Disney's A Christmas Carol (Nintendo DS) - Review by Andrew



Given just how cluttered Q4 is with releases, it's a bit of a mystery why there are so few DS titles centered around the Festive Season. So, whether good, bad or indifferent we were going to welcome the news that Disney was to bring its 're-imagining' of Dickens' classic tale to the handheld despite the fact that not only do games of movies have a rather poor track record but also the DS has had its fair share of stinkers over the years. The difference here, though, is that the story is already familiar to the majority of gamers leaving the developers to concentrate more on the entertainment side of things. So, should this be on your Christmas List?


You have to admit that the developers were ambitious in bringing Disney's latest blockbuster to the DS, while the idea to 'play' the movie seemed an impossible task. Most of the gameplay is best described as a point and click adventure with a collection of scenes spanning two to three scrollable screens. It's up to you to manipulate the on-screen action doing anything from unlocking doors to discovering hidden objects. In fact it's the constant tapping of every area of the screen that occupies the bulk of interaction here, but the rewards are worth it in the end. There are also a handful of puzzles that require solving, and it's these, which will either delight or frustrate you depending on how you approach them. This is because, try as you might, although some of them appear very simple; getting the correct combination of moves and interactions can seem impossible, which is a shame for a game aimed at a young and casual audience. Everything else you'll stumble across is in the form of a mini-game. These are, without a doubt, the game's strong point and because they're all touch screen, they're very easy to use repeatedly.


While you can use the more traditional keys to scroll around the play area this is an adventure and you'll feel far more at home using the stylus especially when you get to one of the many mini-games.


While the game is nowhere near as good looking as the big screen outing, the visuals do have a certain charm to them and are probably just as you'd see in an illustrated version of the book. Rather than simply inserting a selection of FMV clips, from the movie, the developers have instead constructed a series of animated cut screens, which do a good job of bridging the various adventure sections.


The audio elements are very well crafted and if you decide not to read the book (which is included with the game) then you'll be pleased to know that the whole game is narrated. It's expertly done too and it's clear that they've employed a professional actor as opposed to one of the production team with an interesting voice. The music is also well composed and while you are not getting fully sampled compositions, the DS's sound chip does a fine job of replicating the classic Christmas tunes in all the glory.

Dual screen

Because this is a collection of mini-games neatly wrapped up in an adventure, you'll be forced to use just about all of the DS's unique features. You'll have seen most of these games before without the added festive twist and gamers will instantly recognize things like the slide puzzle, the 'pairs' game and a rhythm game where you replicate a sequence of chiming bells. Less obvious is the inclusion of classic parlor games like snap and dominoes but they are still very welcome here and very playable especially when you consider that all of these games can be played as a group by simply passing your DS around. There are also a handful of music-based games that challenge you to play both the fiddle and the piano and you can even try a bit of singing thanks to the DS's microphone. You'll even get the chance to do a bit of coin flipping and indulge in a snowball fight but you'll have to be quick before your hands get too cold. After that it's over to the kitchen for a bit of Cookin' Mama inspired gameplay with you preparing a meal for the Cratchets. Even when all this is over the developers have added an Advent Calendar that unlocks a new 'spot the difference' every day until Christmas, which is a nice little touch and can be quite tough.

Final comments

As far as movie titles go A Christmas Carol is one of the better attempts and while the main adventure is over reasonably quickly, the inclusion of the mini-games (both single and multiplayer) mean that you'll have this in your DS over the Christmas period challenging everyone to play the piano or sing better than yourself. It also looks and sounds very festive and the inclusion of the original book will surely appeal to the casual gaming market. This could so easily have been a complete mess but the strong design and almost endless replay value makes it a must have for fans of the film and Christmas itself.

Pro: Good Selection of Mini-Games, Good Audio Narration, The Original Text.
Con: A Little Slow to Begin With, Some Frustrating Puzzles.
Final score: 8


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Boxart of Disney's A Christmas Carol (Nintendo DS)
Platform: Nintendo DS
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Sumo Digital
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios