We're all used to the way the world works by now. Train fares will go up every January. We'll never win more than a tenner on the lottery. Film licence tie-ins will always be rubbish. These things are sad, but are at the same time completely and unavoidably inevitable: they simply are. So it is for the predictably dismal Rise Of The Guardians. We didn't come to this game with high hopes, so for it to fail to live up to those low expectations is pretty impressive.
Rise Of The Guardians is a Dreamworks film that sees said Guardians battling the evil Pitch and minions. North (Santa Claus), Sandy (Sandman), Bunnymead (Easter Bunny), Jack Frost (erm, Jack Frost?) and Tooth (Tooth Fairy) rely on the belief of the kiddies to remain in existence and nasty Pitch has come along to ruin all that. Naughty man! By invading the kiddies' dream he's forcing them to fear magical beings and lose faith in the Guardians.
Stuff Of Nightmares
It's the Guardians' job to put a stop to Pitch's nastiness, except in the videogame version this is achieved by mashing the A button over and over and over again. Walk a few metres and you'll be ambushed by wave after wave of pitch-black (get it?) rats, dogs, bats and wolves.
Your choices are: mash A, throw in a quick Y tap to unleash a slightly more powerful attack and very occasionally hold down L to unleash a co-op magic attack. Now don't get us wrong, plenty of games require button-mashing, but when the combat is this basic it just becomes a never-ending, monotonous chore. The game does support up to four players simultaneously, so the battles can be completed more quickly with a few friends to help out, but sadly it's no more playable with humans in tow.
The quality of the character models and the level scenery isn't great, either, so it comes as a massive shock when you experience the framerate for the first time. The action is painfully jerky. In some cases, literally so: after just 20 minutes the constant back-and-forth gave us a throbbing headache. It possibly wouldn't matter so much if it was consistently jerky, but you'll be enjoying silky smooth action one second and super-jerk-o-vision five seconds later. The only consistency that you'll find anywhere in this judder-a-thon comes from the fact that the framerate very consistently rises and drops. We had to stop playing for a while before we could go back to it.
As for the GamePad features... what? You really thought there would be GamePad features? Dream on! If this game thought it could get away with ditching the GamePad altogether, it probably would have.
In many situations like this we'd be able to step away and admit that, while it wasn't our cup of tea, we could see how kids might enjoy it. Not so with Rise Of The Guardians. It's so basic and so repetitive and the framerate problems will affect people of all ages equally, so really we are unable to recommend this game in good faith to anyone of any description.
If you're a parent and you find yourself in a situation in which the kids have seen the film and desperately want to play the game, then you have an important choice to make. This is one of those key moments in your child's development. We trust you'll do the right thing.