When I first found out I would be tasked with reviewing the second Narnia game my first reaction was “hey at least I can drain a healthy amount of Achievement points while suffering through yet another mediocre licensed title”. Then something happened, the title screen came up and I quickly realized the game was developed by none other than LEGO masterminds Traveller’s Tales. What I ended up getting was a solid little hack and slash with the same charm I have come to expect from the developer with a few shortcomings that end up equaling a good time, especially for fans of the Narnia franchise.
Much like their other beloved series Narnia is a straight hack and slash at its core. You assume the role of up to twenty different characters from the movie from the quintessential Prince Caspian himself to the surprisingly agile and combat efficient talking mouse Reepicheep. While diversity is nice, outside of a few special moves most of the characters feel insufficiently similar. There are characters that can use grappling hooks, ones that can climb through small openings and others that can wield a bow. Each level is tailored to specific traits and by the end you will have spent ample time with all of the combatants.
The combat itself is about as basic as you can get. There are two attack buttons and one interaction button. You can also use the shoulder buttons for blocking and precision-aiming your bow, but for the most part once you learn the unwavering set of combos you are set. This is one of the biggest problems throughout the game, combat simply does not evolve. While the button mashing is great at first, you can’t help but feel the repetition setting in by the time the end credits role. A minimal upgrade system or perhaps less characters and more moves would have helped, but as it stands the game is mindless for better or worse.
If you have seen the movie then expect very few surprises throughout your 6-8 hour journey. The game follows the events of the motion picture very closely outside of a few special areas used to bridge the two games (and movies) together. There are six levels each with four or more sub-levels to explore and for a game of this type the adventure is surprisingly adequate. If you are an Achievement junkie the game does hand them out generously throughout the course of the game (on my first run through I nabbed over 600 points) but if you are a completist and want the full 1000 points it will take well over ten hours unless you decide to use a guide the first time through to find all the hidden treasure.
In addition to the simplistic combat there are some breaks in the action to solve some even more simplistic puzzles. Sure they can seem inventive, such as the draw bridge missions with Reepicheep, but most of them involve finding a particular switch/lever and attaching it to the proper place; rinse and repeat. While most of the levels contain familiar elements there are some that break the monotony. These are usually the ones that require specific character abilities to solve the puzzles. One thing that I guarantee you will despise by the end of the game though is the bell soldiers. These missions are simply annoying and the cause of most of my continues.
Much like its other creations, Prince Caspian does include a multi-player mode, most likely geared towards parents playing with their kids. This mode is only available locally, with absolutely no online to speak of. This forces players to share the same screen and constantly be aware of each other as enemies are likely to attack from off-screen. The downside to this is that the game feels like it was designed to take advantage of one player as opposed to two, thus creating scenarios where player two has absolutely nothing to do. While it is nice during some of the later boss battles, the co-op mode feels more tacked on than anything else.
On the presentation plateau the game runs the gamut from pretty good to downright embarrassing, especially on the PS3 iteration. While the game has its moments most of the levels feel ripped right out of last generation technology. While this works with Traveller’s Tales previous efforts (namely LEGO) here it just comes across as sloppy. The camera can also be a bear as it is entirely fixed and not always at the best angle for the action. Character animations are alright for the most part, but recycled enemies and horrible bouts of slowdown on the PS3 version make this game feel more dated than it actually is. The music is a nice selection of orchestral tunes and ambient overtones, but the cheesy dialogue and weird sound glitches the game continues to feel like it belongs on a last generation console.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is one of the few licensed games that I am not ashamed to recommend, especially to fans of the series. It is obvious this game was aimed at a younger demographic, and I have even joked that without the Narnia name this game could have easily obtained cult status with the hardcores. As it is Caspian is a solid purchase for parents looking to give kids a chance to interact with the Narnia universe in an enjoyable atmosphere. The game looks decent, plays surprisingly well and is entertaining enough to even engage casual fans of the series, myself included.