|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Shiny Entertainment||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Sega||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Dec. 4, 2007||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|
Through mini-games, platforming, puzzling, and fighting, The Golden Compass packs plenty of variety in its play. The problem, however, is that none of the gameplay is particularly interesting or fun. Iorek's battles are extremely simple and not very exciting, and despite the diverse offering of other mini-game challenges, none are very good. When Lyra "fights," it's by way of the player following prompts to make her simply dodge her foes, and even when she gets a bit more aggressive it's for a boring game, like spitting pits off a rooftop onto clueless passerby.
The title's worst offender of creatively-deficient gaming is the conversation "deception" games. In order to get out of tight spots when talking to suspicious adults, you need to perform mindless tasks to successfully complete the conversations. These include symbol matching, catching dropping balls, pushing balls into holes billiards style, and other such inane challenges that'd make even the Wii's or DS's worst mini-game compilation offerings seem hugely entertaining. They're just not much fun and, unfortunately, they form a lot of The Golden Compass' gameplay. Another of the game's many mini tasks has you deciphering questions with the titular tool by matching symbols with their potential text meanings; a symbol of a tree on the compass, for example, may represent the word "shelter" in one of the title's many riddles. The compass questions are a bit more challenging and fun, but don't nearly make up for the shortcomings of the other mini-games.
Despite its uninspired gameplay, the simple tasks and challenges may appeal to a younger audience, especially those that've seen the film. But if you're part of the "+" demographic in The Golden Compass' "E10+" rating, then you'll likely be bored soon after Iorek's opening wolf-whuppin' battle sequence. To the game's credit, it does represent the movie pretty well through it's visual presentation, cinematic score, and likenesses and voice work provided by many of the film's stars. The movie clips are also a nice touch. The film's and book's youngest fans may be entertained by this one for several hours, but most Xbox 360 owners will only see The Golden Compass as a chance to score and easy 700 or so Achievement Points--a "Golden" opportunity for greedy game-point-hungering gamers.
CCC Freelance Writer