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Arthur and the Invisibles

Platform(s): Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, PC, PSP, PlayStation 2
Genre: Action
Publisher: Atari

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PS2 Review - 'Arthur and the Invisibles'

by James King on Feb. 22, 2007 @ 1:04 a.m. PST

Directly inspired by the upcoming animated film of the same name, Arthur and the Minimoys allows players to relive the fantastic adventures of young Arthur and his two pals, Selenia and Bétamèche, in their mission to save the Minimoys’ world from destruction. The game will incorporate filmmaker Luc Besson’s entire Minimoy universe and its tiny inhabitants with the richness and extraordinary visuals of the film.

Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Etranges Libellules
Release Date: January 9, 2007

Arthur and the Invisibles is an action-adventure game that follows the plot of the 2006 MGM film of the same name. For those that haven't seen the movie, the story is about a 10-year-old boy, Arthur, who must save his grandfather's house from being demolished by searching for a fabled hidden treasure in the land of the Minimoys. From the very outset, the movie tie-ins are frequent, and the game's target audience becomes quite apparent.

The gameplay borrows elements from many different genres, including platforming elements similar to Prince of Persia and some rail-style shooting action that is reminiscent of Panzer Dragoon. This may seem like an interesting mix of different gameplay types, but the title fails to present any of them well, so it sometimes feels repetitive and uninspired. From countless blocking stacking puzzles to the ever-infamous "double jump" pits, you will feel like you're repeating content that wasn't even fun the first time you did it. The in-game physics is another area which hampers the gameplay to a degree. Your character will fall abruptly at times when you are in the middle of a jumping arc, and this usually occurs at inconvenient times, like when you're directly over a pit.

You travel with your Minimoy companions, Selenia and Betameche, and you have the ability to control any of the three characters in the group. Each character has a number of unique abilities, and you will have to utilize all three characters to progress. Selenia is equipped with a knife, which is handy in dispatching any sturdy branches that block your path, and Arthur can shimmy along edges and swing from objects to reach high places. Betameche can charm certain creatures — namely snails — and he is smaller than the other characters, which enables him to fit into crevices and access areas that his friends can't.

The concept of splitting tasks amongst a team of characters to accomplish a unified goal is not a new one, but it is really not necessary to divide such mundane abilities between a team of three. Each character has six bars of life, which are displayed in a radial dial around their respective portraits. As you kill enemies and adventure through the levels, you will find dragonfly eggs, which can be spent to regain lost health points. At the beginning of the game, you can only carry a maximum of 30 eggs, but later on, you will find bags that increase your storage capacity.

Players are expected to have seen the movie prior to playing this because many of the in-game story sequences are rushed and skip over important details. The game often includes clips from the movie, but they are so abrupt and disjointed that it is difficult to piece it all together. If you haven't seen the movie yet, the movie clips won't help you feel any more connected to the story.

Arthur and the Invisibles is reasonably long for the action-adventure genre and incorporates a wide assortment of unlockable bonus content that is on par with DVD special features, such as concept art and making-of information about the movie and game. This will definitely give people a reason to keep playing after beating the game. Although there are a decent number of game hours packed into this title, the actual gameplay lacks the depth necessary for the duration to remain entertaining. The overall experience just doesn't feel very satisfying; the levels are overly simplistic, the enemies represent no real threat to you, and many of the platforming and puzzle elements are rehashed far too many times. You'll find it very easy to put the game down before you ever finish it.

The combat sequences lack any real challenge and only add to the tedious gameplay. Most of the fights will consist of you hitting the attack button repeatedly to perform a basic combo until the enemies are dead. Sometimes, the combat might get so intense that you'll even get hurt. You can spend most of the combat sequences just sitting back and letting your computer-controlled partners fight the enemies, since they're invincible when under A.I. control. Occasionally, you are required to step in and finish off an enemy with a jump attack after they've been knocked to the ground.

As you progress, you earn a number of special abilities for your characters, such as Arthur's ability to perform a lunge attack at enemies who are a few yards away. Shortly after you gain this ability, you'll realize how useless it is, since the enemies attack in a slow and predictable pattern. The developers added a few levels where you play in a rail-style shooter mode, and you must shoot down enemies and incoming projectiles. As with many other aspects of the game, this part feels uninspired and rushed, so don't expect any heart-racing action.

The graphics are the strongest point of Arthur and the Invisibles; everything looks surprisingly good for a system that is approaching seven years of age. The textures are done well, and the animations are fluid and seamless, for the most part. Another impressive feat is how many of the models greatly resemble their counterparts in the computer-animated movie. At times, you'll see giant blades of grass accompanied by an assortment of detailed flora and fauna, and at other times, the scenery will consist of dark and dank underground passages. The draw distances on objects are a bit short, and sometimes the framerate stutters, but these problems don't interfere with the experience too greatly. If the rest of the game could have been created with the same prowess that empowered the graphics, this title could have been a contender.

All of the dialogue is done by sound-alike voice-actors since big names like Madonna, Jimmy Fallon, and Robert De Niro cost a pretty penny, and the game's budget did not even come close to that of the movie's. The sound-alikes would have been perfectly acceptable, but much of the dialogue sounds so rushed and is so lacking in continuity that it really puts a damper on the experience. The sound effects are pretty standard for an action-adventure game — nothing really stands out, but nothing sounds bad either. Some of the characters talk like they're hyped up on caffeinated energy drinks after taking numerous intravenous stimulants, which can get really annoying after a short while.

Overall, Arthur and the Invisibles might be worth playing if you really enjoyed the film, or if you're just looking for a casual game that is easy to pick up and just as easy to put down. The title remains mediocre in most categories, and there really isn't anything remarkable here. Unfortunately, the game is plagued by a lingering feeling that this was just another movie cash-in that was rushed through the development effort.

Score: 6.8/10


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