The Spiderwick Chronicles – Demo Impressions

21 03 2008

Developer: Stormfront Studios
Platform: Xbox 360
Genre: Movie Tie-In

I sit here waiting for the demo of ‘The Spiderwick Chronicles’ to download, it’s 630.21MB, so isn’t taking that long really. I have decided to ‘live blog’ my experiences of this demo. Well I guess it’s technically not ‘live’ per say, more just sort of written on the fly.

I know absolutely nothing about The Spiderwick Chronicles. I am vaguely aware that it’s a movie, probably a fantasy movie judging by the little logo I am staring at. Looks like a Harry Potter rip-off or something. The little synopsis of the demo promises a mysterious book, fantastical creatures, an ogre, and an unseen world which I guess I am down with. There had better be no bloody whimsy though, that can fuck right off. This is the first new demo that’s shown up on XBL for weeks and weeks. I really have no idea what’s going on with that.

Okay 55%…. guess I’ll read a bit of my book till it’s done…

Okay, done. Let’s fire this up now. The Nickelodeon, Paramount, Sierra and Stormfront Studios logos burst onto the screen in stunning HD. I’ve never noticed how Paramount and Sierra sort of have the same mountain in their logo.

Title screen has a spooky house, and Potterish music playing. I’ll just hit start. I have the option to play as Jared or Thimblejack, I’ll chose Jared as it’s the first option. Ooh, dumped into the world with no fanfare.

“Your brother Simon has been captured by Goblins! Catch the Health Sprite at the end of the driveway and then head into the woods to search for Simon.”

Right, it makes an bad first impression due to ugly graphics. It’s in third-person and controls a bit like a 3d Zelda game or something. I’m playing as a Harry Potter look-alike with a monocle thing. Hitting A swings a baseball bat, X makes him do a weird slide move. If I get too close to scenery it switches for first person view, but this transition is sort of broken and the view just jumps around crazily.

“Play the full game to explore this area.” the game says, ‘this area’ referring to a garage. I’m sure the inside of a garage is very neat and all, but I think it’ll have to do better than that to convince me. Okay, time to hunt down the Health Sprite. He’s a sort of green dude, who I have to hit with a dream-catcher thing. Doing this prompts me to paint it, which means moving the analogue stick around to uncover a picture of it within a certain time. Right, did it after 3 goes, so can now heal myself yay. It’s now telling me to go save my brother.

Argh, tiny frogs are attacking me! Frogs, meet baseball bat! Well that was underwhelming. ‘Collected Goblins tooth’. They were goblins? How the fuck do frogs kidnap my brother, especially when they can be beaten by a baseball bat swung by a 9 year old boy? Okay, next area!

Yes, it does look this bad.

I am now in a large woody area with a million bloody sprites wheeling about the screen. Trying to capture any of them pops up the tedious painting mini-game. This doesn’t pause the action either, so stuff comes up to you and wails on you while you are painting. Just like in real life. There are more frogs, and oddly placed puddles of lava preventing me from going down some paths. The main character says things like ‘All right, another goblins tooth!’ in a very grating fashion.

“The old quarry is this way. I bet that’s where the goblins are!” says Jared. No shit!

Ooh, a jumping puzzle, but there’s no jump key, it’s 3d Zelda style jumping where he leaps of cliffs, often to his doom . About 50 frogs later (The frogs have started wearing hats), I have finally found the path to the old quarry.

“MISSION ACCOMPLISHED To find out what happens next, play The Spiderwick Chronicles game.”

That’s pefect, I was just starting to get sick of it. My brother will just have to fend for himself.

I guess I should give Thimblejack a go.

Do not play.

Oh bloody Hell! I am now controlling a miniature Rat man, who only talks in rhyme. I am running around on a giant desk, or maybe I’m tiny? Whatever, it’s got some of the worst visuals I’ve seen on the 360. The background of the room is a very blurry texture wrapped around just away from the desk. Did anyone really think this looked good?

Okay, I can’t take this. I’m done. I must not be the target market for this game. I assume that the target market is ‘people who like bad games’.

Conclusion: If you want to play Zelda for idiots, or some horrendous shite movie-tie in, then this is the game for you.