The Golden Compass
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Lyra, the main character, frequently deceives people -- often by lying -- to get what she wants. For example, she tricks a servant into letting her into her uncle's quarters, and tells her uncle that she's been behaving -- when she'd been throwing plum pits at a teacher. Iorek the armored bear kills lots of wolves and human hunters. There's no blood, but he growls and bares his teeth, and in one cut scene, he's shown biting a wolf through the middle and tossing it around.
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What's it about?
The story takes place in a world in which humans have special \"daemon\" companions who appear in animal form. A 12-year-old girl named Lyra and her daemon, Pantalaimon, embark on a journey to save Lyra's friend after he's kidnapped by shadowy figures known as the Gobblers. Lyra's journey takes her to several wondrous locations, including a winter wasteland inhabited by talking, armored polar bears. She also finds herself in danger, since she seems to be the only one who can control the mysterious Golden Compass.
As Lyra, players can run and jump to explore their surroundings, using Pantalaimon's different forms to access new areas. With the Golden Compass, Lyra can answer questions by deciphering a riddle that involves matching keywords with symbols around the compass. Players can also take on the role of Iorek the armored bear, who is primarily used for fighting off wolves.
Is it any good?
While there are some good ideas here, The Golden Compass suffers from extremely subpar production values, clunky controls, and repetitive gameplay. Lyra's conversations with other characters can take forever since players have to win a short Mini game before she can speak.
Gameplay is intercut with live-action scenes from the movie, which is a nice touch. But these scenes also serve to make the transition back to the game's primitive graphics that much more jarring. Die-hard fans of the movie might be able to appreciate this game on some level, but overall it has the aura of a rushed and mediocre movie tie-in.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how lying is portrayed. When Lyra lies, was it her only choice, or could she have found other ways to get characters to help her? Did you play this game because you liked the movie or book (or both)? Do you think the game did a good job creating an interactive world based on the movie?
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