A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is the first game to feature Disney's new DGamer social network that lets 'tweens chat with each other through their Nintendo DS handhelds and online at dgamer.com. Players can earn "honors" by completing game missions, post high-scores to an online leaderboard, and unlock special game-specific costumes that they can use to dress up a special avatar that represents them while chatting. Parents can set three different security levels for chatting: "Speed Chat" lets kids only communicate using preset list of phrases and symbols; "Speed Chat Plus" introduces free-form typing but blocks inappropriate language; and "Open Chat" requires the exchange of Friend Codes outside of DGamer. DGamer is only available on the DS when a Disney game is inserted in the handheld console.
What's it about?
The Nintendo DS version of THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN, based on the Disney film of the same name, is not only a completely different title from the console versions but is also the first game to feature Disney's DGamer social network (see the Parents Note above). While overall it's a significant improvement over the Game Boy Advance version of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe -- which was criticized for focusing on combat at the expense of the rich world of Narnia -- Prince Caspian does also start to eventually get weighed down by repetitive enemy encounters.
The game doesn't just abandon the narrative in favor of action, but actually presents cutscenes in a text-based storybook format complete with watercolor-like illustrations. The action/role-playing gameplay lets players form a party of three characters drawn from a group that includes Caspian, the four Pevensie children, the dwarves Nikabrik and Trumpkin, and various creatures of Narnia including Trufflehunter the badger, and the noble mouse Reepicheep. Combat is not just mindless hack-and-slash, but introduces specializations for each character that involves tapping through a quick mini-game before each attack. For example, Edmund's sword-based attack involves tracing slashing movements on the screen with the stylus.
Is it any good?
Combat is more elegant than violent, in keeping with the spirit of the films, but there's still no getting around the fact that there's a whole lot of it in the game. Granted, combat is always against either the armies of Caspian's usurping uncle Miraz or the evil denizens of Narnia such as werewolves and ogres, but the encounters do become repetitive after a while, as does the scenery you'll have to backtrack through numerous times. While Prince Caspian does hold its own as an enjoyable game that takes full advantage of the Nintendo DS's unique features (in fact, you can play the entire game using only the stylus and no buttons), it's still not quite as sophisticated as other action/adventure offerings for the Nintendo DS.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes the Chronicles of Narnia series so popular. If children have read the book, you can discuss the plot differences between the book, game and movie. Why do you think the developers made the changes they did in the video game version of the story? What other books and movies do you think would make a good game?
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