Fun with the Unfriendly Goblins
Although I don’t usually play kids games for fun, I enjoy playing and reviewing them once in a while, as they usually offer a more user-friendly gameplay and follow the same plot as the movies they’re based on, which I almost always watch. Nevertheless, not all children’s games are well-made. Many of them are, in fact, horrendous because kids don’t complain as much, and not all parents quite understand if the game is good and entertaining for them or frustrating and pointless. Luckily, The Spiderwick Chronicles falls in the “good and entertaining” category, letting the younger gaming aficionados into a fantastic adventure with a pretty interesting plot. The Spiderwick Chronicles game is not outstanding, but it’s good enough.
The game explains the story many of you already know, if you’ve seen the movie. Three children and their mom move into an old mansion that once belonged to their great aunt Lucinda and her family. Aunt Lucinda’s dad, Arthur Spiderwick, was a writer, a biologist, and a nature observer. Throughout the years, he had dedicated his life to the study of not-so-mythical creatures that inhabited his surroundings. Unlike most of you may think, fairies, trolls, goblins, and even ogres actually exist – in The Spiderwick world, that is. The house is surrounded by all sorts of interesting live-beings, so he decided to document everything by creating a book that contains all the secrets and qualities of each of them. Jared, one of the two twin brothers, ends up finding the book in a secret room inside the house; before they know it, him, Simon, and their sister Mallory will be deeply involved into an unforgettable adventure. The ogre is the master in command, and he wants to get his hands on that book really badly, so he can exploit everyone’s weaknesses and dominate the planet. He turns the goblins against the kids, and they will have no choice but fight those nasty, evil creatures until they’re defeated and once and for all stop trying to steal the dangerous book.
The Spiderwick Chronicles game is quite easy to play and will keep younger audiences entertained, especially if they enjoyed the original plot and want an excuse to revisit the story and feel part of it. It’s basically an action / adventure game with bits of platforming and RPG. You’ll handle all three kids at different times, and you’ll even get to play as the little Thimbletack, which can be best described as a smart mouse-looking creature that lives inside the mansion. The gameplay varies slightly depending on which of the kids you’re playing with; also, when you’re Thimbletack you’ll be able to explore all the nooks ‘n crannies of the house, including its barebones! The adventure has a lot of “go-and-get-this” tasks, but at the end of the day, fighting against the goblins is what makes it exciting. The controls are quite basic: the main actions include attacking, evading, interacting with objects, shooting, and talking to other characters. You can also choose between special powers, place the camera right behind your character, etc. Nothing is extremely complicated; it all makes sense and is easy to remember. The only major complaint I have with the controls is the difficult camera angles we were given sometimes, but luckily they can be fixed by rotating to the right position. Navigating through the menus is also easy and almost self-explanatory. The mysterious book acts as a main menu, and you’ll be able to flip through pages with game options, quest missions, and character descriptions, as well as details about the powers we’ve obtained.
When you play with Jared, you’ll mainly use a baseball bat as a weapon against wicked creatures. Mallory will brandish her sword (fencing is her passion), and Simon will use more engineered weapons like the spraying gun he made to fight them with a concoction of salt, tomato, oatmeal, soda, etc. Of course, he learned about it by reading the book. The characters will receive weapon upgrades as you advance through the story, and by collecting the little sprites that float around you’ll obtain temporary powers that can be used to enhance your attacks; this made the gameplay more dynamic and interesting instead of plain and repetitive. In addition to those weapons, you’ll get to use a slingshot, gobstones (they act like grenades), and a couple other things, like the broomstick you start with. The goblin creatures you defeat will leave goblin teeth behind, which you ought to pick up in order to obtain weapon and attack upgrades.
Keeping a log of the adventure within the book menu and explaining each task within each quest makes everything that much easier and enjoyable. Instead of trying to figure out what to do next all the time, you can just check out the updated quest log and then do what you have to do. Even with this advantage, I found myself running around the house and the yard a few times, looking for things I couldn’t find. I have to admit it made me a little sick, due to the multiple camera angle changes and the leaves that float all over the loading screens. Did I say the camera wasn’t quite right?
Despite all that, the game design is pretty nice and acceptable. It’s not a big-budget game so the graphics are not ultra realistic and detailed, but there’s a good level of realism in the main characters, the environments, the enemies, and especially the mansion, which looks like in the movie, although less dusty and cluttered. There aren’t a whole lot of glitches graphics-wise, which is nice. Also, they included a few cutscenes from the movie itself, which help you understand the events even better. However, this can be seen as a shortcut for the developers, so they wouldn’t have to create too many animated cutscenes within the game. Most of the actual movie cutscenes lack the sounds and dialogue and don’t quite make sense altogether, unless you’ve watched the movie first.
The game’s soundtrack, although similar to the one in the film, was composed specifically for the game; it works well with the story and brings the fantasy to life. The sound effects are fine as well. What I didn’t like was the voice acting, which seemed like another way to keep the budget low. The characters in the game talk just like the ones in the movie. However, they just recorded a few sound clips and threw them here and there; you’ll hear them when you interact with objects and sometimes when talking to a character. The rest of the dialogue is just displayed on the screen with subtitles. Most of the time, the voice-over sounded somewhat abrupt and unnatural; the spoken dialogue should have had more rhythm and consistency.
In conclusion, The Spiderwick Chronicles is a more than decent game that will generally appeal to the younger ones. If you haven’t watched the movie, you might feel a bit lost sometimes trying to follow the story. On the other hand, the quest log is very helpful and helps players stay focused on the game’s multiple goals. The game is not spectacular but looks and plays well enough to keep the players entertained, and it doesn’t entail much frustration, unlike other games of the family action / adventure genre.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.6 Graphics
Pretty good graphics for a kids game, although nothing ultra realistic or detailed. 3.8 Control
It’s a user-friendly game that most kids should be able to play without a problem, despite the camera troubles you may encounter. 3.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Background music from the movie works well with the game. The voice-over clips are too short and abrupt, so the acting doesn’t feel natural. 3.8 Play Value
Younger players who enjoyed the movie should be entertained with the video game. It’s not too difficult and it follows almost the same plot as the movie, with some more added fighting. 3.6 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.