You probably won’t know this, but Rise of the Guardians is based on a popular set of children books by William Joyce. The game itself focuses on the movie, so it’s another one of those dreaded tie-in titles, which don’t exactly get the best of reviews. I think my best score went to Megamind, which was some way back now. How does this fair then?
The plot revolves around defeating an evil spirit called Pitch Black, also known as the Bogeyman to children. He’s launched an attack on Earth, sending his worst nightmares to attack the innocent children. You control a team of heroes, who were sent to protect the innocent children from the evil that lurks on the planet. The guardians include: Sandman, North (Santa Claus), Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and Jack Frost.
The game itself is a third person action title, which places the camera nicely over your head, so you can see everything on the level below, including collectables and caged children. There’s nothing more annoying than a confusing camera angle that pans all over the place, so it was nice to see that Torus Games got this right with a nice smooth and steady camera to follow your guardians.
It also features RPG elements such as levelling and upgradable skills, which you can unlock by defeating nightmares and playing through the story in general. By the time you’ve faced Pitch for the first time, you will have ranked up a couple of times and believe me, this game isn’t that long at all. The story will probably only take a couple of hours to complete and that’s if you can put up with the tedious gameplay.
The level design is familiar to most dungeon crawlers, as that’s really what it is at its core. You can think of it as an attempt at Gauntlet, but with less success. When you’re traversing the wintery streets, you’ll find multiple paths to take, all of which require exploration if you want to completely finish the game. I suppose that’s where the replay value comes in, although we all know children get bored very easily, which is something Rise of the Guardians will suffer from due to it’s rather dull storyline and repetitive objectives such as freeing trapped children or clearing an area of nightmares.
The setting of each level offers plenty of variety to keep your eyes on the screen, rather than drifting away and going to watch the film at the cinema in your free time. There are snow-covered streets, lush meadows and eerie mansions to appeal to your eyes. It’s just a shame that Torus Games had so little to work with, in terms of the script for the film. I guess when you’ve got DreamWorks’ permission to make their movie into a game, you’ve got to stick tightly to the game’s script and characters.
The characters play out perfectly for a children’s game though, and they’re sure to have them laughing in no time through their dialogue used. The designs transcend straight from the film, so if you’ve seen the film, you’ll be familiar with the plot and characters used, which is always nice when you play movie tie-in games. They also have a range of different attacks, which are mapped to A, B, X and Y. It’s a lot easier for games aimed at a younger audience to cut out the controls and once again, Rise of the Guardians has achieved that. North uses close ranged attacks, whilst Sandman has a whip to latch onto enemies. Then you’ve got Tooth Fairy’s magic wand and the Easter Bunny’s boomerang, since he’s Australian. I like the last touch personally, because it’s nice to know DreamWorks haven’t taken a serious approach to a Christmas themed film. After all, everybody wants to have a laugh at Christmas.
What really brings this game into light though is its local co-op. If you’ve got three friends round, you can play the story together, which is something children will love. Some of my best childhood gaming memories came from playing with my friends, whether it was on GTA: San Andreas or playing online with others on Perfect Dark Zero. Multiplayer and co-op have opened an extra dimension for game developers to use and come up with new ideas. Unfortunately, this co-op is only available to local players, so there’s no online via Xbox Live, despite the box saying so. Unless I’ve missed something, I can’t seem to find the option anywhere, not that many people would be playing anyway.
Rise of the Guardians is a good Christmas film for the children to watch, but it’s not going to be regarded as one of the classics in years to come. Although, it’s probably worth missing the game out completely, if I’m honest. If you really enjoyed the film and characters, then I see no reason not to buy the game. I just feel the movie’s plot has been done before and therefore it’s a little lifeless for a Christmas movie. I feel Torus Games had a bit more to offer, but they were obviously restricted with what they had to work with from DreamWorks.