Rise of the Guardians is based on the DreamWorks movie of the same name. The game is developed by Torus Games and published by D3 Publisher. The game is available on most formats but we took a look at the Xbox 360 and Nintendo 3DS versions.
You would think games based on CGI films would be easier to create due to the characters and environments already existing digitally. However for some reason games of CGI films almost always seem to disappoint.
The story revolves around classic childhood legends including Santa Claus (North), the Tooth Fairy (Tooth), the Easter Bunny (Bunnymund), Sandman and Jack Frost. These legends are the guardians of hope, beliefs and imaginations of children all over the worlds and they must do battle with the evil villain Pitch and his infectious nightmares. Disappointingly the cutscenes that explain the story are simple animated storyboards which are nothing like the movie.
The game opens up with a short tutorial that teaches you the basic controls. Your guardian can be moved using the left stick. The A button is used to attack. Left Trigger and a direction perform a dodge roll and Right Trigger is used to block incoming attacks. Up to four players can play together via drop-in/out local co-op and the AI will play characters for you in place of absent players. At any time you can use the D-pad to switch to another available guardian.
Each guardian is given their own realm and after the tutorial is complete you can use a guardian gate to travel to whichever realm you like. This is great for kids who often get frustrated when they can’t play the level they want until they have unlocked it. While playing a level you can bring up a map of your current area which shows you where things are such as missions and collectibles. The game has a lot of items to collect if you want to 100% complete it.
The combat is very simplistic and the game is really nothing more than a button masher. This is understandable being a game that is aimed at kids but a little more depth and a lot less repetition would have been nice. Defeating enemies rewards you with experience to level up and crystals which can be spent to buy gems that grant you extra abilities. These grant things such as more powerful attacks, energy regeneration and block resistance. Gem slots can be unlocked at levels 4, 8 and 12.
At any time during play you can summon up your Journal which details each guardian along with other characters and nightmare creatures. The Journal also keeps track of your stats such as speed, strength, defence, focus, belief and energy. Skill points can be used to upgrade these stats and the game can be set to do this for you automatically if you so wish. The Journal shows your gems and abilities too. Extra abilities unlock at levels 3, 7 and 10 with each guardian having their own unique abilities.
Graphically the game looks quite dated with simple and rather sparse environments. The main character models have had the most time spent on them and they are instantly recognisable from the film. During play and even on the animated storyboards we often noticed the framerate plummeting resulting in stuttering video. The music is very repetitive but the voice acting is well done and one of the best features.
The 3DS version plays much the same as the Xbox 360 version gameplay-wise with the touch screen used to perform certain action such as swapping characters and accessing menus.
Rise of the Guardians is a typical film tie-in and sadly nothing special. It’s a game definitely aimed at kids but is suitable for playing together as a family too. Kids who enjoyed the film will probably get the most out of the game.