Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

What we liked:
+ Fantastic visuals
+ Solid voice acting
+ Competent combat
What we didn't like:
- Way too short
- Not much incentive to go back to it
Good
DEVELOPER: Krome Studios   |   PUBLISHER: Warner Bros. Interactive   |   RELEASE: 09/14/2010

A licensed game worth a hoot.

It is amazing that I don’t go into movie tie-in games with a sense of irritation anymore. The current flux of solid titles has actually caused me to be more optimistic when throwing in a licensed game and Warner Bros. latest definitely continues that trend. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole is the latest from Krome Studios and it manages to avoid the clich√© adventure game tied to most of its kind. This is mostly thanks to the content at hand. Legend of the Guardians is a straight up action flight game that uses simple mechanics and gorgeous visuals to deliver a fun, if not diminutive experience.

If you are familiar with the lore behind the game you are totally ahead of the game. This iteration does not follow the books or the movie, but instead creates a brand new character and back story exclusive to the game. You play as Shard, the son of an outcast that is trying to prove himself worthy of being made guardian. The problem with the story is that it assumes too much of the gamer. It constantly makes reference to things in the books and movie that unless you know about them, will come across confusing. Still it is hard to not appreciate the presentation behind all of the mess though.

The cut scenes are well directed and the art that displays during the narration really draws you into the world. The voice acting is also top-tier featuring some really amazing performances. While the idea behind some of the lore sounds ridiculous on paper, the actors do an amazing job of selling the world. I found myself surprisingly interested in the world of Ga’Hoole. The idea that owls, eagles and bats are all battling in a kingdom may not be outlandish to some, but I credit the actors and team for making it interesting from beginning to end.

Legend of the Guardians as I mentioned is a straight-up flying action game. Every level has you either fighting aerial enemies, collecting and saving owlets or taking down turrets. The actual flight itself is really well executed and the sense of speed when careening through canyons is absolutely fantastic. There are also a host of boss battles that mostly boil down to determination on your part outside of one really unique encounter. The only problem I had with the campaign is the length. Clocking in at just under four hours is really not enough game for the price tag. You can opt to go back and explore levels, collect shinies and of course upgrade your character, but none of it really draws you back in. There are four races of owl to play as, but the story remains the same regardless of which one you choose.

The combat is simple but extremely satisfying. You can lock onto enemies and attack with the face buttons. As you progress through the game you unlock new abilities that seem to pop-up at just the right time. My personal favorite was tackling an enemy and then hurling them towards the ground and watching as they hit the pavement. You can also call on your wingman to assist you in combat, but I found myself ignoring this most of the time because the aerial combat is so intense at times you lose track of things.

As satisfying as the combat is it can get monotonous after a while. The diversity wears thing after the second world, and the mission structure really doesn’t change up the pace beyond that. Still at only 3-4 hours of game time it is manageable, but that is just stacking one problem on top of another one. You do earn armor upgrades and can purchase them with in-game currency, but they never give you a sense of upgrade. That is mostly due to the fact that you never feel vulnerable to begin with. I never found myself worrying about dying, which made some missions an exercise in tedium.

As I said the game really doesn’t have a whole lot of things to keep you occupied for long. The bonus missions and multiple characters add little incentive to go through the game again. Of course Achievement and Trophy hunters should be able to obtain all of them outside of having to play through as each character, but even then that is less than twenty hours of grinding. I guarantee you will be done with the game long before you grab that platinum.

Visually the game is remarkable in so many areas. The sense of speed when blasting through canyons is incredible, and the texture work is impressive for a licensed title. Frame rates are steady and the animations, especially the one where you are tangled in a brawl as you fall to the ground, are impressive. As I mentioned earlier the voice work is phenomenal on so many levels. Even if the story doesn’t help fill in the gaps for those of us who don’t know the lore; it is told so well you can’t help but pay attention.

Legend of the Guardians is a very solid game that is hindered by its short play time and lack of reason to come back for more. Fans of the books and movies should definitely check it out, but be warned the length before laying down full price. Still I would be lying if I said I didn’t immediately have a good time as soon as I booted up the game. The combat is solid, the visuals are fantastic and the overall level of polish really helps this game stand out from the pack.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Ken McKown

Ken is the Editor-in-Chief of this hole in the wall and he loves to troll for the fun of it. He also enjoys long walks through Arkham Asylum and the cool air of Shadow Moses Island. His turn-ons include Mortal Kombat, Metal Gear Solid and StarCraft.