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Videogames-To-Flix #30

02.01.2007

VIDEOGAMES-TO-FLIX is a JoBlo.com column showcasing reviews of videogame translations of Hollywood films (or games soon-to-become Hollywood movies). With both industries getting closer and closer, and videogames, in general, getting so much more popular, you knew it was just a matter of time before we hit that stuff!

ERAGON

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Developer: Stormfront Studios
Publisher: Vivendi Games/Sierra Entertainment
Systems: XBOX 360, PlayStation 2, DS, PC, XBOX, GameBoy Advance, PSP

INTRODUCTION:

In no certain terms is ERAGON a horrendous video game. Unfortunately, ERAGON is a collection of bad decisions by smart people hoping to sell a game to the widest possible audience. The game is designed to be played on multiple platforms for multiple users without taking risks or breaking new ground. ERAGON is the epitome of the status quo in game design and owes its existence to the first generation of computer entertainment.

ERAGON is the video game adaptation of the movie adaptation of a book with the very same name. The story told in all three of these mediums is a mixture of STAR WARS, WILLOW, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, and DRAGONHEART. And when I say mixture, I mean derivative drivel that is about as heavy-handed as an acceptance speech written by Renee Zellweger. The story told in the game is overrun with gaps and inconsistencies akin to those in the original DONKEY KONG. Nevertheless, anyone playing this game is going to either be a fan of the book or the movie; otherwise, there is no rational reason to be playing this game.

GAMEPLAY:

ERAGON's gameplay is a mixture of button-mashing, puzzle solving, wall climbing, dragon riding, and lots of running. The closest gameplay style to parallel with is PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME. Except suck out any of the originality or difficulty of that game and substitute it with a melted Tootsie Roll. While the majority of ERAGON cribs off of PRINCE OF PERSIA, the designers make several fatal flaws. The biggest problem with this game is that you don't really have to fight anyone to progress. While there is an endless stream of copycat enemies that appear, you can just hop your character from the beginning of the level to the end. Why stop and fight a mindless castle guard when you can just skip him? This problem dissipates in the game's later levels but you can still skip through certain portions of those levels.

The second major problem with this game is the camera. In the modern era of game design there are two successfully established styles of camera positioning: 3D and 2D. In some iterations the player has complete control of their 3D world (SUPER MARIO 64), while in others they have limited but exploratory camera control (GEARS OF WAR). ERAGON has decided against 2D side-scrolling (a retro style that works incredibly well on smaller titles) and uses a broken 2D/3D hybrid design. The game allows the players no camera control in a world that looks 3D but functions mostly in 2D. This forces endless invisible walls, nonsensical visible barriers that magic-wielding characters can't go through, and a consistent feeling of containment. ERAGON lacks consistent gameplay logic. This gameplay nightmare gets even more frustrating when the game decides to introduce flying missions to the mix. An unmoving camera in a 2D environment is one problem; an unmoving camera in a full 3D environment is unforgivable. Imagine trying to cut corners in MARIO KART without any semblance of trajectory or angle. Riding a dragon into battle should be one of the coolest gameplay features ever designed. Instead, a half-assed camera design paired with the redunancies of the maps (imagine burning the same army of 6 archers for 20 minutes straight) leaves this game woefully inept.

ERAGON is designed for co-operative play. This allows to players to unite in utter frustration over the game's many flaws. Under the right circumstances, friends might try to challenge each other to see who can kill the most clone soldiers in one level. I guess that might make for fun gameplay, but why accept that in this game when doing so in a game like GEARS OF WAR is more varied and fulfilling? Gameplay: 6.2/10

GRAPHICS:

Because this title was designed for multiple platforms, the models and graphics are going to be flawed. My first impression was that ERAGON is just another PS2 game ported over to the newer systems to broaden the profit margin. The character models are blocky and lack the detail of high def designs. There is no comparison between the faces of ERAGON and those in DEAD RISING. While the character models are a let down, I was impressed by the textures in the background. The water detail is above average, although, still not up to the benchmarks set in TOMB RAIDER: LEGEND, FAR CRY, or GEARS OF WAR. Foliage shimmer in the sunlight and rocks give off just the right amount of grays. I think these backgrounds are so crisp because they aren't as dynamic as 3D games. The camera is not forced to show multiple angles and that allows the designers to work less on a simpler look.

The cut scenes in ERAGON are in-engine renders with filters added to provide atmosphere to the clips. While these cut scenes look better than gameplay they still present blocky characters and don't look remotely current gen. These clips are overwhelmed by a lot of graphical gimmicks that add a smidgen to the atmosphere and eventually hinder more than help. Graphics: 5.7/10

AUDIO:

I've said this many times in previous game reviews: if you're making a game licensed from a movie, secure the real actors to do your voicework. If you can't, at least get someone who can fill their shoes. While the acting quality presented in the theatrical version of ERAGON is debatable, the performance in this game is unacceptable. Ed Speleers, as Eragon, provides zero emotion and never bridges the gap between computer generated protagonist and its real life counterpart. Speelers's only support, Robert Carlyle, delivers some brief but interesting voicework here. Carlyle must have been thrilled to be abandoned by costars Jeremy Irons, Djimon Hounsou, Rachel Weisz, and John Malkovich. I guess they didn't need the extra paycheck. The score for ERAGON is above average and sounds like your typical movie score. It was the right decision to go with a cinematic score because it reminds players that this game is a movie and adds to epic quality of the story. However, as should be expected with the license of a knock-off of THE LORD OF THE RINGS, ERAGON still has a soundtrack that feels derivative. Audio: 5.4/10

FINAL VERDICT:

ERAGON is a game meant to make money. It was never meant to revolutionize gameplay or tell a unique story. It's a game meant to squeeze a couple more dollars out of a kid's wallet. It's meant to help pad a movie studio's ledger and to aid the box office and DVD revenues. I can't vouch for whether or not ERAGON was a success in this endeavor. I can vouch for this game's inability to go beyond a gamer's lowest expectations. You can go ahead and rent this game if you want Achievement Points or to distract an 11-year-old for a day or two. Anything else would be foolish. Final Verdict: 5.8/10

STATUS OF THE MOVIE:

ERAGON was in theaters this past holiday and generated $73 million domestically (twice as much in foreign box office). With those numbers a profit looks assured and DVD sales will boost that even further. While Fox 2000 hasn't officially announced a sequel, an adaptation of the second book would be a safe bet to make.

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