Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie has a lot going for it. It's got Johnny Depp doing an eccentric yet endearing riff on Michael Jackson as the crazy chocolatier Willy Wonka. It's got a bunch of nifty Oompa-Loompa musical numbers. And it's got surreal and colorful set designs that make you think somebody's been spiking the Everlasting Gobstoppers with LSD.
The Charlie and the Chocolate Factory game has none of these delights. There's no Depp to alternately creep us out and enchant us, there are no Oompa-Loompa odes to obnoxious children getting their just desserts, and there are no interesting visual elements. It does feature an interesting new angle on the original story that's sure to be of interest to the three or four people who dream of commanding an army of Oompa-Loompa repairmen. But other than that, this is a short, disappointing misuse of a great movie that clearly had the potential to inspire an outstanding kid's game.
Unlike the movie and the almost completely different PC edition of the game, by developer ImaginEngine (only some cutscenes and voice-overs are shared), the console versions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by High Voltage, don't really follow the plot of Roald Dahl's classic children's novel. While you do play Charlie Bucket, that impoverished young lad with the grandparents who all sleep in the same bed, you don't really guide him on a tour of the reclusive Willy Wonka's psychedelic factory. Instead, you follow fellow golden-ticket winners Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde, and Mike Teavee, enlisting the aid of a crew of Oompa-Loompas to clean up the mess that the obnoxious kiddies leave behind.
So when Augustus Gloop is punished for his gluttony by getting sucked into the pipe that drains the chocolate river, you help clear the machinery by grabbing a couple of Wonka's miniature indentured servants and putting them to work. After Veruca Salt goes down the garbage chute, the only thing standing between her and the incinerator is you and your tiny workmen. And so on. The little guys come in different varieties, so you need to recruit specific Oompa-Loompas for specific jobs. Welders, for example, are needed to repair leaky pipes, while gatherers are required to collect candy, and electricians are mandatory if you have to get power flowing again.
But while this is an interesting concept on paper--although, wouldn't the appeal of touring a chocolate factory be lessened by having to fix it along the way?--High Voltage doesn't do enough with it in pixels. Oompa-Loompa tasks are basic and repetitive. To get Gloop out of the chocolate pipe, for example, you order one worker to get power going by jumping up and down on a bellows, while another has to operate a machine that's creating Wonkabots. Then you turn the robots into vine balls with a magic candy power and throw the balls into a trio of vent shafts to increase the air pressure in the pipe needed to pop the fat kid free. Sound like pointless busywork? It is. And it's repeated four times before Gloop is finally out of the goop.
Unresponsive controls don't help matters any. You typically need to hit buttons three or four times for the simple work. Then you follow and wait for orders to be recognized, slowly growing more annoyed as the Oompa-Loompas shrug their shoulders over and over again. Even after your creepy mini-minions understand what they're supposed to be doing, their pathfinding is so terrible that they stumble over and get stuck on every magical mushroom and piece of candy-making machinery in sight. And since the controls are so simplistic, you can't even move these clods around via micromanagement; all you can do is sit back and wait while they stagger to their assignments.