I always had trouble reading the Chronicles of Narnia — it might have been something about C.S. Lewis — but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the first two movies, both released by Disney. The obligatory video game tag-along for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian has arrived, and for the most part, it’s standard movie-turned-video-game fare; it’s repetitive, boring, and generally, just not worth buying.
Prince Caspian essentially takes the role of a beat-em-up adventure game, and it’s pretty bare-bones. There are a variety of different characters you can control from the Narnia world, from centaurs to dwarves to minotaurs and plenty of others. However, this isn’t that great of a mechanic, simply because all the characters are oh-so-similar. The A and B buttons take care of attacks, and attacks don’t vary that greatly from character to character. Some, like the dwarf, admittedly suck at fighting, but it’s balanced out by the fact that others, like the centaur, can mow foes down with laughable ease.
Additionally, there’s a bit of motion control, but it really doesn’t help the game all that much. Instead of hitting the A button, you can opt to shake the Remote around to attack. Also, when you grab a lever or a treasure chest you go through this little charade of having to struggle with it to get it to move/open — this is done with quick taps of the B button, but again waggling the Wii remote can also work. Honestly, this motion control is pretty lackluster and boring, and you likely won’t use it. That said, it seldom “gets in the way”, although sometimes you’ll see your character randomly execute an attack because you accidentally moved the Wii remote a little too quickly for the game’s liking.
Prince Caspian actually takes place between the events of the movies The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian, and it sets the scene for the latter movie. Plot-wise, however, there’s really no character development, so the story is going to be fairly unimpressive to all but the biggest enthusiasts of this series. There are some short clips from the movie (necessary in every movie game, I’m sure), but aside from that, the extent of this game’s storytelling is just setting up the next objective.
Where Prince Caspian really fails to impress, though, is its gameplay. The game is divided up into three main areas, each with tons of objectives to fulfill. For example, in the first area, you’ll trigger missions by exploring the castle and opening up new areas. Additionally, some missions will be unlocked after a certain amount of time has passed.
Once you’ve got these objectives, the real meat of the game is its combat. And sadly, it’s a really underdeveloped, boring combat system. I’ve already talked about the simple, disappointing controls. In addition there’s the fact that combat just isn’t designed all that well, and as a result it feels clunky and awkward. Maneuvering your character works fine, but the lack of a targeting system actually presents a problem. Especially when you’ve got a slow character, you’re left to just mash the A button and hope you hit whomever it is you’re trying to kill. It’s a really hit-or-miss system in a very literal sense, and it’s just not a lot of fun.
The camera does very little to help these problems; part of what’s so annoying is the camera is completely unpredictable. In some instances, it’s a nonissue; it’ll follow you around nicely and presents a good view of the battlefield. But at other times, the camera won’t move at all as your character moves. The result is that rather than looking at your character’s back, you’re looking at him head-on as he moves. This presents some obvious problems, as you’ll often find yourself running into enemies that were previously impossible to see.
Another of the gameplay’s problems worth noting is the objective system was poorly handled by the development team. Early on in the game, you’re given a mission where you leave the castle and enter the battle going on outside. The objective? To “destroy the war machines”. But no matter what you try and do to destroy these catapults, you’ll get nothing done until you check the objective screen and see that the game says to do this by “meeting up with the giant”. Such an implementation is really quite annoying; having to constantly check the objective screen to find out what you’re really supposed to do breaks the game up, and wandering around aimlessly trying to figure it out for yourself is really frustrating.
Because the game essentially gives away answers to missions, like in the situation mentioned above, Prince Caspian lacks any sort of difficulty. There are no real puzzles to speak of throughout the game, and those that exist are pathetically obvious. For example, you may have to pick up an item and move it to another place. And yeah, that’s about as fun and mind-bending as it sounds. Combat is as simple as pressing the A and B buttons in random combination, and enemies, while they don’t die easily, are really stupid and pretty much just stand around waiting for you to hurt them.
Visually, Prince Caspian is a mixed bag. On the one hand, you’ve got some nicely-done cutscenes and some pretty neat-looking battlefields (although it’s worth noting, the game does experience some occasional slowdown when there’s a lot going on at once). But on the other hand, when you get up-close to some of the cutscenes, you realize just how bad they actually are. Sure they look nice at first, but the animation can be pretty horrendous. The opening scene is a great example. It looks pretty epic from up above, but as you zoom down, you’ll see soldiers running around in programmed circles, or minotaurs randomly jumping up and down. Some shortcuts were taken with these animated scenes, and the dev team didn’t do a very good job of covering it up.
The saving grace of this game may very well be the co-operative multiplayer. Even a boring game can be fun when you’re playing alongside a friend, and such is the case with Prince Caspian. A second player can freely drop-in or drop-out as you play through the missions, and given the team-based setting of the game (there are always at least two characters “working” on a mission), this makes a lot of sense. It ultimately doesn’t manage to yank this game up from the mediocrity of movie games into which it eventually descends, but it does potentially make this game worth playing — for a little while, that is.
So, while the co-op play is fun, Prince Caspian really isn’t anything all that special. It’s a boring, repetitive, poorly-done movie cash-in. Not much was expected from it, and when you look at it that way then this game lived up to expectations. Perhaps if you’re a big fan of the movie, this game is worth a rental — other than that, you’re really best-served letting Prince Caspian and his cohort of Narnians finish this fight on their own.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.2 Graphics
Some bad animations are present, but the in-game graphics do tend to look good for the most part. 2.4 Control
If button-mashing is your thing, you’ll be at home with Prince Caspian. The Wii Remote control is similarly boring. 3.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
There’s very little voice acting, but the game’s music is pretty good. Some sound effects might raise eyebrows. 2.5
There’s plenty of game here. If you’ve got the patience, work through it all. Co-op multiplayer is quite fun for a while, though.
2.6 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.