|System: DS, PS3, X360, Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Tantalus Media||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 14, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Robert VerBruggen
Lets make it simple: Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of GaHoole is an awful DS game. The graphics are so terrible that they make the game hard to play, the missions are repetitive, and the combat is mind-numbingly easy.
If youre still with us, we respectfully advise you to reconsider. Check out one of our other reviews instead. (Maybe Professor Layton and the Unwound Future would be a better DS game to buy. Its fun and educational!) But if youre absolutely set on hearing the gory details, here they are.
The game is based on the 3-D animated movie of the same name, which in turn is based on a series of books. You play as Shard, a young member of the Guardians, the elite military squad that protects the land of GaHoole. Shard has to fight the Pure Ones, a group of evil birds who want to kidnap the residents of GaHoole and make them slaves. The story is nothing special, but the colorful cutscenes that present it are one of the games best attributes, along with the majestic-sounding music. (The annoying sound effects are a different matter.)
Basically, there are two types of gameplay here. In one, you navigate obstacle courses, flying around while avoiding giant circular saws, lightning bolts, and falling rocks. During these segments, youre often racing another bird, trying to fly through enough rings to escape a vortex, or looking for items to complete the games various errands.
These parts of the missions should be enjoyable enough because the controls are perfectly intuitive. You fly forward by touching the middle of the screen with the stylus, and turn by moving the stylus around on the screen. You can do a 180-degree turn by tapping any button. This is how controlling an owl on a handheld console should feel.
Unfortunately, though, the graphics make these sections a frustrating mess. The biggest problem is that there are far too many invisible walls. All of a sudden, Shard will just get caught in mid-air; you can clearly see that theres nothing blocking the guys path, but he wont move. This is particularly obnoxious when an invisible wall holds you still while a moving obstacle hits you, sapping precious life, or when you get caught up during a close race. Also, the bare-bones visuals dont always make it clear where you can fly and where you cant. We sometimes flew head-on into objects thinking they were flight paths. Thanks to these problems, the hardest parts of the game arent difficult because theyre well-designed and challenging, but rather because you have to memorize where all the problems are so you can avoid them.
Periodically, you come across enemy birds while flying, and by tapping them you can enter a fight scene, the other gameplay type, which takes place on a two-dimensional plane. The combat is far less frustrating than the flying, but only because its ridiculously easy, even for a kids game. According to the combat tutorial, youre supposed to fly around avoiding enemy birds, occasionally tapping your foes a few times to perform a combo. When you get surrounded, youre supposed to do a spin move by drawing a circle around Shard repeatedly, and when you cant avoid getting hit, youre supposed to block by holding any button. Each blow you land helps to fill a meter, and when its full, you can perform a special move.