game reviews and playing tips: Nintendo DS game reviews
Review posted April 2009 by Edmund Wong
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Developer: Art Co.
ESRB: E for Everyone
Release Date: January 2009
Coraline the game is based on the animation movie of the same name, which itself is based on a novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman. It surrounds a girl named Coraline Jones and her little adventure at her new place of residence known as The Pink Palace. The DS edition brings the gist of the movie onto the handheld, but unfortunately, it falls flat elsewhere.
Coraline is a girl living in an unloving family where her parents are too busy tapping away on their keyboards than to take notice of their daughter. The Jones family has moved from Michigan to a quiet little place known by the locals as The Pink Palace.
Soon coming to the house, Coraline discovered the 'Other World' through a little door in the wall, a parallel world of sort where her 'other' parents are lot more caring and everything are more to her likings. But things are not what they seem.
While I have not seen the movie nor read the book, Coraline DS outlines the general story of the source material. The story is told from Coraline's point of view through her interaction with other characters. Unfortunately, the DS version is crammed with text, lots of it. For its intended audience (i.e. younger kids), they might lose interest in the game fairly soon, especially those who are not fond of reading.
Although you can use the D-pad to move, you are most likely to use the stylus to move Coraline around the screen, because ultimately, this game is a point-and-click adventure. You use the stylus to interact with people or objects that have an exclamation mark over them.
Moving from one area to the next is simply done by clicking on the directional arrows that will appear on screen. While there seems to be many places for Coraline to explore, both indoors and out, the environment is actually quite restrictive, as most of the action happens around the house.
The general gameplay involves Coraline walking / running around the house or its immediate surroundings and interact with other characters or objects to advance the story. At some point, you get to play a mini game, then it is back to wandering around the house again, looking for people to talk to, or things to do to advance to the next point. It is very simple in nature, but in practice, it can get quite lackluster rather quickly.
Because the game does not give you so much as a hint as to what to do next, there will be a lot of backtracking, and for younger gamers, it can get tedious after awhile. If you ever become stuck, it is only a matter of talking to every soul, and going through every room to get yourself unstuck, but will younger gamers have the patience to do that?
At some point in time, you will encounter some mini games. The gameplay varies, there is one where you attempt to quash as many bugs as you can in a given time, or a rhythm game that requires you to click on the correct musical instrument as the music is being played. Most of the mini game is short, and acts more as a distraction than a plot device (except for the last few). While some of them are quite fun the first time you play them, it is not near enough to make an otherwise dull game entertaining.
As you progress through the story, you will discover buttons or clothes lying around in the form of an exclamation mark. Getting enough buttons, and you may be able to exchange them for items in the 'Other World'. Coraline can also change into different outfits by going to her room in either of the worlds. This adds a little more game time to an otherwise short game.
Advancing the story is more about doing the right thing at the right time, rather than solving puzzles to advance. The pace of the game is fairly slow at the start, and picks up gradually towards the end. However, any excitement towards the end is short lived, as the game is over too soon.
One annoying aspect is the save feature that only displays the date that the game was saved. At the load screen, you can see where you are on the top screen, but if you have left the game on the wayside for too long, and had saved on multiple slots on the same day, it is easy to forget which one is your latest saved game.
Graphics is one area where Coraline excels. The 3D models are on par with other comparable DS games. They move smoothly around the screen. You can tell the difference between the parents of the real world and their evil twins in the 'Other World'. The texture is filled with richness. There is a big difference between the house in the real world and its counterpart in the 'Other World'. Colors are vibrant and rich. Players are treated with snippets of movie stills throughout the game, which adds to the game's appeal.
The level consists of the same theme that goes on and on and on forever. You are treated to two themes (one for each world), they are great to listen to, but are short and repetitive, to the point where you would want to turn down the volume. Mini games have a different soundtrack, but they are just as repetitive. There is no voice acting, hence the text based interface. Overall, the audio is a disappointment compared to the stunning visual that this game presents.
There is a Collection Room where you can play any of the mini games that you have come across during the main story, but as mentioned before, they are short and not very enjoyable. The real replay value comes from collecting buttons and clothes (if you have missed any).
The New Game+ mode that is assessable at the end of the game retains all of Coraline's clothes, but everything else you will have to find again.
While the game captures the essence of the source material, it fails to impress as a game. The gameplay is monotonous and the mini game is over too soon. In fact, the whole game is too short, and can be finished in two to three sittings. The graphics are on par with other DS games, but the sound left something to be desired. Reading a lot of text does not help to appeal to its intended audience.
All in all, the source material may be great, but the DS version does not do it justice.
Playing Hints and Tips
- Talk to the same character multiple times until the dialogue repeats itself.
- Go to the Collection Room (found on the load screen) to play any of the mini games.
- To get out of the Collection Room, exit the room through the bedroom door.
- There is one mini game in the Collection Room that is not found in the main game.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Very detailed 3D models. The 'Other World' is filled with color and rich texture.
Same theme repeats over and over again. Unfortunately it is very noticeable and annoying.
Lots of backtracking and not enough substance to keep the game fresh.
The mini games might be good for the first time, but they are not very challenging. The main story finishes all too quickly.