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Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole


The Guardians of Ga'hoole series by Kathryn Lasky is a wildly popular childrenís series about owls that seeking adventure and ultimately boils down to the good versus evil storyline. There are currently 16 books in the series; hence it was a no-brainer for Warner Brothers to adapt the series in to the recent theatrical release, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole. WB reached out to Krome Studios to create a video game attached to the theatrical release. The narrative in the game doesnít directly follow the events in the movie, but rather offers a side story that parallels events that occur during the film. The narrative is follows the story of a small owl named Shard. Shardís father has been outcast from the Guardians and heís out to reclaim the family honor by proving his worth. While the story is definitely entertaining, you really need a base set of knowledge from the books or the movie to understand the timeline of the events or the roles of other supporting characters.



The main component of the gameplay is obviously airborne combat. Itís highly dependent on a power-up system called prowess which allows you to unleash special attacks like speed bursts and friendly AI targeting. The prowess meter can be populated with power by pulling off successful attacks or dives. There are two combat moves, a general attack move and a move designed to crack open the enemy armor. The bumpers on the controller lock onto targets (though often problematic due to a difficult auto-targeting system). Targeting an enemy brings up their life meter in the display, ideal to watch while pounding on them with those talons until they expire. Enemy AI will also target you, thus defensive maneuvers are required to escape them. Anyone thatís played a flight simulator will understand the concept immediately.

While the majority of the targets are in the air, there are ground targets to take down as well. You can dive into them or use the gameís ammo pick-up system to rain hot coals down on enemy structures. They can be used as projectiles as well. You have the ability to string attacks together in a simple combo system, ideal for prowess building. Overall, levels are really just strung together with combat instances. There are occasional boss battles and protection missions, but nothing extremely exciting. The main problem with the combat is there are too few attacks and it drags the gameplay down into a series of monotonous actions during each battle.



Thereís no multiplayer mode in the game, there are plenty of achievements to earn. The vast majority of the achievements can be knocked out on the first playthrough, but the game forces you to complete the game four times to unlock the final one, a feat not likely to be met as the game would be incredibly boring at that point. Still, the achievement set offers plenty of that precious gamerscore to both young players and achievement fanatics.

Graphics

  • The visual engine has a variety of problems, likely caused by the rushed development cycle that plagues the majority of movie-based games that are timed by the theatrical release of the film. There are framerate issues from time to time and plenty of pop-in issues with objects far in the distance. The character animations are smooth, but the actual designs show a remarkable similarity. The environmental textures are less detailed and lack the pop that more colorful adventure games offer. The physics engine is pretty solid, but the camera system can get really wonky at times. There are multiple instances in the game that causes the camera to lock onto objects in the distance rather than enemies right next to you.

Audio

  • The voicework during the cutscenes is excellent as each owl has a very distinctive voice and brings their respective owls to life. During battle, the developers didnít record enough source material and itís extremely repetitive. There are also some stuttering issues which I believe are related to the framerate issues. The same can be said for the musical soundtrack for the game. The sweeping tunes are likely lifted from the movieís soundtrack, but it certainly fits the adventure style of the gameplay (although suffering from the same audio issues). The sound effects are on the repetitive side, mostly because the limited attacks.

Conclusion

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole is definitely a short experience, likely clocking in around 4 to 5 hours for younger players. There are reasons to replay that game if you want to try alternate owls, but the general monotony of combat will wear you down. Itís unlikely that kids would enjoy playing the game over again, even the die-hard fans of the books. That being said, the split narrative is definitely worth experiencing for the uberfans. If you have young kids in love with the movie / books or perhaps kids that love solid storytelling, consider renting this title over the weekend rather than shelling out the full $50 MSRP for it. Otherwise, you can easily skip this release.

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