Disney has done it again. For the second time now, the kid-friendly conglomerate has defied the odds and released a movie-licensed Chronicles of Narnia game that almost lives up to the source material, thanks largely to the talents of developer Traveller's Tales (best known for its Lego Star Wars and Indiana Jones games). This summer's Prince Caspian follows in the paw prints of 2006's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, giving C.S. Lewis aficionados a lunch-pail action adventure better than the kiddie dreck you were probably expecting. However, in both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game, a number of issues still limit the game's appeal to fans of talking animals. These include the game's lack of imagination, as well as a confusing narrative and some oddly murky visuals.
Although the plot is a straightforward recounting of how the Pevensie kids return to Narnia to help Prince Caspian seize his rightful throne from the corrupt King Miraz, not much effort has been put into making sure this tale makes sense. Animated cutscenes and film clips book-end missions in such a haphazard way that it's often hard to figure out what exactly is going on in the game. You'll be lost if you haven't seen the movie or read the book. This is especially true in the beginning where you're dropped straight into some kind of flashback battle and then introduced to the prince just as he hightails it out of Dodge fearful of an assassination attempt. All you can really make heads or tails of here is that Caspian is obviously the good guy because he looks like he just stepped off the cover of Medieval Teen Beat.
Prince Caspian's gameplay is simplistic. Levels focus entirely upon mindless combat and finicky busywork where you pull levers, push buttons, or slap machinery together. You also switch back and forth between characters with special abilities, such as throwing a grappling hook or firing a bow. A second player can also join the action at any time and play through the campaign in co-op mode simply by picking up a controller (there is no support for multiplayer over the net). So you're either hacking and slashing through hordes of eternally respawning enemy knights, or you're looking around for the puzzles that need to be solved to open up the next area or reveal a quest item.
Nothing here is all that tough, though, because the game is geared toward the younger set. Combat is all about mashing buttons and you can wade through foes slaughtering at will, especially with tough characters like Peter and the minotaur or speedy ones like the centaur. Solving puzzles is equally undemanding. You step on a couple of platforms to cause a staircase to rise up out of the ground, pull switches to open up portcullises, smash through a wall by pushing over a statue, or fire an arrow at a far-off target to release a bridge. Essentially, you spend a lot of time performing the same sorts of tasks that you would expect from a traditional action adventure or a 3D platformer.