Ah Narnia, Narnia. A delectably debatable diatribe or a work of winsome wonders? Thatís the question. To enhance my description, CS Lewis, the author of the Chronicles of Narnia was an Oxford alumni, English Literati and best mates with one JRR Tolkien (you know, him of the rings, hobbits and elves, wrote quite a famous trilogy, also has videogames in the franchise). The Chronicles are still being debated now due to their Christian imagery and the portrayal of certain characters and events in the books. The second and more geeky debate that has been raging since the series was completed is the order in which the books should be read (i.e. by date published, or chronologically, as some of the books are prequels, which was alluded to by Lewis as his preferred order of reading them). Currently, the publication sequence rules the day, as the cartoons, radio plays and films of the series always start with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (LWW), which is good for the film industry, as this is the book that has the least theological and most whimsical content to it.
If you are not aware of the storyline, LWW the game stars Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, four children sent to live in the country to get away from the blitz in London during the Second World War. Lucy discovers a Wardrobe to another realm called Narnia. Adventures ensue and there is a lion and also a witch involved. For more information read the book, see one of the films or a cartoon, or a radio play, or TV series.
So we find that Disney got their hands on the rights to create a big budget series of films. The first of which is LWW, and so, as is now the norm, multiformat game franchises are spawned simultaneously. This here is the PC iteration and I must say that it is an enjoyable experience on the whole, however, suited towards a particular audience of an 8-12-year-old of good dexterity, a reasonable amount of patience and no access to games consoles. This specific demographic will become clear as the review progresses.
LWW the PC game is a third-person action adventure based heavily on the Disney film (obviously) and is quite clever in its design. Each level is based on a scene from the film and it liberally uses footage from it. So much in fact, that if you play the game without seeing the film, you will have no problem following the storyline. The game footage is used as cut-scene material and is blended beautifully into the in-game graphic cut scenes on some of the game levels, which last for a couple of seconds before the player takes control of the characters. The first level is a fairly challenging time-dependent section, and players can get an immediate feel for the controls using the easy on-screen tips. Each character has his or her own abilities and special moves (which can be bought and upgraded by collecting coins scattered about). For example, Peter is strong and Lucy is light on her feet, so each character is useful in a particular situation. You can switch between any character on-screen at any time, although apart from a couple of exceptions only two characters are available on each level.
If you donít have a joystick or gamepad, the controls can be imprecise on the mouse. The keyboard is a little better, but feels unresponsive compared with a pad. The best alternative solution I could come up with was to use keyboard for movement and three mouse buttons for regular attack, special attack and action. Once these control features are sorted out, the game becomes more fluid to play, characters easily switchable to perform certain functions. One neat feature is the ability to double-team, and each combination of Pevensie children will perform a different double-team move, which you will need to perform at least once on each level. The AI of the computer-controlled children is passable, and they will defend themselves and back up your character should you be assailed, however, you can get a mate to jump in any time and take over the other character co-operatively. Being a kidsí game, there are hints and icons all over the place, the levels are linear and you will never be at a loss as to what to do.
The graphics on this game are reasonable. They are not really comparable to high-end PC games such as Half Life 2, with a bit of 'jaggy' on some of the straight edges and a washed-out look that is noticeable after a transition from live film footage. Other than that and a little bit of clipping, the graphics are on a par with anything of a comparable ilk on the Xbox. Sound is pretty good, with a score to match that of the film, all the lines are spoken well by the actors, and effects are whimsically fun.
So, if you fit in the category I alluded to earlier, then this game should be top of your list. If you loved the film and wanted a fix, this is the game for you. If you are a reasonably adept player looking for a challenging adventure, you should look elsewhere. And finally, the clincher: if you tick all the boxes but also have a PS2 or Xbox, you may be better off going for one of those versions, purely for the ease of control.