Finally some company got it right. They made a Nintendo DS game based on a movie starring Brendan Fraser and they actually got his likeness in there. After those last two
games I was afraid we were all doomed to never accurately see Mr. Fraser's mug on the dual screen, but Inkheart did it. Now if only the developers could have made a decent game, instead of this snoozefest adventure game.
Inkheart is based on the just released theatrical flick. It's a point-and-click adventure that is played in the Nintendo DS system's book format. I assume the plot of the game is the same as the film, but it's hard to tell because the game was released first. This not only made it hard to follow the abbreviated plot, but also ruined any potential surprises of the film. Being an adventure title, Inkheart requires a huge amount of reading, and Inkheart has some of the worst dialogue to ever grace the dual screen.
How bad is it? At one point Paul Bettany's character, Dustfinger, offers to teach a young girl his art, but only if she meets him outside at 11 p.m., and only if she learns to juggle balls first. But don't worry! Dustfinger is from a magical world filled with mythical creatures where they don't have our crazy contraptions like refrigerators or Amber Alerts.
While the characters are lecherously offering to display magic tricks, their picture is displayed on the left screen. They're pretty good portrait style images of the cast (and hence the realistic portrayal of Brendan Fraser). However there is only one portrait per character, and they're all pretty calm expressions, so there's never any emotion conveyed. It's hard to get worried about the major antagonist's schemes, like releasing the horrible monster known as The Shadow, when the characters talking looks like they're having their portrait taken at the mall. It doesn't help that the dialogue all reads blandly as well, and even the liberal use of the Caps Lock doesn't do much to help the monotony.
It's a monotony that follows through to the rest of the game. The gameplay crawls along at an incredibly slow pace. All of the situations are easily solved since the developer generally limits the character to one or two rooms, so there are only a half dozen objects to interact with anyway. If I need to lure a marten out of the room and the only thing I can tap are the marten itself and two other objects, chances are I'm going to figure this doozy of a puzzle out.
What does make the game difficult is that nothing stands out in the game. It's not only not clear which objects are interactive, it's hard to tell if it's even an object at all. Everything blends in with the background and the colors are dark and muddy. By pressing the A button, players can make little stars appear over things that can be tapped, but that takes away all the fun of exploring. It all seems like I'm just going through the motions of gameplay between long sections of conversations. Especially when all too often the character is just trying to eavesdrop on conversations. It's like the characters can't stand not talking to each other so they make me solve puzzles just so they can stand there and say nothing of any interest.
And even though the portraits of characters look good, the in game models look awful. All of them walk like they're doing impressions of the Mick Jagger strut. There are very few animations, so anytime they pick up something or interact with an object it comes off stiff and robotic.
Occasionally the game switches to a minigame. Half the time the minigame has no purpose. Players actually do learn to juggle balls, for no other reason than because someone said they should. All the minigames are annoying, or at best, insultingly simple. The controls seem backwards for many of them. The sledding game would have been way easier with stylus control, and the sneaking game should have D-pad control. Most of them are a top down view, which manages to look worse than the main game and clashes with the style.
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