Jon tells us if it's worth jumping into the wardrobe for this one.
The recent silver-screen resurrection of C.S. Lewis's The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe brought with it a slew of video-game adaptations. As one of the pre-eminent children's stories of the last century, it was only logical for a version to be released on the kid-friendly Game Boy Advance. Amazing Games' Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe does a good job of telling the story and recreating the battles of the movie, but its ultimately shallow and repetitive gameplay make it only a decent action-platformer.
Chronicles places you in the role of four young children who step through a magical wardrobe into the land of Narnia. Thrust into a life-and-death struggle against the evil White Witch, it's up to them to help the lion king Aslan defeat her deadly hordes. Levels are presented from a 2-D isometric viewpoint, making gameplay reminiscent of the newer entries in the Gauntlet series. And while there is a fair share of Gauntlet-style hack'n'slashing, the emphasis is on exploration and puzzle-solving rather than fast action. Most levels feature "fetch-and-return" missions, requiring the party to find a critical item and bring it back to a key area or character. Acquiring "Nobility Skills", special abilities such as melting ice or summoning animals, is key to solving puzzles in each level. Later levels combine puzzle types, requiring you to use multiple Nobility Skills to reach the end.
You control a different child in each level (depending on the twists and turns in the story), with the other members of the party controlled by computer AI. The computer-controlled children aid you by attacking monsters, but they also get lost and have a hard time staying with you if you move quickly through a level. They'll help you if they're there, but don't count on it.
The White Witch has plunged Narnia into an eternal winter, and this story element has been weaved effectively into gameplay. A warmth meter acts as a shield, decreasing in cold areas unless replenished by the heat of a fire. Matches to light the fires, along with health items like tea and toast, are collected by smashing statues and opening chests. The amount of health items varies depending on difficulty level (Easy, Normal, or Hard), with less items available on higher difficulties.
Controls are clunky. You do have extra attack techniques, but repeatedly pressing the A button is just as effective. Early in the game you're instructed to "time your attacks" to hit enemies, but this seems like an attempt to explain away the game's haphazard collision detection rather than an insight into some advanced technique. All monsters, even bosses, can be defeated in exactly the same fashion: just make sure you attack them first and keep pressing A, and eventually they'll go down. The strategy is the same on higher difficulties, the only difference being that the enemies hit for more damage. The game is relatively lengthy, with an abbreviated but well-told story spread over its seventeen levels, but this length also serves to expose the game's repetitive nature. A multiplayer mode extends replay value by letting you play through with a friend, but once the game is finished there isn't much else to do.
Narnia's graphics and sound are its biggest strengths. Levels consist of snow-covered caves and forests, with well-drawn backgrounds that truly evoke the bleak nature of the frozen landscapes of Narnia. There are plenty of little touches like lightly-falling snowflakes and the footprints the children leave in the snow. Character sprites could be more fluidly animated (the children tend to lurch humorously around the screen), but they look good overall. The story is told in text boxes accompanied by some nice character artwork, and during the game there are some great cutscenes that move the story along. The game's artists should be commended because they really did a great job.
The musical score is epic, somber, and moody, a perfect accompaniment to the epic tale being told. There's also plenty of digitized sound, from the ominous howling of the Witches' wolves to the comforting crackling of a warming fire. This is very good work that really brings the feeling of the movie to the handheld experience.
While Chronicles of Narnia has solid graphics and sound, a lengthy adventure, and an excellent story, its repetitive "fetch-and-retrieve" gameplay wears thin over the course of seventeen levels. The types of enemies you face and goals you accomplish don't change; they only become more numerous. While it's a good representation of the movie and its story, Chronicles of Narnia lacks the depth and variety of gameplay to be considered anything more than decent.