their own abilities, but it’s not like you can choose which character you use as each of the games missions have to be undertaken by a certain character. It would have been nice if you got to choose which character you use, but I suppose it does have to follow the plot of the film, and it does take the guesswork out of which characters abilities are best suited for each mission. To be honest though, there’s not a great deal of difference between the characters’ abilities, the human ones anyway. They can all catch and use fairies, all have ranged and melee attacks, the only real difference between them are their weapons. As mentioned before, Mallory likes her swordplay so starts with a fencing foil, Simon carries a homemade splatter gun filled with goblin poison, and Jared carries a baseball bat. Despite the differences in weaponry though they all play pretty much the same though, the only character that adds any real variety is Thimbletack, who you have to play as from time to time. Rather than running around the woods fighting goblins, as you do when you play as the others, you’ll find yourself negotiating the spaces between the walls, searching for objects to help the children. There’s still dangers to avoid but no goblins or ogres here, just cockroaches, which you can take out by throwing nails at them. This section plays a bit like a really stripped down platformer, as opposed to  the simplified RPG style of the main game.

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The whole simplified nature of the game is quite contradictory though. It’s true that the game is very easy to pick up and play, as it is obviously aimed at a younger audience, but at points it can get very unclear about what you’re meant to do. You can of course get clues from the field guide that appears when you pause the game, but these can be incredibly vague, telling you what you need to do, but not how to do it, which can be very frustrating. That’s not the only thing you’ll find frustrating as the fairies that play a big part of the game can be a right pain to catch. The actual physical act of getting one in your net is easy enough, wave the net around long enough near a fairy and you’ll get one, then be given the task of painting it before it is added to your inventory. This wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t for the time limit you’re given to do it, it doesn’t help that the action doesn’t pause while you’re doing it either, allowing goblins and ogres to attack you while you’re busy with your paintbrush. The control system doesn’t feel quite right, it seems quite well laid out, but you’ll find yourself pressing the wrong button from time to time. Thankfully the game’s difficulty lies in it’s obscure puzzles rather than tense action, so that’s not too much of a problem. It’s not the longest game in the world either, easily completed in less than ten hours, even with the frustrating puzzles, they have tried to add some longevity with a multiplayer mode, but these are really just crappy mini games that have been tacked on for the hell of it.

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You get pretty much what you’d expect here, an extremely average game which has obviously been rushed out to coincide with the source of it’s licence. That’s fine if you enjoyed the film and want to relive it at home and it helps that the cut scenes lifted directly from the film. But if you’re more discerning about your games and don’t give a crap about the film then you really should be looking elsewhere.

5/10

by

Version tested: Xbox 360

Developer: Stormfront Studios

Publisher: Sierra Entertainment

Genre: Adventure