Zathura
Developer: High Voltage
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1
Words By:

Zathura is a 3D platform game that is based upon the film that is based upon the book of the same name. It's about two kids that start playing a mysterious board game, only for the game's crazy actions to start happening in the real world, putting them in danger, and with the only way out being to complete the game. Of course, there was another book and film that was exactly the same as this – Jumanji - with the only notable difference between the two being that Jumanji had a jungle theme, whereas the dangers in Zathura are of a science fiction persuasion. It should be noted that the same author that wrote Zathura also wrote Jumanji - that's not plagiarism, that's just plain laziness.

Zathura the game follows the plot of the book and film, as you take control of the two kids, Danny and Walter, as well as a robot they manage to recruit, in order to help them through the Zathura board game. In the cutscenes they take turns at the game, and then you help them face the consequences. If this sounds interesting to you then please let me tell you your enthusiasm is poorly judged – it really is not interesting. Yes, it's a kid's game, but even a kid's game needs to be engaging for its audience, and Zathura really could not engage any part of a child's mind. In fact, after an hour's play I decided that a pigeon would be more likely to be able to give an objective review of the game. Sadly I was unable to catch a pigeon in the local park in order to test this theory, and so soldiered on with the game myself.

Rewinding to when I first took control in the game, I have to say that as soon as I did, my heart sank – the frame rate was awful, the controls imprecise, and when static the game is just as ugly as when moving. The frame rate improved in later levels, but regularly dips to single figures during action, and the graphics stayed flat, lifeless and ugly throughout. San Andreas and Shadow of the Colossus might also have ropey frame rates, but they serve up sprawling environments and magnificent vistas. Zathura does not.

Sadly, the gameplay does not make amends for this – most levels are simply a case of finding your way through the level until you trigger the next event. When you find an obstacle you simply explore in the local area until you find the switch, and carry on. There's some combat too, although for two of the three characters you're best off just holding the 'lock on' button and hitting fire as quickly as possible. The third character has quite a limited ammo supply, but a reasonable melee attack - just go in close and hammer the attack button instead. Because of the poor frame rate and awful control over the character (especially when jumping), boss battles are farcical – it's next to impossible to avoid the boss attacks (not that you don't see them coming), so instead you just stand mostly still and carry on spamming the attack buttons. Don't get me wrong, I don't expect fighting to be hard in a kid's game, but there are also more than a few jumping parts in the game that are completely unforgiving – just some consistency would be nice. One section comes to mind when moving through lava on the back of some kind of turtle. I jumped off its back onto an island in the lava to kill a bad guy, but was too slow to get back on the turtle again. So I wait for the turtle to come back again. And wait. And wait… It doesn't come back again, and I have to throw poor Walter (the player character) into hot lava so that I can restart that section of the level. 'Granny's Garden' had more respect for the player than this.

I'd like to say something positive about this game, but I really can't think of one saving grace, other than the fact that it's quite short so I didn't have to suffer for too long. It looks bad, plays bad, the kids in it are whiny and annoying and the story is really quite uninteresting. Buy it for your kids, if you want them to hate you.

No pigeons were harmed in the writing of this review.


Best Bits

- It ends quickly
Worst Bits

- Poor frame rate
- Poor graphics
- Poor controls

by: Jocky

Copyright © Gamecell 2006