Considering this game comes from the same studios as the LEGO Star Wars titles, it would be an understatement to say that expectations were high. As The Chronicles of Narnia sequel to The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe hits the big screen, fans can now take part in the action in Prince Caspian.
For those who aren’t familiar with the story, Prince Caspian is set 1,300 years since the Pevensie children last visited the magical world of Narnia. However, in this time, the children have only aged slightly in the real world and return to find the land they once ruled over taken over by the Telmarines, lead by the evil despot King Miraz.
Straight from the mark, it is important to note that this is a children’s game. Surprisingly though, Prince Caspian still has an impressive amount crammed into it. For starters, throughout the game you will take control of a whopping 20 characters, including Reepicheep (the talking mouse!), Wimbleweather, the Pevensie kids and Prince Caspian himself. Even the very first level of the game lets you play as a dwarf, a centaur, a minotaur and a faun. Each character has their own abilities and traits; for example, the dwarf can fit into tiny spaces and access areas that most couldn’t. The centaur has impressive speed and the minotaur possesses massive strength. The faun… well the faun has some crazy backwards goat legs. Players can switch characters at any time at the press of a button, but only between the line-up according to your current mission.
Partnered with actual cinematics from the movie, the game opens up in Cair Paravel, a castle currently under siege by invading forces. In order to help your fellow men in battle outside the castle walls, you must use your initial four characters to lower the draw-bridge. The puzzles in the game are fairly simple, obviously to ensure that younger minds don’t get fried. They usually revolve around pulling levers, or switching to a different character to shoot a target or move objects.
The combat on the other hand was surprisingly rewarding. In the aforementioned scene, the battlefield outside the castle is brimming with soldiers and even the PS2 does an admirable job of maintaining the level of detail. Players can use either heavy or light attacks, with the shoulder buttons used for defence or blocking. Enemies are satisfyingly easy to defeat, usually only requiring a few blows, apart from the later boss battles that require some thought. The only real issue in combat is actually lining up enemies for your attacks because the movement, controlled by the left analogue stick, can be clumsy at times. Quite often you will find yourself slashing just to the left or right of your target but with practice, your aim can certainly be improved. Depending on your character, your array of combat moves will adjust as well. Obviously archers allow you to use long distance attacks, but you can even control giants on the battlefield who can simply pick up enemies and hurl them away with ease. Very satisfying.
The game should take most players around seven hours to get through, spanning across six different areas with a great variety of locations for each. The game is also linear, but considering it follows the story of the movie this is hardly surprising. It still does offer you a choice over the order in which you embark on a couple of missions though, so it was nice to see the developers trying to make it more open ended. Sadly though, despite the selection of characters that you’ll come across, the game does tend to be repetitive at times. This is mainly due to the basic controls, but also because there are few upgrades or special abilities that become available to your characters. The only things to explore are treasure chests that appear in levels, but these only unlock non-essential bonuses like the occasional video clip. This is especially frustrating when you have to tap X repeatedly just to open them for little reward.
While these quirks can be irritating, the game still has some excellent entertainment value. Like the LEGO Star Wars games, Prince Caspian allows for a second player to hop in and out for co-operative play at any time. Having a friend take to the battlefield at your side is a lot of fun, but things can get a bit cramped at times mainly because all the action takes place on the same screen. Running off in different directions will result in the invisible wall technique to ensure the players are always visible. Another issue is some of the events in the game don’t seem to have been developed for two players all that well. A couple of times the second player was forced to sit around and wait for the first one to complete a task, even in some of the big boss battles.
It is certain that this game is more than just the average, rushed-out-to-meet-a-movie-going-crowd title. Traveller’s Tales have put plenty of care into this title and it is sure to please Narnia fans of a younger audience. Even as a 27 year old, I got plenty of enjoyment out of it. Some people will argue this is because I still play with LEGO and collect Marvel figurines, but I’m convinced this is normal behaviour for someone my age. It’s also a surprisingly well presented game for the PS2, offering no frame-rate drops, impressive sound and some fairly sharp graphics despite the amount of bodies on screen at times.