It’s a well-known fact that video games based on films aren’t highly praised by critics. They’re often rushed for release, can be completed within a few hours and contain very little replay value. While there are a number of exceptions, Rise of the Guardians is not one of them.
Developed by Torus Games, the game’s plot consists of the Immortal Guardians (Jack Frost, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and the Sandman) teaming up to protect the innocence of children all around the world, after the evil spirit Pitch launches an assault on Earth with the help of his Nightmares (the game’s enemies).
Each of the characters has abilities that are unique to them. For example, Santa Claus uses close range attacks, while the Easter Bunny uses a boomerang from long range. As with most games with multiple protagonists, players will adopt a favourite and is more than likely to stick with them until the title’s conclusion.
The game contains elements of a role-playing game, as protagonists’ statistics and abilities can be increased by spending crystals dropped by eliminated enemies. This also unlocks new skills and features, including stronger attacks and increased defence. While it may sound like an odd inclusion for a title aimed at children, it’s a well implemented feature of the title.
Whereas taking down Pitch is the primary goal in the game, players will spend the majority of it playing the title’s side quests. In order to progress through the game, players are given a number of goals which are spread out through the game’s environments. These include killing enemies in order to protect a friend; killing enemies in order to gain access to a guardian gate; killing enemies in order to free some of the inhabitants. Basically, you kill a lot of enemies.
Regrettably, this is where Rise of the Guardians falls flat. The game’s combat system is very shallow and, while players are able to block, it’s an unnecessary feature, as attack proves to be the best form of defence. Unfortunately, hitting enemies simply requires players to mash buttons on the controller again and again – something that gets repetitive really quickly.
In addition, the computer AI can be quite hit and miss (quite literally). Sometimes they will be assisting your combat with the enemies though, on other occasions, they appear to be oblivious to their surroundings and simply stand still.
Nevertheless, this isn’t a problem in Rise of the Guardian’s multiplayer, which works similarly to the system evident in the LEGO titles, with drop-in/drop-out co-operative play for up to four players on one console. However, this isn’t the type of game you’d invite your friends round for.
Graphically, the title is pretty mediocre. The cutscenes (if you can call them that) are simply animated storyboards that aren’t particularly attractive to look at. Meanwhile, the gameplay graphics aren’t much better, as it wouldn’t look out of place on the last generation of consoles.
As for the audio, while the film contains a strong cast of voice actors, including Chris Pine, Alex Baldwin, Jude Law and Hugh Jackman, the same can’t be said for the game. The stand-ins fail to replicate the film’s counterparts in the game’s very few cutscenes. Furthermore, the repetitive soundtrack and sound effects are enough to make you press mute on your television set.