The Sorcerers Apprentice: The Video Game Review for Nintendo DS

Despite Early Promise, This One Fizzles

If you’re like me, you didn’t actually see The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Normally I wouldn’t admit to such a thing up front, but one look at the box office numbers and you’d know I was lying if I tried to claim otherwise. Let’s just say it was a disappointment. Like most of you, I saw Inception instead. But instead of debating the ending of that movie, we’re here to discuss whether or not the Nintendo DS version of Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is worth your time, which may be a tough sell to an audience largely apathetic to the movie on which the game is based.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: The Video Game screenshot

If I know one thing, it is that the only redeeming hope for a critically panned movie and its handheld counterpart are heavy doses of one Nicolas Cage. When your film’s star has you shaking your head with bemusement simply due to his existence, you know he’s something special. The same should hold true for the game. Step number one would seem to be an extra helping of Nicolas Cage in handheld format. Unfortunately, the developers at Disney didn’t see fit to draw Balthazar Blake, Cage’s character, to resemble the actor in more than the slightest of ways. Strike one.

Snarkiness aside, the game does show promise from the outset. The graphics are colorful and crisp, with a variety of magical spells at your disposal. Each spell is tied to a different color, and when you are attacked by enemies of the same color as your selected spell, you are effectively immune from harm. Mana is used in your attacks for most spells and is charged by filling up at placed mana shrines (or whatever they are supposed to be) throughout the level. As you progress through a level, Balthazar dispenses tips and advice while occasionally progressing the story via pop-up text.

During the first hour or two of playing the game, I was quite shocked that I was enjoying myself and impressed by the fun simplicity of the gameplay that managed to also have some tactical depth to it. Games based upon movies are notoriously bad, and for a stinker like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, I had very little hope it would be anything better than terrible. It was quite fun to select my spells, run around in a clean top-down view, and beat up floating trash bags, sewer pipes, and oil slicks with my magic. That is, until the repetitiveness of it all hit me like a swarm of bees to the eyes. The enemies got repetitive fast. Those trash bags floating around quickly turned into a nuisance. Basically, the grunts of the game are just elusive enough that they don’t die as quickly as they should to give a sense of progression. It seemed like I was getting stuck in group battle after group battle, with each and every one looking like the last.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: The Video Game screenshot

Even though the shorter battles are Gone In 60 Seconds, it feels much longer due to the sheer number of them and how they run together. Between the magical firefights are the occasional sublevels in the magical realm where you can level up your spell power. But yet again, to do so involves more of the same cookie cutter magical melees as before. Allow me to demonstrate how this works:

Turquoise attack. Button mash. Haphazardly dodge. Destroy Enemy. Purple attack with purple attack immunity. No dodging. Destroy Enemies. Fill up Mana with the A button. Switch to Yellow Attack. Yawn. Kill more things. Wonder when this wave will end so I can move to the next screen and get stuck in another battle just like this only so I can finish it to move the screen.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: The Video Game screenshot

This might be a rather cynical view, but hear me out before tearing my Face Off. There is barely a semblance of a plot to hook you in. Through a few cut scenes and dicey dialogue with characters that don’t resemble their movie counterparts, we learn the basic premise. Dave, who we control in the game, is a physics student and has stumbled into being an apprentice to Balthazar, one of Merlin’s apprentices from back in the day. Dave accidently releases Balthazar’s nemesis into the world, who is trying to free other evil sorcerers as well. Then, before you know it, you are controlling Dave on the street, who can now shoot out turquoise-colored magical bolts from his hands to destroy the animated everyday objects out to kill him. This is your emotional investment to the game.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: The Video Game screenshot

Somehow, Disney Interactive managed to roll Snake Eyes with a game that has a surprising amount of unrealized promise. The magical system is a varied, with a wheel on the lower touch screen allowing for quick access to your preferred method of destruction. Super attacks can be called upon once you’ve collected enough of what I like to call, “spiny, shiny, glowy plate-looking things,” and then are released by completing some of the simplest mini-games I’ve ever seen. The boss battles are actually fun, though that could be because of the welcome change they present from the otherwise unbearably repetitive gameplay beforehand.

Because of its unrealized potential, all we are left with is another forgettable video game based on a summer movie. If you’d like a no-thinking, but fun, action game based on a movie, check out Iron Man 2 for the DS instead. It manages to do things right in all the areas where The Sorcerer’s Apprentice went wrong. With both the movie and game being so blasé, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice seems poised to fade quickly from public consciousness, which isn’t such a bad thing, really. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to start brainstorming how Inception: The Game would work on the DS…

The brightly colored visuals are appealing. Unfortunately, the character art doesn’t reflect actors in the film. 3.7 Control
Aiming diagonal can be tricky, but otherwise the controls are completely acceptable. 3.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Nothing special, nothing terrible. 2.5

Play Value
After a promising start, the gameplay gets old quickly.

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

Game Features:

  • Includes competitive play with Pass the DS challenge modes for up to four players.
  • 30 achievements to unlock.
  • Features DGamer, Disney Interactive Studios’ innovative technology that provides a fun, connected game community for Disney video game fans.

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