IGN Review of Tale of Despereaux
Say what you will about The Tale of Despereaux movie, but there's really no getting around the fact that Sensory Sweep's videogame adaptation is a total disaster. Licensed games often have to battle against the stigma associated with their kind, but Despereaux offered almost nothing redeeming during the six to seven hours it took to beat it. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that the game (the PS2 version in particular) was so painful and poorly executed that we couldn't help but laugh at certain moments of awkward gameplay. But there are those that will be interested in this game purely for the movie tie-in elements, so let me offer some more detailed explanations.
The Tale of Despereaux follows the basic premise of its silver screen counterpart (and the original book in turn) but does an absolutely terrible job of telling the overall story. Extremely important plot points are left out and almost none of the side characters are given any explanation. The game doesn't even mention how the queen died, which is a critical aspect of the story and causes later events in the film to transpire.
Although the story is poorly told, you'll be able to grasp the main points and move on. The game puts you in the miniature shoes of Despereaux, the big-eared mouse that doesn't know the meaning of fear, which makes him an outcast to the rest of mouse kind. There are sixteen chapters in the game, each giving you a linear path to follow, insects to battle and awkward jumps to make -- all in the name of Princess Pea.
I could draft a massive list of reasons why Tale of Despereaux is a poorly-controlling mess of a platformer, but for the sake of time I'll touch on some of the most obvious issues. Movement is less than ideal and you'll often be running off platforms by accident and into the bottomless voids below. This problem is exacerbated when you consider the complete lack of camera control, which is always dangerous when dealing with a 3D platformer.
The terrible controls are one thing but the level design is equally unimpressive. There's really no fun to be had when the platforming is uninspired and uninteresting due to drab, repetitious environments. But the most crippling problem with Despereaux is the lack of depth when playing. To be more specific, it's terribly difficult to orient yourself in certain sections and tell where ledges are located in relation to others. There were several times during my experience with Despereaux where I had no idea what direction I was supposed to jump in because the game's sense of depth is so off. It doesn't help that mid-level loads would often happen mid-jump, where a loading screen would interrupt the action for a few seconds at a time.
If you're -- for some reason -- still interested in choosing a copy of Despereaux, most of the versions are identical across consoles. The Wii version just adds motion controls for Despereaux's uninteresting attacks, but the content is virtually identical across the platforms. The Wii version does benefit from more responsive (perhaps due to an improved framerate) controls, but the improvement does little to alleviate the aforementioned issues. The PS2 version, however, is the most horrifying of the versions I've played. Not only does it have the most uncomfortable feeling controls but the game crashed on me three times during the several hours it took to beat. The first time, I jumped towards a pot and landed on it, only to find that I couldn't move. The pot had won the war.
The second time, I tried exiting out of a menu and the game froze. Nothing too dramatic there, but it was equally annoying. The third time, however, was classic. During one of the final battles of the game, the screen went black and simple white text appeared. Unfortunately, there was no differentiation between the "o" and "c" of this text as far as I could tell, so the only message I could read was: "A Diso Error ooourred. Please restart your oonsole." Oh well, these things happen...
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