I love bargain hunting. I suppose that a fair amount of people out there just love to spend their money, but not me, I like to find a deal. Not too very long ago, my husband purchased for us a Playstation Three (PS3), which we intended to mostly use for its ability to play Blu-Rays as well as DVDs. I’m not sure of how much of a techie he is, but I know that I truly am not one at all, and whatever lingo is normally used when referencing such equipment will probably not be found in this review, as I am currently sorely lacking in any sort of social outlet which would award me the opportunity to catch up on all of the technical slang. So, like I said, we had just gotten ourselves a shiny, new PS3, and I wanted to purchase a game for it. I have had some experience with other consoles, however, the PS3 is incredibly new to me, and I wanted to see how the games newly created for the most recent Playstation platform held up as far as graphics, speed, and more went.
I tend to prefer adventure games, and my all-time favorites are probably the Super Mario 64 games, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, and Spyro. However, after my Nintendo 64 console broke a few years back, I had a chance to try out a Playstation, and therefore was introduced to Guitar Hero, which has been the only game that I have played in just about forever. So, when my husband and I were mall-walking and found a shop that sold video games, I began to browse the bargain bins for something that just might be worth my time and attention. Unfortunately, I could not find any sort of Mario game or variant of Guitar Hero for less than ten dollars. However, I did manage to find The Golden Compass video game, and as a huge movie buff, I figured that The Golden Compass game was as good a game as any to get me back on my feet and into adventure games once more.
The game itself follows almost exactly the plot of the film, which is about a little girl named Lyra Belacqua, a young tomboy who carries an Alethiometer, an ancient, mysterious artifact that can see the Truth. Lyra, with the help of her daemon, Pan, and a giant armored Polar bear named Iorek, journey through the frozen North in order to search for children who have gone missing. Sure, it sounds cheesy, and hey, people either liked the movie or not, but I figured that for ten bucks, I may as well try out the game, as I thought that the movie was at worst an average one.
In keeping with most game formats, upon beginning the game, one may not skip to other levels until they have first completed the level that they are currently at. Also, rather annoyingly, there is a fairly long “trial period” that one must suffer through at the beginning of the game in order to even begin the story. This mostly consists of the game instructing the player on how to operate all of the buttons and how to control the characters within the game with the remote controller. While this is helpful for the first five minutes or so, after that, it gets old rather quickly, and there is no way to skip through the training and to get on with the game. The game really makes the player sit there and beat the training level before the game can commence.
Once the training level has been beaten, the game begins, and is riddled with clips from the actual film. This is only moderately annoying, as most of the clips are short, though a few are rather long, and leave players bored. The majority of the tasks set out for Lyra to complete are not at all stimulating, most involve balance, which is not at all difficult given the aids within the game which keep players informed of whether their character is leaning too far to the left or to the right during these challenges. Unlike the adventure games that I prefer, there are not many paths that one may venture upon at any given time, there is simply one path laid out ahead of the player, and until they go down that path and beat every obstacle, they may not proceed any further into the game. This is where I am stuck.
In a pitiful attempt to keep players from throwing their controller through their gaming screen, the creators of The Golden Compass for PS3 sprinkled the game with small puzzles in which the player will receive two of the three puzzle pieces and must then balance (!) a few more things before being able to solve the puzzle that allows them to move on. In order to proceed to the end of the game, most or all of the puzzles must be completed, which means more balancing for the players.
I got about halfway into the game, frustration and boredom took me over rather quickly as I easily grew tired of trying to balance little Lyra on floating docks, raised wooden pieces, rooftops and slippery slopes. After attempting to care enough to beat a challenge that has taken me about ten tries to get halfway through, I simply threw down the controller and gave up. I’ve seen the movie, I know how the story ends, and I’ve got better ways to waste my time than to balance a small girl on a piece of floating wood over and over again for four hours. It’s not that it’s hard; it’s just that I don’t care.
The graphics really aren’t bad. The game is neither too dark nor is it too light, the characters all accurately resemble those from the film, and the voice-overs aren’t at all bad either. Some of the effects are pretty neat; Lyra’s daemon, Pan, changes forms from a wildcat to a hawk, to a sloth and then back into a mink-like thing, and each of the creature’s abilities are awarded to Lyra while her daemon is in said form. Therefore, at different intervals Lyra may climb, jump, fly, swing, etcetera, as Pan helps her to reach otherwise inaccessible areas as well as to solve puzzles throughout.
Also, there are points in the game where Lyra must ride upon Iorek; the giant armored Polar bear who has struck a deal with Lyra when she helps him recover his armor from thieves. When this happens in the game, there is no way to dismount Iorek or else to use Lyra’s daemons. The player is stuck on the bear’s back until the task is either complete or else the player fails and must begin anew, which is incredibly obnoxious, despite some of Iorek’s cool bear moves and his ability to beat the crap out of wolves.
Most of the controls for Lyra, Pan, and Iorek’s characters are rather simple, and after the incredibly extensive training that the player is forced to endure at the beginning of the game, no one should have any problems in working these characters. The hardest part for most players is probably going to be to care enough to continue to play the game. I know that I certainly won’t.
This game is rated for Everyone 10+ (ten years of age and up), though I cannot imagine that even children will be able to keep any sort of interest in this game. I strongly do NOT recommend this product.