Platform: Wii, DS, PS2 (Reviewed on Wii)
I’m not really sure what I wanted in a Coraline video game. The book, at first, reads like a child’s novel that quickly gets dark and disturbing. The story is fantastic, and the characters are memorable. I haven’t seen the recently released movie, so I’m not sure how the plot has changed in the transition from book to big screen. One thing I do know, however, is that the video game is not only a terrible adaptation of a good story, but not really appropriate for anyone, kids or adults.
Coraline the novel tells the story of a young girl, feeling ignored by her parents, who discovers an alternate world where there are different versions of real-life people. Though this other world, inhabited by her Other Mother and Other Father, seems like paradise at first, she soon finds out that it is quite the opposite. That basic plotline runs through the game; it’s just that the story is put together in a way that would make no sense to anyone not already familiar with the source material. In fact, it seems like the plot is just an excuse for an endless string of fetch quests and mini-games, as that is what most of the gameplay entails.
To Coraline’s credit, there are a decent number of mini-games within the larger game, even if most of them do seem extraneous and tacked-on. The challenge in each ranges from insultingly easy to barely functional, with the occasional super-quick button-press game thrown in. There are a small percentage of games that are mildly entertaining, but they are very few and far between. The games made me wonder who the demographic for Coraline was supposed to be. Most of them are too dumbed-down even for young children, and yet there are a few challenges that kids may not be able to solve because of either the difficulty involved or the poor game design. Really, there’s no winning at all.
When not mashing buttons or waving the remote and nunchuk around, you’ll be exploring the grounds of Coraline’s three family house, as well as visiting the upstairs and downstairs neighbors (both in the real world and the other world). Often, you’ll need to make use of your handy slingshot to dispose of giant rats and spiders (sure, why not?), shoot down apples or blocks of cheese (again, a perfectly normal thing to do), or whatever else a slingshot would be helpful with. You would probably expect the slingshot controls to be controlled by pointing the remote at the screen, similar to Link’s crossbow in Twilight Princess. You would be incorrect. Instead, the thumbstick on the nunchuk is used, which is the opposite of intuitive. Other missed opportunities to use motion controls (I know, how many times do you hear that about a Wii game?) are mini-games in which Coraline must walk along a thin pole, thrusting the thumbstick left and right to keep her balance. It doesn’t work very well at all, and being able to use the remote in a way that’s been done before would have at least made it more interesting.
Many of the so-called challenges presented in Coraline are optional, and reward you with buttons, which are the form of currency in the game. Again, if you know anything about this story, you know that currency is unnecessary and ridiculous, but I think we’ve moved beyond that point now. Buttons can be used to buy new outfits, which do absolutely nothing, because Coraline still appears in pre-selected outfits in cut scenes. You can also buy answers to puzzles you can’t solve, should you suffer from a removal of your brain mid-game.
I usually pay attention to graphics when I’m reviewing a game, but in this case the visuals were the least of the game’s problems. Yes, it looks like an early PS2 game, but I was so frustrated by everything else wrong that I didn’t even care. The stylized look would have worked well, had the game actually been enjoyable. The good news is, you’ll only have to look at the game for about three hours if you choose to punish yourself with this title, because that’s how long the game is. You read that right: three hours of disjointed plot and crappy mini-games, and you’re done. After beating the game, you will be asked whether or not you liked it. I chose “no”, and was rewarded with one button. It was one of my favorite moments of the game.
The best thing I can say about Coraline is that it’s not broken. It works, and just about anyone could play it from start to finish, but I don’t understand why anyone would want to. Fans of the book or movie will be insulted by this crappy tie-in, and if you’re looking for something for the kids, there are far better titles you can spend your money on. Even at the budget price of $30, there’s no reason to buy this game. Just leave it on the shelf.