Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Zathura

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Electronic Theatre ImageGamers have always been spoilt for choice when it comes to Platform-genre releases. It therefore comes as no surprise to see a movie tie-in for the forthcoming Jumanji spin-off Zathura.  The film, basically kids in space, is clearly aimed at a young audience, and was a natural candidate for a Platform adaptation. With the plethora of Platform games on the market across all-formats it is rarely left up to games like Zathura to make groundbreaking advances in the genre. Considering the game is aimed at a young audience, it’s not looking to do anything new, or be particularly challenging. The big question with Zathura would always be whether or not it was to provide an adequately fun experience for both fans of the film, and other gamers.

To begin with, the game is painfully easy; most young children would not struggle to Electronic Theatre Imagecomplete the game well inside five hours. It is simply quite hard to die. Health pickups are absolutely everywhere, far more than would be required even by the poorest of players. In addition, when attacked by large groups of enemies each kill heals the player about half his health-bar, which makes dying something of a feat. Not that dying is a cause for concern, there is no limit to Continues, and the player usually respawns almost where exactly he left off. At a couple of set-pieces it appears to be quicker to commit suicide and respawn rather than play on. However there are some difficulties, unfortunately all of this is provided by sloppy programming or poor controls. The Lock-On  System is atrocious, with the Lock-On regularly changing target at the most inopportune moments. Irritatingly entire commands do not appear to work at all, often leaving the player with extreme difficulty in having to find other ways of getting past obstacles.

The story of Zathura much like Jumanji, involves kids finding a board-game that sucks them into another world. In this case two brothers Danny and Walter are sucked into space, and embark upon an archetypal Sci-Fi adventure. However it seems little imagination has been used as far as the story-line is concerned. We see three main worlds; one with robots and lasers, one with lava, and finally one with giant lizards. None of this is new, and while it may be built for children, it still seems rather patronising to repeat the age-old formula, much like with the Xbox360’s Kameo: Elements Of Power. The player plays as one of three characters at the various stages; Walter, his little brother Danny, and the Protect and Serve Robot. Whilst all of the characters are different, none of them are overly imaginative. Each is capable of having some form of ranged attack and a close attack. The attacks however seem overly powerful in comparison to that of the enemies. Whilst Danny or Walter Electronic Theatre Image is capable of being hit by laser fire multiple times, a couple of hits from Danny’s hand held catapult will destroy everything from turrets to lizards. It is also rather comic to see Walter deflecting in-coming fire with the robot arm he wields as his close combat weapon as if he carried a Light-Sabre.

The animation appears initially to be reasonable if uninspiring, but graphical errors soon become a major problem. There are Frame-Rate issues when attacked by multiple enemies, this gets increasingly frustrating as the game progresses. Polygon Pop-Up is also a problem, especially during the lava-based Stages. There are also several other problems caused by sloppy graphics; it is not uncommon to see the characters standing on thin air a little above whatever is below them. It is also irritating to see various limbs pass inexplicably through solid items. Worse, and unforgivably, the characters in places pass through solid walls or floors and are unable to get back out, leaving the player noElectronic Theatre Image choice but to restart from the last Save Point. Overall the graphics seriously harm this game. Dated simply doesn’t do it justice, nor does sloppy: the graphics are major problem, and are inexcusable.

The sound is something of a mixed-bag. The music comes from the film and creates a truly epic atmosphere, somewhat at odds with the on-screen goings-on. The Voice Acting also seems pretty competent and is no cause for complaint. However the rest of the sound effects seem to be copies of every Sci-Fi film and/or game ever. They add nothing to the game and can become rather tiresome after a short while.

Zathura is game with major errors and with no real redeeming factors. Not only has it been unable to bring anything new to the Platform genre, but has also failed to do most of the basics a player would expect. THQ’s attempts through-out 2005 may have aligned themselves between “alright” and “good”, but with efforts such as Tak 2: The Staff Of Dreams and Nintendo’s Kirby: Power Paintbrush remaining stable whilst pushing minimal boundaries, almost anybody paying for this game is destined to be disappointed, and wishing the had spent their hard earned cash elsewhere. Even kids will find the game easy for the most-part, and will quickly bore of it. Zathura is nothing more than a shameless cash-in and never deserved to be published. Having approached the game with high hopes, only to have these dashed, Zathura should rank only amongst the Hall of Shame of worst games ever.Electronic Theatre ImageElectronic Theatre Image










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