The Spiderwick Chronicles Xbox 360 Review

May 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Perhaps 98% (yes I just plucked that number out of the air, but it sounds about right) of movie licences are crafted with little love and respect for the licence, are usually cobbled together, derivative, and just exist to make a few pounds, dollars (or whatever funny name your currency has) off the back of a lucrative movie. But the other 2% or so of the time, there comes some tie-ins that were actually cared for during their coming together, allowing them to blossom into something more. Sierra’s The Spiderwick Chronicles is one such game.

Upon beginning the game, you’ll notice that the visuals, whilst hardly pushing that current generation might are really quite pleasing to the eyes. The framerate for the most part stays smooth, character models are solid, the environments are relatively detailed, with some pleasant incidental touches, such as grass that moves when you wander through it.

In regards to genre, The Spiderwick Chronicles can be a little deceiving. The opening moments of the game are spent controlling Jared (Later on, you also play as Simon, Mallory and Thimbletack) and exploring the house, which involves both some adventure style object inspection and collecting that triggers a comment from him, detailing his thoughts on certain objects and not necessarily ones that are essential to your adventure either.

But once you leave the comfort of your home, proceedings take a turn to the more aggressive and jumpy. Goblins (fitting enemies as there is also a trace of RPG in there, of which I’ll tell you about later) show their ugly faces just waiting for you to smash them across the skull with your baseball bat (or sword or gun later on), whilst platform jumping is introduced and is automated (similarly to the Zelda series) presumably to make jumps a bit less taxing for the younger fingers of the game’s main target audience.

Fighting is simple, but rather enjoyable, and uses just one button for the combos. Smiting goblins and retrieving their teeth, will eventually unlock new moves for the three characters, which is nice for mixing up combat, but hardly essential to overcome those nasty goblins.

Sprites make skirmishes a bit less limited, allowing for you to carry out such goodness as blowing away enemies with gusts of wind, or doubling the damage you deal out to give those damn goblins even sorer heads. Collecting so many of any type, usually upgrades your characters in some way or another.

Catching a sprite, brings forth a simple timed mini-game, which requires you to paint them before they have a chance to escape. This is one of the weaker aspects of The Spiderwick Chronicles, as some of the pesky creatures are rather difficult to paint within the given time limit, whilst the task itself is perhaps a little overused throughout, particularly if you want to do everything that the game has to offer, which is very much recommended as if you don’t you’re looking at a very flimsy in hours game.

Another way to glean some additional hours from the game is to play the multiplayer mode. Sprite Collection, as the name suggests, has you collecting sprites, whilst Sprites and Goblins, tasks you with taking out as many goblins as possible by using both sprites and more conventional weapons. The two modes are enjoyable, though in a throwaway way and whilst there are different variations, its options are however a bit limited.

There may be nothing particularly taxing or mind-blowing here, but The Spiderwick Chronicles, whilst not quite matching the legendary GoldenEye in terms of playability and invention, is an eminently playable film licence that feels as if it was a well cared for egg during its production. Its parents should be proud at just what it has become.