The Tale of Despereaux Review
The Tale of Despereaux box art
System: DS, PS2, Wii, PC Review Rating Legend
Dev: Fizz Factor 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Atari / Brash Entertainment 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Dec. 2, 2008 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
It’s Great to Have This Mouse in Your House
by Cole Smith

The Tale of Despereaux has a few things working against it, but fortunately it’s able to overcome the odds. First of all, it’s aimed at a younger audience, and the first impression for most gamers is that it’s just too darn cutesy to be any good. It’s also based on a movie, which is typically the curse of death for many video games. The Tale of Despereaux is not only based on an animated movie but also a book.

The Tale of Despereaux screenshot

The developers have obviously been inspired to associate this game more closely with the book. The presentation includes storybook panels, but there are also a number of cutscenes which proves the developers didn’t take the easy way out. Overall, The Tale of Despereaux has the hallmarks of a Disney production with good quality visuals, audio, and gameplay variety. The game is relatively short and there isn’t much replay value, but there is lots of diversity and challenge that will satisfy gamers of all ages, while not completely frustrating younger and more inexperienced gamers.

Despereaux, the protagonist of the story, is a feisty little rodent filled with an adventurous spirit, wild imagination, and a desire to do good. His passion is reading, and with the aid of a magical storybook, he’s able to take part in a series of high-spirited adventures by entering stories in the enchanted book. After making friends with a princess, she is kidnapped by a gang of evil rats led by an even more vile varmint that you will eventually do battle against. The game will take you to a variety of locations in and around the castles including the kitchen, library, dungeon, sewer, courtyard, and garden. Yours is a miniature world in which normal, everyday items take on different characteristics from your new perspective. Some items make great weapons and tools such as needle and thread, while other are huge and foreboding, ultimately becoming a threat. These environmental objects help make this 2D world appear more interactive.

The Tale of Despereaux screenshot

Combing elements of platforming, action/adventure, combat, and puzzle solving, The Tale of Despereaux is interesting in its diversity and challenges. This is a 2D side-scroller at the core, but the environment is rendered in glorious 3D, which creates an illusion of freedom and spaciousness. The move list is impressive. It’s similar in scope to Prince of Persia but considerably lighter. Despereaux has the standard run and jump moves, but you can add to the list: wall crawling, wall jumping, grappling, sword fighting, ledge grabbing, rappelling, and pushing and pulling items. You can learn how to use all of these moves in-game, as you will come across question marks that will act as a mini-tutorial, instructing you on how to employ each individual move. In this way, you will be able to work them into your routine much more effectively than if you had to learn from a manual.

Despereaux is not what you would call an easy game, although there are some very easy stages. The game is forgiving in that you have an endless supply of lives. If you get killed, you only have to start over from the last save point. At the outset of the game, you will have only your wits and few avoidance moves. Enemies such as the evil rats will be lying in wait to swarm you if you make a wrong move. The environment can close in on you, literally and figuratively. When it a tight situation, you will have to move objects around in such a way to get yourself to the next stage. You will also encounter dark sections where it’s imperative to light your way with torches and candles. These lights will keep enemies at bay while lighting your way through sections loaded with traps and obstacles.

The Tale of Despereaux screenshot

Screenshots / Images
The Tale of Despereaux screenshot - click to enlarge The Tale of Despereaux screenshot - click to enlarge The Tale of Despereaux screenshot - click to enlarge The Tale of Despereaux screenshot - click to enlarge

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