|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: The Adventure Company||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Dreamcatcher||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 20, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
Inkheart has no heart. Inkheart has no soul. It's a barren shell of a game; the absolute epitome of a bad movie tie-in video game. It's disjointed, oversimplified, filled with inane conversations and boring dialogue, and production values that scream "budget title." Moreover, as cheap as this game is, it's not inexpensive. You can expect to pay full price for it, and you'll get far less satisfaction out of it than you would seeing the movie, as the game doesn't last much longer than the average feature film anyway.
There is no doubt this game is aimed at a younger audience, but even at that it really misses the mark. There is no demographic this game would appeal to. It just seems so hastily created. It shows some promise at the beginning, but it just falls into a routine that's repeated for the duration of the game. A handful of mini-games are thrown in to mix things up a bit, but they don't have any actual relevance to the main gameplay or the storyline. And, speaking of storyline, revealing the plot seems to be avoided at all costs. Nothing is sufficiently explained. You're kept in the dark, except for the few missions or puzzles that you have to solve to get to the next stage. Even at the end of the game, you never do get the big picture.
Cornelia Funke is the author of the novel that the movie and this video game are based on. Inkheart is a story about a young girl, Meggie, whose father has the magical ability to make storybooks come to life. Not to be confused with Bedtime Stories with Adam Sandler, although it's eerily similar, but that's for the courts to decide. Rendered likenesses of Brendan Frasier and the other stars of the movie appear in the game, and although the images are faithful to the subjects, they are limited to a few portraits. These portraits show the same basic expressions throughout the game. The only time they are accurate is when the story is in a lighthearted scene. There are elements of surprise and fear in this game, but you'd never know it from the happy-go-lucky portraits. However, the in-game character models look nothing like the stars in the movie. Due to the poor animation, the closest stars that these models resemble are zombies from Dawn of the Dead - the original version.
It's nice to see a point-and-click adventure game on the DS. They are finding a home here, and that's largely due to the touch-style control system - more specifically the stylus, as it more closely facilities the point-and-click characteristics of the mouse. What is not nice to see are cheap and cheesy adventure games taking advantage of young gamers and movie-goers. Adventure games, when done poorly, are very inexpensive to produce, since there's not a lot of animation, action, and control commands. Virtually all commands involved picking at the screen with a stylus. As with all adventure games, (don't automatically associate adventure with action) you are intended to explore one area, pick up/interact with interesting items, solve the puzzle, and move on. The stylus is used to move the character around, select items, use the items, or combine them with other objects, and also to make selections on the interface menu. I can't fault the control system, as it works well, mechanically speaking, but there are other variables that conspire to ruin what little fun this game possesses.
Items in any given stage are limited to anywhere from two to five. There are no more than two rooms in any level, and the most exploring that you'll do is backtracking to the first room to pick up something that you might have missed, which brings me to the second issue I have. The in-game graphics are so washed out that it's difficult to see items, as they become obscured into the background. I hope this isn't the developer's idea of exploring. Fortunately, all you have to do is press the A button and everything that can be interacted with will be highlighted with a star over it. But be warned, if there's any fun left in this game, it's taken away with a press of the A.