The Tale of DespereauxESRB:
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Published by: Atari / Brash Entertainment
Developed by: Fizz Factor
Not too long ago I took my daughter to see the movie The Tale of Despereaux. It was a fun little movie with a heart warming story that sucked me in from the get go. In conjunction with the release of the movie Atari has released The Tale of Despereaux for the DS. Being a movie based game, my expectations were quite low as far too often video games of these types are rushed and disappoint more often than not. So when I got a chance to review The Tale of Despereaux for the DS, I wasn’t expecting the second coming of Mario Brothers. Surprisingly enough however I was pleasantly surprised with the final product. It is not a perfect game by any stretch but it is definitely worth a try for DS owners and fans of the little mouse with oversized ears.
Overall, the visuals in The Tale of Despereaux for the DS are not that bad at all. I would not go so far as to say the graphics maximize the hardware of the DS, however they do the job. The main hero, Despereaux, is very recognizable and looks good on the tiny DS screen. His huge ears, tiny little body and human like expressions are bang on. The rest of the characters also look pretty good along with some of the enemies he faces along the way. The maps on the other hand are somewhat basic looking, linear, and lack a lot of detail. The oversized environments that Despereaux has to navigate do capture your imagination though. That being said, a few more splashes of color would have been nice. But for those that have seen the movie, the maps do effectively mirror some of those environments seen in the movie itself. The Tale of Despereaux for the DS does not feature many cut-scenes. Instead the story is told via scrolling text and picture stills in between levels. This causes the game to struggle a bit as it tries to to capture some of the magical moments in the movie but it just can’t. Regardless, at the end of the day it is a good looking game and fans of the movie should be satisfied.
As with the games visuals, the sound in The Tale of Despereaux is good but certainly not great. For starters, the game does not feature nearly enough voice work. In fact, other than Despereaux yelling “woo hoo!” from time to time, there is hardly any voice work at all. As mentioned the story is told via scrolling text and it seems like a bit of a cheap way out. Bottomline, I would have liked to have heard far more of the characters voices which I enjoyed in the movie. The music in the game is very repetitive as it just loops over and over again. The game’s soundtrack is a bit of disappointment considering the movie had a terrific soundtrack. Finally, as for the other sound effects, such as Despereaux leaping off books or throwing hunks of cheese, they manage to do the job. In the end I would say the whole audio package is solid enough, but there is still some room for improvement.
For those who have not seen the movie, The Tale of Despereaux is a story of a tiny mouse that is the only mouse to survive at birth from his mother's litter. He is born with huge ears and with his eyes open. One day Despereaux and his brother, Furlough, find a book to eat. Instead of eating the book like all the other mice Despereaux begins to read the words which is a story about a knight saving a princess. Afterwards, Despereaux hears music and follows it to the bedroom of the lovely Princess Pea where her father, the King, is playing the guitar for her. Despereaux falls in love with the Princess causing him to go forth and speak to her. This event is witnessed by Despereaux’s brother who in turn ‘rats’ him out. Despereaux is brought on trial before the mouse council and sentenced to the dungeon. Despereaux must rely on his wits, bravery, and inner strength in order to save himself and the princess. Having seen The Tale of Despereaux on the big screen, the game’s storyline very much follows the actual story of the movie, but the only downside is the way the story is told. It feels disconnected and I found myself not really caring as I did when I saw the movie. Then again, most young gamers won’t really care about the story and will likely skip all those in between story text screens.
In simple terms, The Tale of Despereaux for the DS is essentially an adventure based platformer which amounts to moving from point A to point B. In a Wall-E type fashion Despereaux must use his abilities, and the environment around him, to reach his final destination. The controls are very easy to pick-up and the game contains icons scattered throughout the level which gives you tips on how to use the various controls and how to use some of the destructible environments to your favor. Most of the game consists of running, jumping and climbing. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the number of moves available in the game. Climbing ropes, sliding down running water, swigging from a hook, and gliding down the side of a wall are all actions Despereaux must do in order to get through the various levels. Using the d-pad and one button is all that is needed to control our hero, which means younger gamers will have no issues with the controls.
The Tale of Despereaux’s levels on the DS are quite linear which is one of the games biggest set backs. You just don’t get to explore the areas as much as I would have liked. The game forces you to follow a specific path as you quickly figure out how to move past the various obstacles which includes every day objects which appear small to us, but absolutely huge to Despereaux. For instance, cutlery, books, countertops, and drawers all present major challenges for the little mouse. I found that as the game progressed it took me some time to figure out how to maneuver past certain areas but it was not an overbearing challenge. Younger gamers may have difficulty with some of puzzling areas; however most gamers as a whole should not have a problem breezing through the game’s levels.
The game features plenty of levels, 36 in total including six bonus stages. Many of the levels are small and mature gamers will likely breeze through them. The game should only take you 3-5 hours to complete depending on how many times you get hung up at certain points and what skill or age the gamer is. Enemies do not offer up much of a challenge so the main stumbling block gamers will encounter is certain environments which are difficult to proceed past.
There is some replay value to the game as there are three music notes hidden in each level. These notes unlock bonus stages. You can also collect buttons as you progress through the levels and you are scored at the end of the level for your skill in button collecting. So for those wishing to beat their previous high scores you need to race through the level as fast as you can all the while collecting as many buttons as possible. I should also mention you can unlock certain costumes by attaining higher scores too.
Overall, The Tale of Despereaux for the DS is perfect game for those younger and somewhat experienced gamers who loved the movie and own a DS. The sound and graphics will not blow you away, however the overall gameplay offers enough substance for fans 2D platformers. The Tale of Despereaux is movie based game that is pretty darn good for those who like their gaming on the go. Younger gamers in particular will have lots of fun navigating the little mouse across the 36 levels available as it will provide them with some enjoyable gaming while in the car, at home during a rainy or snowy day, or while just killing some time before then head out for a day with the family.