March 28, 2009

Some games just aren’t good ideas. A game is first conceived in theory in mind and in document and then shown in presentation to an agent, producer, publisher, or whomever, and if that person has any sense, he will automatically know not to make certain bad games.

Inkheart had one thing going for it in that instance, and that is the fact that it is based on a movie. However, that movie is based on a book, and that book is about books and reading and literature and the ideas they promote. It is a metaphysical book. It is over 500 pages long. There is action, but the characters are caught up in it.

So in the game, the first thing you do is ride a sled to get away from some guy who wants to talk to Brendan Fraser’s character, Mo, the dad, a guy who has superpowers enabling him to make books literally come to life. You ride the sled and dodge cars. When that’s over, it’s another long cutscene.

And that’s the irony: it’s a game based on a movie based on a book about a book, and the result is that there’s still a lot of reading.

There’s nothing wrong with reading or text in a game, but it shouldn’t be the majority of the game. The game should be a game. Why make this product? Read the book instead! If a game were based on a movie and had two hours of cutscenes and little gameplay, the criticism would be to go watch the movie and ditch the game.

Go read the book.

Inkheart is garbage. No matter how evil, virtuous, sexy, young, old, and no matter the size, the characters walk at the same speed and with the same animation, arms flopping around long and wide. The screens make you hold your DS the wrong way. That means that an already tiny screen that is dedicated to a point-and-touch text style adventure is covering an entire room. Meggie, the young girl, has a bedroom that is likely no larger than 10×12 feet. Yet you have to scroll to see it in its entirety.

There is very little action, and the point-and-touch plots are dull and contrive. Twice within the first 15-30 minutes of the game, Meggie sets out to eavesdrop on a conversation, and twice she must collect her own personal belongings. This isn’t just repetitive and lazy, it’s boring.

Inkheart for the DS is attempting to capture the magic of the movie based on the book (about a book), but the problem is that a video game, especially one with such terrible graphics, isn’t an appropriate medium to do so.

Pros: pictures of characters really look like the actors, lots of reading and attempts to preserve the movie’s message, reading level seems appropriate for the targeted kids
Cons: more text than game, and what little game is boring; graphics and animation are minimal and horrendous, controls are not intuitive, DS must be held sideways and vertically to play
ESRB: E. If the movie or book is fine, this game is fine. A little broody and dark in some parts.

Score: 1/5

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