November 18, 2009

A Christmas Carol - Nintendo DS/DSi

Overall Rating: 8
Author: JohnnyXeo
Genre: Adventure
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

Follow the adapted Charles Dickens tale of Scrooge and his chance for redemption as it comes to life on your DS this holiday season. Appropriately released in conjunction with the newest movie adaptation, Disney’s A Christmas Carol allows you to control the fate of Scrooge as you navigate the story through action and effect puzzles, mini games, and action sequences. This game is sure to put you into the holiday spirit and also includes some added bonuses like a special advent calendar to help you count down the days until Christmas and also the full version of Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol that you can peruse for your reading delight.

Presentation (8)

The graphics take on a very illustrated style one might expect to find within the pages of a book. There is the use of both still images and some animated cut scenes when the story is being retold which gives the story mode a special feel to it. It may even be just the eyes of the character that are in motion drawing you in to their expressions. The images feel as though they are taken straight out of the 1800’s when the text was originally released and the scenery and settings hold true to this time period. The colours are for the most part muted due to the solemn mood of the game, but will brighten in festive scenes such as Fred’s holiday party. At times the images are on the blurry side and lack some definition but this could certainly be a deliberate effect to again set the mood for the scenes.

One of the great portions of the sound included in A Christmas Carol is that when the game plays through the cut scenes there is a narration of the story done with voice acting. The game instructions will be provided in text much like the story that is read in the cut scenes but these will not be read out. There are also certain mini-cut scenes within a level that will not include a vocal reading of the text. Throughout the levels there is music that plays in the background, again as with the images, the music is classical and is right out of the time period in which the game was set and sets the mood for the scene. There is the use of some basic sound effects to add to the scenes music including things such as the cracking of the roaring fire, the banshee cries of the ghost, and also the sounds resulting from the actions you take on items in the environment such as books dropping to the floor or the shutting of a window.

There is also specific use of sound within the game in the mini-games Fiddle, Piano, the Bell game and also Christmas Carols. In Fiddle and Piano you must hit the notes displayed on screen in order to play the melody. If you miss a note you will hear the effect as the song will not play. In the Bell Game you must follow the crisp and clear ringing of the bells and repeat the pattern in order to earn points. Lastly, in Christmas Carols, you will be asked to sing into the microphone in time with the melody of three songs We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Silent Night and O’ Come All Ye Faithful.

Gameplay (8)

There are several different puzzle types that you will come across in each of the fifteen levels of Redemption Mode (Story Mode) while you play through Scrooge’s story. These can range from action and effect, mini games and also action sequences which are equally distributed throughout the levels.

After an animated cut screen which provides the context of the scene and the story up to that point, you will most likely be given a task to complete by performing a series of actions in order to obtain the required result and continue the story along. For example, in the opening sequence of the game you are asked to find a way to warm Bob Cratchit. In order to do so, you will have to scan the environment and determine how to accomplish this goal. In this case, it will be to obtain a piece of coal from the firebox by Scrooges fire. Seems simple enough, but Scrooge would much prefer Bob stay cold in order to save the coal. It then becomes a challenge to find actions within the environment which will cause Scrooge to become distracted enough such as pushing objects off Scrooge’s desk so he has to go and pick them up, or opening the window so that the candle blows out and Scrooge must get up and light it again so that the coal can be obtained without Scrooge’s knowledge. A lot of the times you will have to move objects by shaking, displacing, or lifting them with your stylus.

The game will provide you with some written hints if you tap on an item with your stylus that might be able to help you, or if you blow into the microphone several sections on the screen will begin to shimmer indicating that the could possibly be used to solve the puzzle. Personally, I found these puzzles the most frustrating to complete as at times these actions must be performed in a specific sequence or you will be unable to continue or achieve the end effect.

Throughout the scenes there are also hidden mini-games. There is a huge variety of mini games ranging from action games (Coin Flip, Snowball Fight), puzzle games (Tile Puzzle), memory games (Scratch Card, Pairs) or even cooking games (Cooking). Each mini game begins with a set of instructions and a point value to hit in order to win a Bronze, Silver or Gold medal. The mini games are fun, quick and at times challenging especially the piano game which requires you to hit notes across a regular keyboard much more difficult than similar games which only have a few notes you are responsible for. The mini games are played both in Redemption mode and can be accessed on their own through the mini games menu once unlocked. If you play the mini-games on their own you have the option of playing single player or Pass the DS in which you can choose to play with up to four players and the game will be passed from one player to the next.

The action sequences vary but a good portion will require you to make items or individuals in the environment interact with and fall on or in front of a moving object or person while the screen scrolls forward. For example, in one scene you will be required to make Scrooge’s walk home as miserable as possible and to do this you will drop icicles on his head, cause dogs to bark, ravens to crow, water to be spilt from buckets all along his path. These actions are performed by using the stylus to tap or drag items in the path of the object or person.

Within the levels there will also be added objectives that can be completed but do not prevent the progress of the game. One of these objectives is to catch a ghost that appears on screen. There is one ghost per scene/level and to catch the ghost the stylus is used to continuously circle around the ghost until it is caught. This is an easy enough objective to complete, unless you are in an action sequence that might make it more difficult to take the time to catch the ghost and complete the required actions for the sequence itself at the same time. There will also be hidden items throughout the scenes that you will find by tapping your stylus throughout the scene. If you are able to collect all the hidden items from a scene you will earn a surprise.

Recreational Rating (8)

Disney’s A Christmas Carol not only contains a great redemption mode which is sure to attract fans of the original story but also contains such a great variety of mini-games and puzzles there is bound to be something for everyone to enjoy. The story mode takes some getting used to as the action and effect puzzles are a little frustrating but wanting to see how the rest of the story will unfold really keeps you at work getting the actions right in order to solve the puzzles.

Apart from the Redemption Mode and the Mini-games there is also the Advent Calendar. This advent calendar will unlock one puzzle for every day in December that you play. The puzzles are all images in which you must spot ten differences between the top and bottom images. If you are in the holiday spirit, you can wait until December and count down the days to Christmas with the calendar enjoying a new puzzle each day, or if you become curious like me, you can always alter your date and time settings on your DS to access the puzzles right away.

Buy It – Try It – Forget It

This is definitely a great title for the holidays and especially great for kids with the addition of the advent calendar and some of the mini games which were even easy enough for my youngest child to play who is almost four. Due to the large amount of gameplay options available in this title and the overall quality of the game, we would definitely recommend picking up this title.

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