You know exactly what you’re in for when a game’s first move – its way of drawing you in to the rest of the adventure – is forcing you to slowly drag a box around the kitchen. Then making you say hello to the neighbours. Then getting you to prepare tea. Basically, everything you don’t enjoy doing in real life. That’s what Coraline gets up to in a collection of mostly tedious minigames.
It’s an accurate portrayal of childhood – boredom, frustration and neglect, via occasionally shooting stuff with a slingshot – but it’s hardly a fitting adaptation of a wonderfully dark and creepy kids’ film and the book on which that’s based.
The little world you explore is pleasant enough, and you’re rewarded for exploring the nooks and crannies of your house with buttons to unlock costumes, film clips and cheats, but the game lazily skips over exciting-looking bits of the movie, presumably because the developers couldn’t figure out a way to make yet more minigames out of them. The resulting story is garbled, and its implied creepy tone crushed under the weight of a load of dull chores or the odd bit of horrible stealth.
This feels like a re-skinned version of some other boring kids’ title rather than a Coraline game in its own right. The plot, characters and world may be derived from the book and film, but the gameplay – and by ‘gameplay’ we mean catching pancakes or having tennis balls fired at you – feels completely tacked on. Although there’s some tactile joy in filling a kettle up and putting it on the stove, turning all the lights on around the house or playing some of the better minigames, the bulk of Coraline’s activities are pointless and have nothing whatsoever to do with the original story.
Like a lot of licensed stuff, this largely coasts by on inherited elements from the movie. Fans will doubtless gain some satisfaction out of simply being in the world, but, as usual, Coraline isn’t very good at being a game. If the developers had been brave enough to explore the darkness of the film, this could have stood tall among the other uninspired licensed dross. They haven’t, so it remains firmly and indistinguishably in the murk, destined to be forgotten with all of those other ill-conceived movie tie-in games.
May 27, 2009