reviews\ Jun 2, 2008 at 8:00 pm

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian - PS3 - Review

Stop me if you heard this one.

For almost every summer blockbuster movie there’s a video game tie-in that ultimately does not measure up to the greatness of the blockbuster in question. We’ve seen it before in countless Batman movies and we’ve seen in with before with Disney’s The Chronicles of Narnia. The movie-to-video-game transition rarely produces a game that is richly original and makes good use of the license. Sadly, in the case of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian for the PlayStation 3, this is not the case. Still, while it’s not a completely original game, there is still some fun to be had in the world C.S. Lewis created and Disney creatively recreated.

Soldier #1 to Soldier #2: “You didn’t expect to see this when you woke up this morning, huh?”

Prince Caspian, chronologically speaking, it is the fourth book and the second film featuring the Pevensie kids. The story finds, Lucy, Susan, Edmond and Peter returning to Narnia after a year’s absence only to find that 1,300 years have passed in Narnia time. As the red dwarf Trumpkin says, “Narnia is a more savage place than you remember it.” This is true seeing as humans known as Telmarines have wiped out most of the magical creatures of Old Narnia and the heir to the throne - a young man named Prince Caspian - is double-crossed by his evil uncle. It is up to the Pevensie siblings to help Prince Caspian reclaim his throne from King Miraz to bring peace to the land once again.

The beauty of Prince Caspian is that the game attempts to bring to light the events leading up to movie by showcasing the major battle that had the good creatures of Narnia tuck tail and hide in the woods. The game even includes a few clips of footage not seen in the movie such as young Prince’s tutor telling Caspian about the legend of the old queens and kings of the land. It then brings the events of the movie into light with footage from the movie as well as re-enacting the fierce and ultra cool battles of the film. In other words, this game set out to be the complete Prince Caspian experience that pays homage to the book and theatrical sequel.

Still, as I mentioned above, the game rarely brings much originality to the table and Traveler’s Tales (having done justice to Star Wars via LEGOs) simply makes the game a button-masher with very little variety. Well, there are a few things that do keep this game from being a truly boring mess. Worst yet, on the PS3, there’s some slow down that shows up occasionally during the more massive battles in the game. This is really too bad seeing as the game allows you to assume the role of 20 different characters which include Narnians as well as the Pevensie kids.

The game’s levels are quite lengthy and you will be tasked with multiple objectives you must complete as well as do a little collecting on the side. You are given four different characters you can control and you can switch between them on the fly via the Triangle button. In the opening level you can control a dwarf, fawn, centaur or a Minotaur but later in the game you can control familiar characters like the Pevensie quartet or Prince Caspian and his companions. Each character, of course, has his or her own unique ability and skill. Susan, for example, has a bow while Peter is a master swordsman. Some characters are even used to solve puzzles. For example, dwarfs and the swashbuckling mouse Reepicheep can fit throughout small spaces the bigger characters can’t pass.

“Man, what is it about me that makes people want to run away? It must be my cologne.”

While it’s great that each of the 20 characters play differently, this does not keep the action as well as the mission objectives from becoming too repetitive. Some mission objectives you’ll have to complete more than once and a few other objectives are similar from earlier ones issued in the beginning of the level. How many times must we clear a courtyard before we can move on to other objectives? Some objectives are very clear while others are somewhat vague. Early in the game I was instructed to destroy catapults brought in by the enemy. It didn’t say I had to jump on a giant’s back to complete such a task until a bit later.

The game’s biggest problem has to be the slowdown that becomes evident during the much bigger battles in the game. While it was great to see so many Telmarines and Narnian warriors on screen at once, the dip in the framerate is inexcusable seeing as the PS3 is more than capable of displaying many characters on screen at once without sacrificing a steady framerate. Secondly, collecting keys that unlock chests (that ultimately unlock concept art and video clips) can become a bit tedious. Even the game’s two-player co-op mode is a lesson in frustration thanks to the limited screen space you and a friend share.

All is not bad in the world of Narnia, though, because there are moments in the game that manages to be fun. Attempting to reclaim a castle leads to one of the game’s best moments and even the final battle is epic to the point that sections of it will give you quite a workout. Younger gamers will appreciate the fact that the game’s puzzles are actually quite simplistic. Most of the puzzles simply have you switching levers or placing a necessary object in its corresponding area.

On the graphics front, Prince Caspian could have looked a lot better. This is not a hideous game, by any means, but the PS3 could do a lot better than this. At least, the character models look good in action and you’ll instantly recognize many of the familiar characters like the Pevensie bunch and Prince Caspian himself. There are clips from the movie (as well as some that aren’t) and the video looks wonderfully crisp and clear like a Blu-Ray DVD.

“Mess with this bull and you get the horns … and sword … oh, and I have a bad case of fleas.”

As far as the game’s sound is concerned, the battles don’t sound as good as they should considering the amount of things that are happen on screen at once. There are some limited voice clips in the beginning but you’ll hear more from the main cast of characters as they go about their mission. What steals the show is the marvelous soundtrack that plays throughout the game. The score is not only epic but it adds a lot of tension to each battle and cut scene.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian for the PlayStation 3 had all the makings of a great game but, sadly enough, fails to do anything original with the licensed. In short, Prince Caspian is simple a button-mashing hack-and-slash action game that - at times - can be fun in places. Still, this is the type of game fans of the movie or book will simply pick up and play and forget about as soon as the end credits roll. I recommend this one simply as a rental is you’re in need of a Narnia fix but other than that you are better off just buying the book or going back to the movie theater to see it again.

Review Scoring Details for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Gameplay: 6.2
Liberating the same tower once again or holding the enemy away from the courtyard for the second time is not a good way of keeping the action fresh. You can switch between characters on the fly but this is purely just hack-and-slash gameplay with only a few interesting gameplay elements.

Graphics: 6.0
On the PS3, the visuals don’t push the hardware but at least it’s not entirely bad either. The character models look Ok and seeing dozens of Telmarine soldiers on screen at once is awesome. Even the movie clips are crisp. I just wish more attention was placed on the backgrounds and the special effects like fire.

Sound: 6.0
The game’s music is not only downright gorgeous but it is also the highlight of the game’s sound. The few voice clips you hear are decent enough but why doesn’t a massive battle sound like a - well - a massive battle?

Difficulty: Medium
It’s the massive battles that should have you worried because every other battle isn’t very threatening. There are occasionally vague objectives to complete even though many of the puzzles are extremely easy to solve.

Concept: 6.5
With 20 different characters to play, there is some variety to the action but this is spoiled by level objectives that repeat themselves again and again. Switching between characters is a good idea but can we have better rewards during battle or for opening treasure chests?

Multiplayer: 5.5
There’s no online multiplayer in sight but there’s a two-player co-op mode. Sadly, co-op runs with a number of hiccups and sharing the same screen has its major disadvantages plus there’s very little for another player to do.

Overall: 6.2
Far from being a complete disaster, Prince Caspian for the PS3 has some good moments but they are overshadowed by repetitive gameplay and a poor presentation. Fans of the movie and book will like playing in the land of Narnia but much unlike the two mediums this game makes the story a forgettable experience.

Above Average

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