Narnia has a crate and key epidemic in Disney Interactive’s new “Prince Caspian” videogame. Though there’s a fair bit of action, this movie adaptation is primarily a collection of platform gaming cliches with an emphasis on punching through breakable containers in search of the items needed to keep going. Sterling reproductions of the movie’s CG sets will wow anyone, but “Caspian’s” obsession with trivial collectibles and too-obvious puzzles limits its appeal to young gamers and “Narnia” buffs.
Developer Traveller’s Tales is best known for its breezy, lucrative “Lego Star Wars” games. “Prince Caspian” could almost be “Lego Narnia,” only without the plastic blocks or sense of irony. Instead, gamers get a respectably literal imitation of the film divvied equally into battle sprees and fetching missions intercut by smartly edited and uncommonly complete shots from the movie, including two made especially for the game. The voice work, provided by all of the film’s principal talent save for Eddie Izzard (Reepicheep), is solid if unremarkable.
Problematically, “Caspian” turns its cast of controllable heroes, which includes the Pevensie children, a handful of Narnians and Prince Caspian himself, into barrel-bashing gophers. The game is mostly about scouting small maps, collecting keys that open bonus chests and battering every crate and barrel in sight to free glittering shards that boost armor rating. Since each area resets when players leave and return, racking up a perfect armor rating and 10 times the number of keys necessary to unlock everything is possible before the halfway mark, especially confounding when that point can be reached in about three hours.
Missions primarily consist of staving off gangs of Telmarines while finding cogs to assemble Rube Goldbergian contraptions, standing on depressible platforms to open doors and employing special abilities like shooting and climbing to solve bland puzzles. Those who aren’t put off by the cliches will almost certainly balk at the way the same to-dos are woven into nearly every level.
For all it makes overly easy, much about “Caspian” can be maddeningly abstruse. For instance, it’s impossible to see how many bonus chests are on a map without first completing that area’s mission. Also, players must be near another character to swap control, which feels punitive when wading solo through hundreds of battling figures.
Worst of all is the fixed-position camera, which hunkers under battlements, hides behind pillars and pretty much sticks on the wrong side of everything. It’s another example of a holdover from the “Lego Star Wars” games that makes an already derivative experience that much more irritating.