Taking Flight…Over and Over Again
Although the movie based on the Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole book series features plenty of gorgeous visuals (complete with slow-motion owl fights) a common complaint of the movie has been the lack of an interesting plot. If you are looking for an experience to supplement the movie’s lack of intricate story, you may be tempted to pick up the game based on the movie. However, like the movie, the game never really lives up to its potential.
As you might expect, the main gameplay mechanic involves flying around as one of the titular owls of Ga’Hoole. A rival owl faction, known as The Pure Ones, has been attacking your owl clan, and you’ll play as Shard, who is a small guardian-in-training. Shard is a character exclusive to the game, and his story is not one that is presented in the film. However, it seems not much time was taken with this story, as it never develops into anything truly supplemental to the movie experience. Sure, you get a decent back-story to this auxiliary character, but elements of the movie are not shown in any new light due to the perception of this new character, which is a real missed opportunity. If the game would have taken a bit more license with Shard’s character and revealed a few extra tidbits of information about the movie’s bigger plot points through him, this game could have been really interesting, but unfortunately it falls into the “play the movie” trap that so many licensed games find themselves in.
Still, despite the lackluster story, if you are looking for some high-flying owl action, this game has it in spades. Unfortunately, the action gets old fast. When you first start up the flying tutorial, the rush you get from flying as an owl in a vast fantasy land in undeniable, and I’ll be the first to admit that I found the initial experience really cool. You learn to glide, dive, and use your wings to gain or regulate your speed. My first perception of the game was that of a kid-friendly flight simulator, which is actually quite a cool idea. Also introduced early is the combat mechanic, which requires precision button presses and the use of environmental elements for success. Both of these mechanics had solid premises, and I was excited to see how they might develop over the course of the game.
Unfortunately, there was no development. The beginning of the game feels exactly like the end, and once you play through the game’s 3-4 hour story mode, it’s hard not to feel a little slighted. Sure, as you play you can collect in-game currency and unlock new armor and equipment for your owl, but because the AI ramps up at a steady pace, each level feels like it is about the same in terms of difficulty after you make the upgrades that unlock with each successive level. Another issue is that each level is formatted almost exactly the same as well. You start off flying, an enemy is introduced that you have to battle with a few short button presses, and occasionally there is a collection element introduced as well. While I wouldn’t expect too much variety in a game that revolves around warrior owls, I would have liked to have seen a little something to break up the monotony (a mini-game or two, perhaps?) As it is, the similar structure and non-development of the mechanics make this game a terrible bore, and I can’t imagine even the youngest of kids interested in this title not feeling a little jaded by the overwhelming sameness that permeates each and every level. While I understand simplicity is a good thing in a game intended for the younger sect, this game takes this concept to an unfortunate extreme.
Another issue that adds to the overall monotony of the game is the level design. Each level is presented as a near-straight line, and though there may be some twists and turns in the road, exploration is never really a factor and you never get to experience any type of freedom in the game. This certainly hurts the game’s immersion level, especially since the world of the movie is so fantastical and presented with such depth. The one-note world of the game is a stark contrast in this respect, and feels extremely flat.
The game is far too short, and suffers from a lot of repetition, but if there is one bright spot, it is that the game’s technical specs are solid. The game’s overall look mirrors the visual styling of the movie quite nicely, and the world of Ga’Hoole is presented with a fair amount of detail. The only complaint one might find with the visuals is that because of the linear nature of the levels themselves, there isn’t much to explore. The world presented in the movie is so full and rich, that it is a little disappointing to only have flat backdrops in the game. But aside from this small complaint, the game looks good overall. Sound in the game is also very solid, and the voicework is certainly feature-film quality. While the score isn’t as impressive as the voicework, the background music is mostly unobtrusive and doesn’t distract from the gameplay.
If you, or someone you know is a fan of the Owls of Ga’Hoole, this game might seem like an easy purchase, as it lets you relieve some of the great moments of the movie/books and take flight with fantastical warrior owls. However, those who are thinking about this game should know that for its $50 price tag, you are only getting 3-4 hours of gameplay (even if the gamer in question is younger) and much of the experience is quite repetitive. While Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole may be the only owl-flying game to come out on your favorite console, that doesn’t make it a very good game. Even though it gets the basics right, the lack of development and play value torpedo this title into the rental-sphere pretty quickly.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.6 Graphics
The World of Ga’Hoole looks pretty enough, but there isn’t much depth to the visuals. 3.4 Control
Standard flight controls work well, but single-button fighting mechanics are boring. 3.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Background music is unobtrusive, and voiceover sounds great. 2.1 Play Value
The game is very short, and with nothing much beyond the game’s story mode, most players will be done with this title in only a few short hours. 3.0 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.