In many ways, the trio of studios (Dreamworks, Nickelodeon Movies,
and Paramount) bringing Lemony Snicket to the big screen no doubt
hopes this will be 2004’s equivalent of the super-successful
Harry Potter movies. After all, it’s based upon a big
children’s book franchise (nowhere near Harry Potter of
course), stars several English children, and even has star power in
the form of Jim Carrey. No doubt Activision has high hopes for the
franchise as well, and in this regard Lemony Snicket’s A Series
of Unfortunate Events is a decent children’s game to go along
with the movie release.
Based on the book series and upcoming movie, Lemony Snicket’s A
Series of Unfortunate Events follows the lives of the Baudelaire
children as they live through one unfortunate event after another.
Violet, the oldest at 14, is the inventor who throughout the
adventure makes a variety of devices using common household items
scattered throughout the house(s). Klaus, 12, loves to read and
remembers everything he’s ever read. He’s also the strongest, and
as such takes on the dirty work like killing rats. Sunny, the baby
has four very sharp teeth and loves to bite through things. She’s
also very small, and as a result can fit in places the other two
cannot. After the children’s parents die in a mysterious fire, the
children are sent to stay with Count Olaf (whom none of them
recall). It soon becomes apparent that the Count wishes to kill the
children, thereby inheriting the vast Baudelaire fortune.
As expected, the game takes place over 15 different missions
utilizing the unique strengths of each child. Klaus and Violet take
turns clearing obstacles and conquering enemies, with the child used
in each situation depending on the circumstances. For example, when
there are snakes to collect Violet uses one of her inventions to
capture them while Klaus assists her in opening up new pathways.
When rats are the trouble, Klaus uses another of Violet’s inventions
to pound them into nothingness. When a door is blocked, Sunny will
use her small stature to go through one of several 2D side-scrolling
areas to get to the other side. Violet’s inventions provide new
abilities to the children, opening up new areas to explore as well.
For example, Violet’s stilts allow her to walk over toxic liquid,
her Fruit Flinger disposes of enemies from afar, and Klaus’
propeller shoes allow him to glide over great distances.
One of this game’s strengths is that it provides several different
types of gameplay over the course of the adventure. As I mentioned
before Sunny’s adventures take place in 2D, either forcing the baby
to navigate a series of jumps or avoid obstacles while sliding down
an incline. Towards the end of the game several more types pop up,
including a short light-gun sequence (without the gun of course) and
a version of Simon Says used to open a lock. The majority of the
game takes place from a behind the player 3D perspective however,
and in these situations the tasks Violet and Klaus must undertake
are rather easy since the game is linear and the goal usually
obvious. Even if the player somehow dies, the game merely puts him
back just before the last area attempted with unlimited lives.
The game is pretty short, lasting roughly 4-5 hours for the average
gamer without collecting all of the puzzle pieces (see below).
Although inventions are made up of items found throughout the house
and even though these items are “highlighted” before they’re even
needed, for some reason the player cannot actually pick up and store
these items. My guess is Adrenium saw the necessary backtracking as
a way to extend playtime, but it’s bad game design nevertheless
especially when the children often comment that they can probably
use it later. Collecting puzzle pieces helps extend the game a bit,
and collecting enough of these unlocks picture clues that lead to
hidden packages. These packages unlock bonus content such as movie
stills, production artwork, and a series of “Storytime with Count
Olaf” video sequences using the game engine.
The graphics mirror the style of the movie faithfully, and are solid
throughout. There aren’t a lot of special effects or anything like
that, but the environments are detailed and the character models
look pretty good. There’s also a bit of slowdown, but it doesn’t
really hamper gameplay. Overall there’s nothing to hate here, but
nothing really to praise either.
Most of the story is told through neat storybook sequences (the
picture is drawn in as the narrator speaks), but unfortunately these
are used far too often for sequences that the player should’ve been
able to play out. In the end they bog down the adventure, and
deprive the player of the chance to see some of the best parts
played out in real-time (ex: Olaf’s transparent disguises).
The voice acting is competent, utilizing the actors in the movie
itself. Tim Curry does a marvelous job as the narrator, and
everyone else turns in a good performance as well (although some of
the lines are really wooden). For some reason Jim Carrey’s voice
acting is often at a really low volume, while everyone else speaks
at a normal volume. The sound effects are merely average (I
recognized several stock ones I’ve heard before), as is the low-key