|System: Wii, PS2, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Papaya Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: D3 Publisher||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 27, 2009||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|
Movie-based games tend to be bad, but we've seen quite a few lately that were able to keep players interested and even entertained. While the gaming industry continues to grow and games (even movie-based ones) continue to improve, some titles are still best left behind. When a game is made with low-quality standards but it's being sold for 30 dollars, I have to make sure I do my job and let you know why it may be a waste of your time and money.
Coraline is a unique and interesting, yet strange, tale written by Neil Gaiman. It's a dark, kids' novel about a girl who just moved into a new house with her parents and is bored out of her mind. Her parents often neglect her due to their busy jobs as writers, and she can't help it but be curious about everything that surrounds her. This leads her to meet her wacky neighbors. The one upstairs, Mr. Bobinski, is an eccentric circus acrobat who trains mice for circus performances. The neighbors downstairs, Miss Forcible and Miss Spink, are retired actresses with a strange affinity for Highland Terriers. As if these people weren't odd enough, Coraline ends up finding a secret gate to "the other side" in her very own home! There, she'll meet her "other mom," her "other dad," and also alternate versions of her own neighbors and her friend Wybie. These new versions of the people she's familiar with are very friendly and extremely fun, though they all seem to have something in common that Coraline doesn't quite understand. Their eyes they're just button eyes, sewn with thread and a sharp needle!
The rest you'll figure out by yourself if you read the book, watch the movie, or play the game. Unfortunately, I assure you the latter option is the least fulfilling of the three; this game hasn't been made with much love (or so it seems). I have played several movie-based games in the past few months and I found this one to be the most boring of them all. The game starts on the right foot with the cool opening cinematic also seen in the movie, but, as soon as you start, you'll notice the visuals are not as appealing as they are in the film and, as you delve deeper into it, you'll see the story is not quite as revealing. In fact, you'll be a little lost if you didn't watch it first or read the novel.
Even though the game is based on a gorgeous animated movie, the fluid animations and characters' moves haven't been translated properly for the video game. The game looks similar to the movie, but Coraline is slow as can be, and performing any kind of task with her feels like a real chore, whether it's moving newspapers out of the way, climbing on top of a box, or pushing stuff around. Subtle details that were so amazing in the film also leave a lot to be desired in the game. I noticed the ugly reflection of the dad's face on his computer screen, and that was one of the first clues about the overall quality of the video game. In the movie, the reflection looked crystal-clear, and it mimicked the dad's moves. In the game, it looks static and very artificial.
The gameplay will take you right back to the 90s, due to its limited controls and overly simplistic "scavenger hunt-style" missions. You can only do one thing consistently: moving Coraline around - for the rest of actions like jumping, opening doors, etc. you'll have to wait for on-screen prompts to hit a certain button, which is quite annoying. Gameplay consists of finding things in the house and completing puzzles. There are also a few mini-game challenges here and there, which are based on matching pieces, following the rhythm, and such. This sounds okay for a kids' game in theory; the problem is most of the tasks are not fun at all, and the level of difficulty is so varied that players will lose interest in no time. Sometimes it almost feels like a Dora the Explorer kind of game, while other times it will challenge players with ridiculous timed mini-games that will drive anyone crazy.
What's more - this game is rated E10+, probably due to its eerie theme, so it's not appropriate for the younger ones, who might be the only ones interested in the title. Those who are 10 and up will most likely feel boredom, frustration, and indifference before they find any kind of entertainment in it. So, who's the actual target audience for the game? We can't really tell. The unbalanced gameplay is definitely one of the biggest problems with it - developer Papaya Studios doesn't seem to have thought this one through.