The Golden Compass Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

The Golden Compass Might Not Be For You, But Your Kids May Love It

Based on the new film, The Golden Compass game is sure to appeal to children who love the movie and now have to own everything with its name attached to it. And while children will probably have fun taking on the role of Lyra in The Golden Compass game, people who aren’t really interested in the film may not care to check out this seemingly rushed game. Publishers Sega probably see this adaptation of The Golden Compass as nothing more than a quick cash-grab. For a product based on a sure-to-be hit film, quality often takes a backseat to marketing, which may be the case in this platform game.

The Golden Compass screenshot

Essentially, the mission you embark upon in The Golden Compass is a journey through an arctic, snowy northern land to rescue a friend kidnapped by a group of bad-guys known as The Gobblers. One of the cool things is you not only play as the film’s starring child Lyra Belacqua, but you also play as her polar bear Iorek and her daemon protector Pan at certain times. Children will enjoy navigating their way around icy platforms and using very basic combat controls during their journey. Parents may enjoy the certain level of puzzle-solving involved in the game, for a level of educational value.

You begin the game as Iorek with Lyra on your back (and her daemon protector Pan on hers). The bear runs as a pretty fast rate, through maneuvering him around is a bit awkward and the click-clack footstep sound effects are extremely cheesy. The controls are simple, with basic attack and block buttons and an “action” move, which is essentially just a jump to leap over gaps in the ice. As I reached the first checkpoint, I had to defeat three attacking wolves. The task was extremely easy, reminding me that this game is definitely intended for children. The combat gameplay features little grace, as you mash buttons and aimlessly direct Iorek around to swing at the oncoming wolves. As you defeat enemies using Iorek, you unlock Rage Claws that fill Iorek’s Rage Gauge. This also comes in handy when having to smash through ice blocks to clear the path. Attacks also become a tad more advanced as you play along, including dash attacks and a ground punch to wipe out a number of small wolves at once. There are also grappling moves to grab a wolf and throw him into its own comrades, but for children who may not be able to grasp the controls, the move isn’t necessary to beat them. The wolves are extremely easy to beat, and when you strike or stun a wolf, it usually lays there for a couple of seconds allowing you to finish off the rest of the pack. Iroek’s massive claws are no match for the tiny wolves.

The Golden Compass screenshot

Iorek’s health comes in the form of a plant known as Bloodmoss, which can be found along your path. Iorek will only use what he needs and is unable to store any, though a patch of Bloodmoss is usually enough to restore you back to near-perfect condition. You can also find clusters of Sky Iron throughout the pathway to equip Iorek with armor. You will find there are more than enough supplies to keep Iorek healthy and fully armored.

The Golden Compass screenshot

As you continue on your journey, the game gets progressively harder. You will soon have to take on the role of Lyra, who you play as for the majority of the game. Lyra has controls similar to Iorek, though she does not have any attack maneuvers. She simply jumps and cracks her whip. At one point, you will use Iorek to launch her up to the mast of a wrecked ship. You then begin playing as Lyra as she walks across the wobbly beams. With her daemon companion Pan on her back, who has taken the form of an ermine, you work together to hop ledges and navigate your way through the platform level.

The Golden Compass screenshot

In his ermine form, Pan has an omniscient power that will help you on your journey. Using his insight ability helps you see any upcoming danger and will help you solve puzzles. When Pan takes the form of a Sloth, he will help you swing through large gaps. As a hawk, he can help you glide across pits and down from high places, and as a wildcat, Pan can help you dash as well as climb steep areas. The ability to use Lyra, Iorek and Pan throughout The Golden Compass is a nice touch and adds depth to the game’s controls without being too difficult for children to grasp.

Lyra gains health similarly to Iorek by picking Courage Orbs to earn Courage Points. Because Lyra doesn’t fight, points are lost if she is hit by a hazard or loses certain challenges. If you lose all of your Courage Points, you will have to restart from your last checkpoint, so you’ll want to make sure you don’t rush and pass any without collecting them.

One of the major reasons The Golden Compass seems rushed is the poor sound effects. At one point in the game, while playing as Iorek, you must defeat a hunter with magical powers who summons attacking wolves and shamans. The sounds of you hitting your enemies, your footsteps, and the hunter’s magical sound effects all clash together and often don’t match up with on-screen activity. There is just too much going on at once. And while mindlessly hitting attack buttons can win battles, younger children who may not be ready for more complex controls will have fun reliving the movie in this game version. The good thing is children most likely aren’t going to analyze every aspect the way we game journalists do.

As a children’s game, The Golden Compass offers hours of fun with controls that aren’t too complex, yet tasks that are challenging. With its 10+ rating, the game does offer some educational value and enough fun to keep kids interested.


  • The official videogame of The Golden Compass movie from New Line Cinema brings to life characters, locations, and scenes sure to captivate movie fans around the world as well as delivering film footage to guide you through the journey.
  • Travel into the frozen north as the rebellious and headstrong heroine Lyra who uses her cunning to evade enemies. Or charge forward as her powerful friend and protector Iorek – a giant armored bear able to overcome any challenge with his brute strength.
  • Immerse yourself in the world of The Golden Compass movie and discover 11 otherworldly vistas, including locations not seen in the theatrical release.
  • Participate in a variety of embedded mini-games to help Lyra gain further information about her expedition and avoid enemy confrontation.
  • The DS version promises unique and different gameplay mechanics as well as versus multiplayer mode.

    Basic graphics meet expectations, but don’t go above and beyond. 3.4 Control
    Basic controls may suit young children, though button-mashing applies. 2.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
    Sound effects often clash and just don’t sound realistic. 3.4

    Play Value
    Will suit children who love the film, but may not interest anyone else.

    3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
    Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

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