Zathura is very forgiving when it comes to dying. You have unlimited lives, and when you do die you usually respawn almost right where you left off. It really takes away any sense of danger or risk this game might have had. On one level we found that when we fell off a platform it was easier to commit suicide and respawn at the top of the level rather than to climb all the way back up. Even without the infinite lives and frequent health pickups, this game is supereasy except for a few poorly designed platforming sections.
In addition to the generic gameplay, the graphics are pretty unremarkable. Some of the enemies--like the zorgons--look detailed and animate well. For the most part, though, the characters aren't the least bit interesting. The three playable characters have only a few animations that quickly get old. The environments are standard fare for a sci-fi game of this type. There's the industrial stage with lots of metal crates and laser beams, the lava stage with, well, lots of lava everywhere, and one level that has you hopping around on the surface of an asteroid. None of the levels look particularly interesting, and the few themes you'll see here don't feel very distinct. The Xbox version of Zathura suffers from the occasional bout of slowdown, but it's head and shoulders above the PlayStation 2 version of the game, which is constantly plagued by a choppy frame rate.
You could probably beat Zathura the game in about as much time as it takes to watch the movie.
The sound in Zathura fares a bit better, but it's still nothing special. Most of the music sounds like it was taken straight from the movie. The soundtrack is about the only thing that makes this feel like an epic adventure. The actors from the movie lend their voices to the characters in the game, and while it isn't Oscar material, it's competent enough. Walter and Danny's father and sister both have roles in the movie, but they have been cut entirely from the game. That doesn't matter much since the game focuses on the two boys anyway. The sound effects are rather shallow in Zathura. You'll hear the same metallic creak every time your robot swings his arms, the same laser sound whenever an enemy turret fires, and the same hollow clatter when you destroy a box or piece of machinery.
Zathura is ultimately just another perfunctory action game based on a movie license. For the price of this game you could go see the movie twice and then go pick up the recently released Jumanji (Deluxe Edition) DVD and still have money left over. In doing so, you'd be getting about three times as much entertainment as you'll find in this game. If you've seen the movie, though, and just can't get enough, you might find something to enjoy here, but Zathura is way too short and uninteresting to be worth the $40 selling price.