There is a phrase that gives almost every seasoned gamer a shiver down their spine. Movie-to-game adaptation. Such games are notorious for under-performing and not delivering. I expected no different when I entered the world of Rise of The Guardians.
Rise of The Guardians is based on the movie of the same name (which is based on a book). It tells the story of four guardians, each of which represent well known fictional characters, as they set out to defeat a villain known as Pitch (The Bogeyman). They are aided by a boy known as Jack Frost (The Spirit of Winter) who later becomes a guardian as well.
The four guardians are North (Santa Claus), Bunnymund (The Easter Bunny), Tooth (The Tooth Fairy) and Sandy (The Sandman). Right from the start, a short film explains how the guardians have power so long as children believe. The film then shows Pitch set on destroying the guardians by wiping out the belief kids have in them. The game wastes little time on developing the story further than that. As you complete missions in each realm, it shows you slowly winning back the belief of children but ultimately the story is forgotten about.
What the game lacks in compelling story telling, it more than makes up for in gameplay. Keeping in mind that this game is targeted mainly at young kids, I didn’t expect too much but the fluidity of the game took me by surprise. You start off playing as North, and as you fight off monsters, you can switch to any of the other four characters simply by tapping left or right on the controller.
Fighting is merely a face-button-bashing fest. Standard attacks come free, but more powerful moves come at the cost of an energy bar. Whilst the fighting may seem simplistic, this is targeted at kids, thus it serves its purpose well and allows you to focus on the heat of the moment as opposed to chaining together complex combos.
All five characters level up simultaneously and also earn skill points which can be used to improve various aspects of their fighting, such as speed, strength and defence, to name a few. Gems are also collected from slain enemies which can be used to improve characters. Whilst these features add to customisation and allow you to build each guardian the way you want, it can seem a bit complicated and with no guide in-game giving a brief overview, it can often leave you wondering what exactly it is you’re spending skill points or gems on.
There are 5 realms that you can explore, each pertaining to one of the five guardians. Within each realm there are a variety of places that each have their own generic missions, ranging from freeing trapped friends of the guardians, to defending friends against waves of monsters, to collecting treasures. Finding missions however, can prove to be slightly problematic.
The map is arguably one of the worst I’ve ever used in a game. Firstly there is no minimap so you constantly have to open up the map to see where to find missions. Then, the cursor showing you where you are will tell you you’re on one path, but actually you’re on a completely different path, and when you’re searching for a mission that isn’t there, it can be quite frustrating.
The multiplayer aspect is very simple, but elegantly done, and it’s clear it’s about having fun with friends. Friends can drop in and out of your game and help you complete missions simply by pressing the start button on their controller. Once they’re done, they open the menu to log out and you continue as you are. Having fun with friends has never been easier.
The graphics were astounding. The different realms you fight in each had their own distinctive design and feel. From North’s house with presents strewn all over, to evergreen forests where Bunnymund lives – the realms really do come alive. Attention wasn’t just paid to the environment. The fighting animations during battles are a cascade of colours and button bashing allows you to really appreciate just how stunning the visuals are.
Careful attention was paid to the sound as well. It was whimsical and did well to bring across the playful nature of the game but when the fighting occurred, especially the boss scenes, it was serious and haunting but without being too spine shivering.
Overall I was pleasantly surprised by the game. A lot of attention was put into fluid gameplay, absolutely stunning visuals and a fitting score. Whilst some features were blatantly overlooked, the end product is one that will keep kids playing for hours on end with friends and alone. How long it’ll keep them believing in Santa and the gang remains to be seen.