Although based off the same movie and also released by Sierra, The Spiderwick Chronicles for the DS bears little to no resemblance to its Wii companion. The Spiderwick Chronicles for the DS puts the player in control of all three Grace children at the same time; while exploring the same great storyline that made the other games of the same title so worth playing.
Although the storyline is no longer borne out by full-video from the movie, the dialogue and slideshow-like exposition work excellent for the platform. The storyline is very similar to the one that played out in the Wii version of the game. It is just as intriguing and will keep the player playing through to find a conclusion. With a few twists thrown in here and there, the storyline easily keeps things interesting.
The player will spend most of their time doing three things: collecting sprites and items, moving from place to place, and fighting off goblins. Collecting items and sprites involves using the touch-screen (most easily done with the stylus) and drawing around bushes and boulders to make the characters search them. The use of the stylus (or at least the touch-screen) is essential in combat, as to block an attack, the player taps the attacked character in the moment before the attack lands. The combat system is simple but works remarkably well, using a similar style to the old RPGs (fight, defend, item, magic, and run). Combat takes place in turns, with the player going first unless a ?surprise attack? occurs (they?re quite rare). The player has a choice of using an attack or one of the ?special attacks? they?ve unlocked, using sprite powers, using an item from their backpack, or attempting to flee. An attack consists of the character jumping forward and a shape appearing on the touch screen. Writing on the shape in the correct way will make the attack or combo more effective. While at first this can be challenging, it soon becomes second nature.
The game?s controls are very simple, most simply involving touching the screen in a certain way. The learning curve is made even simpler by the presence of tutorials that appear every time a new feature is introduced. Graphics are quite good, giving hints of 3d maps but maintaining a picture-book-like style, giving it a very interesting feel. Sounds and music are also very good, fitting the game well, and are quite impressive for the system.
Language and sexuality are entirely absent from the Spiderwick chronicles. Violence is barely present, attacked characters and enemies simply stumbling and falling when defeated. Magic exists in the form of Sprite powers, useable by all three Grace children. By collecting various sprites scattered throughout the game, the characters gain access to special attacks and abilities. While these abilities could technically be classified as magic, the characters simply release some sprites to do what they do anyway, making it easy to explain and containing no occult or harmful images. The message of the game is very positive, and it is very easy to determine who the ?bad guys?. We would say that this game is acceptable for gamers of all ages, but the combat and other systems might be a bit beyond the abilities of very young players. The given rating of 10+ is a fair one, but one that could easily be ignored with parental guidance as the game contains very little in the way of objectionable content.
While not perfect, The Spiderwick Chronicles is a very fun little gem of a game. An amusing feature of the game also uses the wireless capabilities of the DS to trade collected Sprites with other players. Combat is fun and uses a simple enough system that players will catch on quickly, but retains enough of a challenge that the game is not a complete push-over. All in all, the Spiderwick Chronicles for the DS is a game well worth having.
» By Matthew Turpin, Plain Games. Published 2/29/2008 3:43:33 PM.