From the Big Screen to Your Screen
For video-game designers working on movie tie-ins, there's not much room for creativity: They must duplicate the look of a film with a much smaller budget and in a much shorter time frame and stick closely to someone else's script, even as they stretch a two-hour story into an eight-hour game. But this year's movie-themed games have been solid, if not distinguished.
Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures (Everyone 10+; Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, $49.99; PlayStation 2, PSP, $39.99; Nintendo DS [rated Everyone], $29.99; LucasArts) This game draws from the first three "Indiana Jones" films, skipping this year's "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." Of course you can always play as Indy, but dozens of other characters, including Marion Ravenwood, Short Round and Henry Jones Sr., help out. The game is especially entertaining in co-op mode, where two players can fight bad guys and explore ancient temples together. All the iconic scenes from the original trilogy are re-created in Lego form, with plenty of fresh puzzles to stretch the playing time.
Kung Fu Panda (Everyone 10+; Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, $49.99; PlayStation 2, $39.99; Nintendo DS, $29.99; Activision) This seems like a title better suited for a video game than a movie, but this month we get both. Alas, while the movie features Jack Black as the voice of the panda Po, the game settles for a sound-alike who doesn't quite capture Black's weird hyper-stoner rhythms. The game does deliver first-rate animation, including exclusive material from DreamWorks Animation. Most of the levels feature Po using his martial-arts skills to fight waves of enemy critters, and he has a few special techniques: He can belly-flop, causing a minor earthquake, or roll up in a ball and carom around arenas. Although fighting smaller villains can get tedious, decent puzzle levels and fairly challenging boss fights lift the game.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (Teen; Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, $49.99; PlayStation 2, Nintendo DS [rated Everyone 10+], $29.99; Disney) This game was developed by the studio behind "Lego Indiana Jones," but it doesn't have the same flair. That can be blamed largely on the stodgier source material, whose lead characters, the Pevensie children, just don't have Indy's charisma. But there are more than a dozen other playable characters, including centaurs, minotaurs and a talking mouse. The most excitement comes in the large-scale battle scenes, in which the minotaur can hop on a giant's back and cause all sorts of havoc. The best puzzles require switching between brawnier beasts and more limber ones, but there is nothing a fairly bright child won't be able to figure out.
-- Lou Kesten, Associated Press