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The Spiderwick Chronicles


The Spiderwick Chronicles is based on the recent movie that was adapted from the bestselling books of the same name. Stormfront Studios, most recently known as the developer of Eragon, handled the transfer from film to video game format. Stormfrontís presentation uses a combination of film stock from the movie and cutscenes from the in-game graphic engine. The narrative directly follows the progression of the film and switches the player between the three children throughout the game.

The story begins with a boy named Jared that comes across his great uncle Arthurís book that details a fantasy world in great depth. Jared unknowingly alerts evil creatures in the fantasy world of his familyís presence and heís forced to defend their lives from attacks of Mulgrath, a shape-shifting ogre. The following adventure follows Jared, Simon and Mallory as they fend off goblin attacks and discover all sorts of magical creatures.

Gameplay

The adventure molding of the game splits the player control between the three children. While the game is broken into a variety of levels, the entire area is very much open world and allows for player movement into sections that arenít useful until later in the game. This can be confusing for new players, but the information provided for current objectives is more than adequate for finding your way around the map. In fact it becomes overly helpful and perhaps simplifies already easy tasks.

As the children progress in the fantasy world, sprites or fairies become available for capture. Each one of these magical creatures offers a stat boost of sorts. Increased health, speed, distractions, and extra damage are just a few of the helpful boosts a sprite can offer. Each child can only carry three sprites at a time, but they do carry over between children. Itís not hard to locate a sprite when needed and they always spawn in the same places on the map. The children also carry weapons to fight off the goblins ranging from a baseball bat to a fencing sword to a squirt gun of tomato juice. The weapons can be upgraded throughout the game which becomes very useful toward the final levels.

Unfortunately the collision detection system in Spiderwick isnít one of the best Iíve seen. Often weapon swings will pass through nearby goblins and spites often fly too quickly to be caught with the slow swinging net. Sprites are also hard to capture due to painting mini-game in the menu system. Any new sprite capture requires a painting of the sprite in question to be completed during real time. This poses two problems; goblins can still attack you during painting and the brush moves too slowly to complete the painting in time. Itís an annoying setup that becomes far too overused after the third or fourth painting of a particular type of sprite. It is important to note that a previously painted sprite wonít require a painted image upon recapture.

The game also shifts into a mini-game of sorts with the miniature brownie creature called Thimbletack. This grumpy little guy is tamed with honey and uses his tiny size to brave the interior walls of the childrenís house to find helpful items for the children. His only threats in the walls are scurrying cockroaches which he dispatches with sewing needles. The targeting system is pretty darn good and uses a helpful auto-aim function when honing in on a roach. His portion of the game is a nice diversion from the children, but itís a bit overused toward the finality of the title.

The multiplayer is an offline affair and stretches pretty thin over 4 maps in two possible modes. Sections of the mutliplayer are unlocked as spites are captured in the single player game. Players can choose between capturing spites to a certain point total or time limit as well as capturing spites with goblins in the mix. Both modes are ancillary diversions at best, neither worth more than a few rounds of play.

Simplistic to complete, the achievement set is geared to more than 90% for completing single player tasks although multiplayer goals rack up nearly a couple hundred gamerscore points. The majority of the achievements are awarded for capturing different sprites or collecting items such as ball bearings, fruit and gobstones. Younger players may find capturing multiple versions of the same sprite confusing and eventually get frustrated with the title. The entire set of 50 achievements can be knocked out in about 6 to 8 hours with some decent exploration skills.

Graphics

The visual engine is fairly drab, especially in comparison to the movie CGI in the film stock. Itís apparent that the game was ported from the Wii / PS2 version and given little visual upgrades. The bland color scheme only serves to accentuate the dull appearance of the game characters and surrounding environment. There isnít much of a physics engine to speak of as much of the environment is purely static. That being said, the engine is technically solid and free from any severe bugs. There are no truly amazing visual effects coming into play, but the framerate does stay rock solid through single player.

Audio

The voiceovers in Spiderwick are top notch due to the filmís talent being implemented in the game. David Strathaim does an excellent job as the narrator throughout the entire game as well as the children. A couple of the goblin voices were replaced, but their voice actors did a fine job with the characters. The musical score also matches the movie and goes well with the fantasy theme of the story. The sound effects are passable and donít offer a great deal of auditory delight to the title.

Conclusion

The Spiderwick Chronicles isnít a tough game to complete, but it can be entertaining for young fans of the books. Itís important to note that the game should probably be played after seeing the movie as the film stock used would spoil the movie experience. This title is a safe bet for parents looking to pick up an adventure title for children under ten. Older kids will race through the game too quickly and would be better off with a rental. This is also a decent rental for the aspiring achievement / gamerscore junkies out there.