|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Shiny Entertainment||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SEGA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Dec. 4, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
Video games based on movie licenses have had a long and rocky history. Movie licensed games have ranged anywhere from the abysmal E.T. (Atari 2600) to the stellar Goldeneye (N64). Unfortunately, more often than not, most tend to end up much closer to the E.T. end of this scale. Sadly, this is exactly where The Golden Compass's licensed game effort fits in. It isn't quite popular or bad enough to cause a video game crash like E.T. did, but it is still terrible enough to make you question its existence.
The game's story revolves around an incredibly intelligent and headstrong girl named Lyra and her faithful protector Iorek. Iorek is easily the best character in the game. He is a massive polar bear that basically feels like a good mix between the Coca-Cola bears and a Klingon. Iorek appears cute and cuddly until someone attempts to harm Lyra in any way, and then you experience his battle loving, scarier side. You will follow both characters throughout the game while they try to unravel the mysteries of the Golden Compass and foil an evil plot to hurt thousands of innocent children.
Since this is a game based on a movie that should do well in the box office, you would think that the storyline would at least make you want to play through this game. Unfortunately, this is not the case. While the storyline is interesting and there are plenty of good quality movie clips used in this game, there are a ton of noticeable plot gaps throughout. For example, in one level you will be fighting against a plethora of angry witches bent on your destruction. A few levels later, some seemingly identical witches (I'm still not sure if they were supposed to be the same ones or not) are helping you fight another foe with absolutely no explanation as to why or how this occurred. This is just one example of this horrible problem, but rest assured, there are more holes in this game's plot than in a large block of Swiss cheese. During the course of the game, there will be quite a few times you will be scratching your head trying to figure out what is happening, or why, in the story.
Thankfully, most players won't even make it far enough into the game to have to worry about these storyline issues. When you first start playing Golden Compass, you will quickly notice that the game looks horrible, plays worse, and has terrible pacing issues. These flaws will hit you very quickly, almost begging you to turn the power off on your game system and just wait to see the movie. While the backgrounds won't hurt your eyes too badly, the characters in this game would look bad even if it had been released on the Dreamcast. The character models look horrific and are also poorly animated for good measure. After seeing this game in action, I honestly think that it was so rushed that they just made a sub par PSP version of this game and ported it over to the PS2 to save time.
For about the first two to three hours of this game, you will actually not be able to play for more than five minutes at a time. This is an unfortunate result of just how convoluted the gameplay in this title is and how the game chooses to teach you how to play. Golden Compass will give you an objective and have you attempt to complete it. As you try to actually complete this objective, the game will pause and describe how to do something. This happens so frequently that it almost feels like you are watching a video based instruction manual for the first few hours. Since this game is clearly aimed at a fairly young player, it is inexcusable for it to be this slowly paced and needlessly complex to play.