Publisher: Buena Vista
Developer: Traveller's Tales
Release Date: Fall 2005
If you're a fan of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers or similar hack and slash action titles, Buena Vista's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe might be right up your alley. The game will be released this holiday season, alongside the first movie (of seven, hopefully), The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
From the demo we saw at E3, TCoN is already looking pretty good, and although it is lacking a few features right now, things will only improve as the title nears launch. TCoN seems to be fairly faithful to the storyline, with four young siblings (Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie) being tasked with saving Narnia from the eternal winter imposed by the evil White Witch, Jadis.
TCoN looks like it'll have a lot of options, most notably the multiplayer mode, which allows for two players. Unfortunately, we were told that there won't be a four-player mode, which would have been ideal, since the game uses four different characters, but instead, the remaining two characters will be controlled by the AI. Even without a four-player mode, the game uses a control scheme that is really easy to pick up and play.
Throughout the game, players combine their unique combat skills, weaponry and abilities to battle various creatures, including Centaurs, Minotaurs, Cyclops, Werewolves, Wolves, Satyrs, and more. At this point, the attacks seem a bit repetitive, but this was an early build, so perhaps more variety will be available by the game's release. In order to add a bit of variety to the fighting, there is a way to perform a more powerful team attack with partners, which is sometimes required before moving on to the next section. As with the LotR titles, film footage serves as cut scenes which seamlessly segue into the gameplay. There will also be unlockable secrets, which will open up exclusive content. Sound familiar?
The AI was not available in our demo, so we had to control all of characters, which was a bit of a hassle, but it introduced us to each of the characters and their unique abilities. Lucy is the requisite magic-wielder who can heal her siblings; Susan is the archer, ideal for ranged attacks; and Peter is the melee fighter who wields a sword. Yes, that only covers three characters' abilities, but Edmund is imprisoned so I'm not sure what his ability will be (Peter must free his brother at a later point).
We were only limited to two levels, but they seem to be quite diverse, especially the boss battle, which is probably the most impressive thing about the game. We had to knock the elf boss unconscious and then slam him into the tree. Personally, the idea was good, but there were a lot of problems knocking him into the tree because it was hard to control the direction in which you want him to go. I really hope that this move will be better balanced in the final release.
The background graphics are good, and the four characters resemble their real-life movie counterparts, and the sounds are what you'd expect from a hack and slash title, with swords clanging and magic spells being cast.
With a few bug fixes and a bit of polishing up, The Chronicles of Narnia has all the makings of a popular LotR clone for the younger generation of gamers (and older gamers intent on reliving the nostalgia).