Keep This One
in the Other World
Unless you have sworn off television, you have probably seen an ad or two for the new movie, Coraline. This movie is based on a book of the same name by popular Sci-Fi/Fantasy author Neil Gaiman. The movie is structured like a modern-day fairytale and carries the familiar “be careful what you wish for” motif. The game of the same name follows the movie and does a good job of retelling the movie’s storyline. But as a game, Coraline for the DS falls flat.
The biggest issue with this game is how it is structured. As you would expect, you play as Coraline and go through different events from the movie. You start off just wandering around your house, and after talking to various people, you will be able to move on to the next plot point. You will then play a little mini-game or two, and then you will have to go back to talking to various characters in order to advance the story.
There are two big problems with this format. First of all, in a game intended for kids, having a lot of text is not a good idea, especially considering the young mind generally has a brief attention span. And, when almost 50% of the gameplay involves characters telling you to go talk to other characters, the whole experience gets old fast. The second problem here is that much of the actual story is lost. As someone who has read the original novella, the game puts together the story in a very haphazard way, which might be difficult for those who have not seen the movie or read the book to understand.
But, when the game shifts away from the incessant talking, there is some actual gameplay to be had with this title. Most times, this will involve playing some sort of mini-game. Early on, you will have to do a bug squashing mini-game, which is actually quite satisfying. However, some of the other, more collection-focused mini-games (like finding a key, special boxes, etc.) become very repetitive over time.
Coraline also suffers from being a very short title, clocking in at about five hours. Granted, you might give or take a few minutes depending on the player, but since the game sticks very rigidly to the format outlined above, there is no real way to extend the gameplay time. Although, this is probably a good thing considering the poor quality of the gameplay overall.
In addition to the regular gameplay, there is also a collection room where you can replay unlocked mini-games and view screenshots from the movie. This area is actually one of the more enjoyable aspects of the game, as it allows you to play some of the more entertaining mini-games without having to go through miles of text to get there.
The controls in Coraline are very reminiscent of the Nancy Drew PC games and have a point-and-click style. You can run around by dragging your stylus and can enter different rooms by clicking on different arrows. Most of the mini-games also have a point-and-click interface, where you have to tap on various objects to interact with them. The control interface here is very familiar, which is good for those who aren’t comfortable with more complex games. However, the control does not really add anything to the experience, and clicking through areas and mini-games will wear on you eventually
The visuals in this game are fairly good for a handheld title, with decent character models and divergent color palettes that help to distinguish the real world from the Other world. However, the game really only inhabits a singular setting (Coraline’s house) and is very bland. There is very little detail, and even though the house changes depending on what side of the little door you are on, that just isn’t enough to make this title interesting to look at.
Sound in Coraline is also very underwhelming. Both the regular world and the Other world have their own thirty-second theme song that loops endlessly while you are playing. These themes are very basic and can get quite annoying fairly quickly. Mini-games have their own level music, but these only provide an all-too-brief reprieve from the droll level music.
Coraline is a great story in novella form, and the movie, based on the book, is getting excellent reviews so far. But, I just can’t say the same for the game based on this work. Running around, talking to different characters, and finding items for five hours just isn’t very fun, and this game does a poor job of representing its eccentric source material. Although you may have enjoyed Coraline in some other form, just stay away from the Nintendo DS video game. Unless you can make it to the Other world. Then this game might be a whole lot better.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.0 Graphics
Visuals capture the different themes of each side of Coraline’s world, but visuals suffer overall from too much simplicity. 3.1 Control
Point-and-click-based controls work very well both for wandering around and in mini-games, but they don’t really make for fun gameplay. 2.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music is very sparse and is incredibly repetitive. Voiceovers are incredibly sparse and only consist of the occasional “oh” or “hmmm” from characters. 2.9
The game relies far too heavily on talking to characters to hold young gamers’ attention for any substantial length of time. However, some of the mini-games can be fun.
2.4 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.