Coraline (Wii) - Review by Chris
It's that time of year again when the obligatory kid's movie sees a game tie in. Yet the movie Coraline has shown great premise, with it being based on the novella by Neil Gaiman and being directed by world renowned director Tim Burton. The movie was well received in cinemas around the world, with many citing it as 'the best kids movie in ages.' And of course, where there's success at the box office, you can bet some development team won't be far behind with a rendition for those who enjoyed the film to play on whatever respective console they own. So does this make good on the 'Coraline' name or is it a shameful, unnecessary cash-in?
The story for the game follows that of the film. For those who haven't seen the film, it basically involves a family, known as the Jones, who has moved from Michigan to a new house which seems to be situated in the middle of nowhere. The story centres on the idea of parental neglect as daughter Coraline plays second fiddle to her parent's work. As a result, she goes off exploring, meeting the strange neighbours who live in the basement and attic of the house, respectively, and stumbles upon an entrance into a parallel world, known as the Other World, wherein she meets her Other Mother and Father who are the same as her real parents except they have the time to spend with her and have buttons where their eyes should be. So while Coraline initially is a kid's film, the story is very mature; very dark in its happenings. And while it may make for an interesting watch or read, it doesn't really make the translation to gaming very well.
The story doesn't fully place itself easily for a gaming variation yet developers Papaya Studios have tried as they might to make it do as such. The end result is a very short collection of mini-games and puzzles that border on the ridiculously easy and mundane to the quite difficult, even for adult gamers. The mini-games will range from simple things such as stacking some newspapers on some boxes or rearranging a bookshelf in alphabetical order to some box stacking puzzles and quick time event games which will easily stump children. The developer's market is with children yet when they play, they're going to be immediately alienated by some of the games because they will require too much of children, as well as adults because things like the quick time event games require split second button presses and these can be any of the buttons on the controller and you have little time to react. Another problem is that many of the games feel unnatural and unnecessary given the source material and look to have been included purely to pad out what was already a short game. Yet, there hasn't been much padding out as the game is finished in a little over the 2 hour mark. And the worse offense the title commits is that the main draw for the game, the story, is glossed over almost completely through cutscenes. One moment, you'll have done one thing and after a quick cutscene, where little to nothing is explained, you'll suddenly be in a completely different place. It's just baffling that they've ignored one of the biggest selling points of Coraline.
The game's controls have been kept simplistic as possible to ensure that the key market for the game can get to grips with it easily. The analogue stick or the d-pad can be used to move Coraline around and while you'll most definitely use the analogue stick, it feels as though you're controlling her with the d-pad. The analogue setup is incredibly dated and doesn't feel very fluid at all, and problems flare up due to the fixed camera that pans around the room and the environments with you as the game's last detection of movement before moving into another area results in some muddled controls for a few seconds as it tries to get its bearings. The other controls are minimal; with the A button being used to jump, but only when you're near an object you can jump onto, and the Z button being used to interact with objects. For some reason, the developers have given you the ability to kick, by pressing the B button, but it is never used. One area where the IR pointer should have been used is for the slingshot sections you'll play through but instead of going for the natural thing, they make you use the inaccurate analogue stick and it just feels awful.
Recreating Burton's trademark over the top style and flare was always going to be a challenge, regardless of what console the game came to. Yet outside of a well rendered opening cutscene and some decent exaggerated character models, everything else loses the charm and identity that was built up in the movie. Exterior environments are designed to a minimum level of detail, boasting a couple of notable pieces of architecture and some rubble and vegetation yet beyond this, there isn't much else and what is there isn't exactly done to a high standard, with low resolution textures and poor design. Interior environments fair slightly better, yet the same problems that comes from the graphics on the exterior are apparent here. It doesn't truly capture the feeling of the movie in anyway, outside of the characters, and it's a shame.
The voice talent from the film has graciously provided their voices for the game and thankfully, this is the one area where it actually does feel like the film. All of the voice work is superbly done as a result. It's just a pity that the rest of the game couldn't meet this standard. The music brings the same eerie style that can be heard in the film and it's done equally well and presents itself as an enjoyable listen.
Kids who enjoyed the film may find some fun here, but anyone else won't. The overall game falls far from the tree, missing out key parts of the story so knowledge of what occurs in the film is necessary to make heads or tails of what is going on. The presentation is let down visually, with the developers being unable to recreate the famous Burton style that we've come to love yet the sound does pull in some plus points thanks to its voice work and score. The end result, though, is something I can only recommend to those that really, really enjoyed the film.
Pro: Character models are good, voice work and score represent the highlights of the game
Con: Controls and graphics are severely dated, very short, at times it's too difficult even for adults
Final score: 4.4