|System: X360, Wii, PS2, PC, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Stormfront Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Sierra||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 5, 2008||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 Pete Richards
There seems to be a surge of children's books being adapted to film. The Harry Potter franchise really sparked the craze, with films such as The Chronicles of Narnia and The Golden Compass following it. And along with most movies targeted towards children comes every bit of merchandise under the sun bearing its name. With manufacturers often relying on the brand name to sell their merchandise, the quality of the product is sometimes secondary. This is something we see oh-so-often in licensed video games.
The good news in the case of The Spiderwick Chronicles title is that developer Stormfront Studios has done a good job of releasing a quality video game targeted at children. It has plenty of educational value and is actually pretty challenging - even to a grownup video game journalist-type such as myself.
The game begins with you playing as the young lad Jared in your new home, the former mansion of Arthur Spiderwick. Long ago, Spiderwick discovered a hidden world that exists all around us and recorded his findings in a secret book, which Jared soon discovers. The game features actual cutscenes from the film that explain the story for those who have yet to see it.
Spiderwick's mansion is dark-lit and pretty spooky, with music taken straight from the film to contribute to the atmosphere. As you walk around the antique home, you can interact with dozens of objects marked with an icon. However, you can do nothing more than "look" at the objects at first, as Jared says short comments about their significance. Presumably, you will need to use these items later in the game. With the amount of icons to look at, a lot of time at the start of the game is spent wandering around and trying to figure out what you're supposed to do. The only object you can use from the get-go is a broken broomstick, which you can swing around and use as a weapon by tapping X.
At first, the buttons seem extremely basic. Left Analog controls your character, Right Analog controls the camera, X is your attack button, Square allows you to do a little leaping slide, and hitting Circle interacts with objects. When playing as Jared, Triangle uses the magic of the wood nymphs you have to capture later in the game. While you will need to use combat to fight off trolls and goblins who roam the wooded area outside of the house, complexity of the controls was obviously not Stormfront's focus. What they have done is made a children's game that is as entertaining and time-consuming as it is educational. With many puzzles, mazes, and problem solving elements to The Spiderwick Chronicles, children will need time and brain power to bear this game - especially as they progress and challenges become more difficult.