Review: Rise of the Guardians

RiseOfTheGuardians

Rise of the Guardians was a surprisingly good animated movie.  The idea that holiday icons such as Santa, the Easter Bunny, Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy are in danger of losing their appeal with kids, allowing the world to be blanketed in fear by Pitch (aka the Boogeyman), makes for a pretty cool spin on the mythical tales of childhood.  My two youngest kids enjoyed the movie, and so I was a little surprised that they showed such indifference to playing the tie-in video game when it arrived.

Making a game that ties in with a movie is always a dicey proposition.  Often a game feels rushed or a game mechanic doesn’t quite fit with the overall story.  In the case of Rise of the Guardians, the mechanics employed fit, but the game just doesn’t offer enough unique experiences to keep the game fresh.  As with the movie, the game pits the Guardians against the shadowy minions of Pitch.  Each Guardian’s base of operation has been overrun by the shadow minions and it is up to the player to wipe out the forces of evil and restore children’s belief in their beloved holiday heroes.

This sounds good in writing, but in practice, the effort is dull and repetitive.  Each realm has simple objectives to meet, such as to free trapped friends, clear the way of shadow minions, collect objects that relate to that Guardian’s “center” (or as the movie explains but the game does not, the reason why a Guardian was chosen), defend believers from waves of enemies, and clear portals which allow travel to each realm.  Each realm has the same exact objective and each objective must be met at least five times per realm.  That is a lot of repetition. Each realm comes to life in a different art style, but there is not enough challenge and variety to maintain a player’s interest.

Guardians level up by defeating the minions and unlock unique attacks, but there is such a lack of variety in how enemies spawn in to attack that these special powers don’t provide any necessity other than to reduce repetitive stress disorder from only pounding away at the cross button (or A button on 360).  Gems are another bonus attack buff that can be unlocked and utilized.  Sadly the game doesn’t push players to the point of failure nearly enough, to where strategically planning special attacks or choosing which gems to employ could potentially add a level of excitement to the game.

Another odd thing about the game is the fact that there are five guardians and five realms to clear, yet the final encounter with Pitch is introduced upon finishing the third realm.  Once I defeated Pitch I was basically done with the game.  Sure there was the notion that I still had to clear out two more realms, but the only reason I was even remotely enticed to do so was the fact that I could earn a Platinum trophy. Honestly, this is the first platinum trophy where I had a slight tinge of remorse in earning.

I get why the game isn’t overly difficult.  It’s aimed at kids.  But the thing is, even my kids (who loved the movie) got bored with the game after we played through the first realm.  One thing that is also baffling is the fact that game is designed for up to four players (signified by the fact that there are three other transparent Start icons at the top of the screen) yet the game refused to recognize that a third or fourth controller was trying to join the game.  Quitting or even rebooting the PS3 altogether didn’t change the fact that the game wouldn’t recognize input from a third or fourth controller.  (To confirm I didn’t have anything broken with any of my controllers, my kids and nephew loaded up Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One and played several hours of four player with no issue).

I admire the effort put toward making this game.  Unfortunately it is crippled by lack of imagination and the glaring design choice to play down to younger gamers by offering no challenge.  Repetition also removes any chance of fun as each new realm feels the same as the one before it, only with a different artistic skin.  A beautiful 2D stylized rendition of the Guardians plays out in cut scenes that attempt to approximate the story told in the movie, but even then, if you haven’t watched the movie, moments of the game just won’t make sense.

If there was more variety or a better design approach with regards to defeating Pitch, I would have less reservation. It would be sad to have a kid open this game as a Christmas present (or any other holiday gift for that matter) and watch their disappointment grow the further they play into the game. As is, I feel trepidation contemplating the thought of even recommending this game as a rental. There is nothing broken with the game, but it just isn’t that fun, for kids or adults.  

SkipIt

Pros:
+ Unique art style
+ Easy Platinum trophy

Cons:
– Highly repetitive
– Third and fourth player support doesn’t seem to work
– Not that fun or challenging, even for kids

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS3, also available on DS, 3DS, Xbox 360, Wii and Wii U
Publisher: D3Publisher
Developer: Torus Games
Release Date: 11/20/2012
Genre: Action
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1-4
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

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About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.