Zathura is a third-person action adventure game based on the just-released movie of the same name. The movie is based on the children's book from author Chris Van Allburg, who also brought us Jumanji. Like Jumanji, Zathura is about an enchanted board game that whisks players away on all sorts of fantastical adventures. The game is your basic platformer with plenty of shallow combat and not much else. Zathura is obviously intended for a younger audience, but the game is too short and frustrating to be recommendable to anyone, regardless of age.
It's Jumanji in space, but with a couple of annoying kids instead of Robin Williams.
Zathura the game sticks fairly close to the movie, so you won't find any surprises if you've seen the movie already. The game starts off with two young brothers being left at home alone one afternoon. Danny, the whiny younger brother, pleads with Walter, his bullying older brother, to make him some lunch. Eventually the two end up fighting, and Danny ends up all alone in the basement, where he finds a strange board game called Zathura. Danny hits a button on the game, and a card pops out. When he has Walter read the card for him, a meteor shower suddenly starts smashing the house to splinters. When it's over, the remainder of the house is floating through space with the two young boys stranded inside. To get back to earth, the boys have to finish playing the game, but each time they take a turn, something crazy happens. The adventure will take you to a couple of typical sci-fi worlds where you'll fight rampaging robots, lizard-men known as Zorgons, and, well, that's about it actually. There isn't much to this game, and you can easily beat it in two or three hours. When you finish the game, you're rewarded with two trailers for Zathura and one for Jumanji--great.
There are a few fun moments to be found in Zathura, but for the most part it's as generic as they come. You'll jump from platform to platform, fight some enemies, and occasionally go up against a boss. The boss fights are the highlight of the game, but there are only a couple of bosses, and they don't put up much of a fight. There are three playable characters: Danny, Walter, and a large robot that is programmed to protect the boys. You don't get to choose which character to play as, since the character transitions are built into the game at specific moments.
You might play as Danny for one section of a level, then switch off to play as Walter for another section. Each of the characters has different abilities. Danny is a weakling, so he can't do much but run around and shoot enemies with a slingshot. He can do a couple of kicks, but they aren't very effective since his legs are so short that you have to get right up on an enemy to make contact. Danny can collect different kinds of ammo for his slingshot by breaking objects like crates and boxes. He has infinite moon rocks, but he can collect only limited supplies of electric shots, freezing shots, and explosive crystal bombs. Walter is similar to Danny except he's a bit stronger, so he can do things like swing on bars and hang on ropes. Walter is also much better at hand-to-hand combat. His main weapon is a metal robot arm collected early in the game. He can swing it like a bat to beat down enemies or deflect ranged attacks. Walter can throw things like radioactive waste containers and sand-crab eggs to damage enemies from afar. The robot has two melee attacks and a built-in cannon that can fire pulse ammo, bombs, missiles, and homing charges. The robot can also jump higher than the boys, and it can perform a boost charge.
The controls are pretty simple regardless of which character you use. You can lock on to enemies by holding a button, which is about the only way to effectively use ranged attacks. You can also crouch, strafe, and side-dodge. Usually, you can adjust the camera with the right analog stick, but sometimes the camera will become fixed at a terrible angle that makes it tough to see what's going on. There are also some platforming sections where the screwy perspective makes it difficult to judge your jumps, so you'll end up missing a lot of platforms and falling to your death. It doesn't help that the characters never seem to make contact with the ground, and sometimes they float around as if they're on ice.