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GamelogoBy Australian Ninja

Remnants & Relics. Buttonhole *Special* Feature

Welcome dear reader to Remnants & Relics, the first in an ongoing series of features looking back at various aspects of yesterday's video games. This series is one that I'd hoped to kick off many months ago, but I just haven't had the time to do it justice, until now. So consider this your opportunity to put on your best pair or rose-tinted glasses, open up a luke-warm can of clichés and prepare to hop aboard the way-back-machine.... It came from beyond two dimensions! -A Look Back at Isometric Gaming-

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ToonlogoBy Australian Ninja

ACMI Day Tripper

Welcome Buttonhole readers to another feature that is so choc-full of goodness that I've divided it into several sections. The top half is about the Indy video games showcased at ACMI. The bottom half is about the Pixar exhibit. It's ridiculously long and all terribly interesting to read, so you may as well read it in two halves, or just the parts that interest you. After reading about the ACMI exhibits on their website and getting more than a little excited, I decided to make the perilous trek to inner Melbourne. With time on my side and money stuffed in my pocket I ventured forth to the train station. Once on board I passed the time by staring out the window, reading a volume of Dark Horse's Concrete and snacking on tasty fruit. Arriving at Flinders St, I wandered around until inevitably finding my way out of the rat-maze like station.

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ToonlogoBy Australian Ninja

Classic Comic-book Review. Kraven's Last Hunt

"Here lies Spider-Man - Slain by the Hunter" So reads the grave of one of histories greatest superheros. "But he's not dead, is he? What happened to everyone's favourite web-slinger? Spidey seems to be alive and well now, what with his three movie deal and a string of monthly Marvel comic-book titles to his name, so why was he buried six feet under? The year is 1987. The company is Marvel. The character is Sergei Kravinov also known as 'Kraven the Hunter.' Back in the 60's Stan and Steve (Lee and Ditko, respectively) churned out a heap of cool villains for the title "Amazing Spider-Man." Doctor Octopus, The Cham

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Narnia PS2 box The Chronicles of Narnia. PS2/Xbox/Gamecube Review

The Lion, The Witch, The Wardrobe & The Sammy

Publisher: THQ

Tue, 24 January 2006

Sammy by: Hillelman

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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Here it is, the game based on the movie that was based on the books. You've probably heard of it, I believe the film got a little bit of press coverage here and there (my sarcasm dial is set on full). The story is set in the World War II era England. These young whippersnappers, Huey, Dewey and, that's not it. The kid's names are Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy and in an old wardrobe they find a gateway to another world, a magical place called Narnia. Obviously there's far more to it than that, but I expect everyone already knows the gist of it.

It is standard fare, when reviewing a product of this kind, to say you expect a licensed movie tie-in game to suck a floppy fat one (well, perhaps putting it in those exact words isn't quite standard). That cliché , like most of them, exists for a reason - such games really do tend to be crappy more often than not. But that also allows them to provide a pleasant surprise when they turn out to be reasonably fun. Narnia falls into that latter category for me. While hardly an all time classic, this is an enjoyable enough effort and clearly some amount of care for the flim and its fans has gone into its creation. So, if you love some Narnia action, this game is certainly worthy of your attention.

On one hand, I'm not an ideal candidate to review this game. I still haven't seen the movie and (though I seem to recall my Mum reading them to me as a kid) I haven't read the books, by C.S. Lewis, either. I don't have any reasons for wanting to avoid it or anything, just one of those things I'm yet to check out. On the other hand, having no preconceived ideas or expectations allows me to judge the game purely on its own merits. And on the third hand...aah, that's right, I haven't grown my third hand yet.

Narnia PS2 screenshot 1
The great Disney On Ice catastrophe of '06
At first I thought this was intended solely as a kid's game. It starts off very easy & strongly holds the player's hand in guidance throughout the initial stages. Later on though, it became rather challenging. The game would still likely be particularly enjoyable for youngsters, but I reckon they'd need to be about 10 to 12 years of age to be able to progress through it properly on their own. There are definitely some cool sections for older players too, so I'd say Narnia is a game that audiences of most ages could have some quantity of fun with.

One of the cooler things about this game is how it uses (very high quality) footage from the movie to introduce the key sections. The video transitions quite smoothly into the action rendered with the in-game graphics engine. That has been done many times before of course, but this is one of the better examples of it I have seen. It sets the atmosphere nicely, makes it all feel that touch more "genuine" and, again, is a nice bonus for the fans.

Narnia's gameplay is the latest example of what's becoming a very fashionable style. It consists of you using all four of the kids, each of whom has their own distinct skills and abilities. You switch back and forth between them and often need to team them up in various ways to progress. It is much like the (rather crappy) recent Fantastic Four game. Actually, the teaming up aspect (and various parts of the game in general) reminded me quite a bit of the Lemony Snicket's game I reviewed way back in January of last year (that must've been one of the first game reviews I wrote here at Buttonhole). This one is more of a challge than Lemony though, for better or worse.

The actual action is pretty much a "beat-'em-up" style thing, which I found rather humorous, given you're controlling little kids. How they are able to kick so much arse I really don't know, but somehow these little tackers can take out hoards of big nasty monsters with comparative ease. As I was just saying, you can team them up for more powerful attacks and each of them is needed at different times for different things. Susan has projectile attacks. Peter is the strongest at close range. Lucy's small size enables her to fit into small spaces & she can replenish everyone's health. Edmund is hung like a horse. (Okay, that last one isn't true- at least, not to my knowledge- I was just testing to see if you were still paying attention). You earn more moves as you go, which diversifies each character even further and helps maintain the player's interest.

They've done a commendable job with the controls, as despite having quite a lot to do, it all feels quite natural before too long.

There are a few aspects to Narnia that enable it to remain somewhat charming for a bit longer than the run of the mill title of this ilk. The little puzzles you need to solve, by using the right combinations of the children's skills are well implemented and certainly give the game some extra depth. There are some pretty cool little "set piece" type portions scattered throughout the levels too: you float down rapids, slide along snowy slopes, fend off attacks while perched in a tree and plenty of other situations. These little bursts of variety shake the action up quite well and provide a nice diversion.

Also, some of the boss fights are quite elaborate; you often need to take several different forms of attack (again switching between the kids at the key moments). On top of using standard offensive moves, you're frequently required to interact with the surrounding environment in numerous ways, in order to emerge victorious from these confrontations. So, undoubtedly the boss battles are usually the most enjoyable sections in the game.

The other things included to extend its lifespan are the usual hidden items and unlockable bonus stuff that have become pretty much the standard deal for these sorts of games.

Narnia PS2 screenshot 2
Hulk Hogan looks a little worse with each comeback
Even with all these elements though, by the time you get to (or near) the finish, Chronicles of Narnia's constant button mashing action does get a bit repetitious. The other biggest detraction to the game is that it can be very frustrating, due mainly to the crappy AI & poxy fixed camera. The computer takes control of whichever kids you are not controlling and it does so very poorly. They behave like zombies and constantly get stuck, left behind and fail to do what you want. The camera often makes it hard to see exactly what's going on, which exasperates the frustration further.

For those reasons I just mentioned, I can't see many people, except perhaps for the youngsters, coming back to play this one over again. Once you've seen all it has to offer, I'd say you'll be happy to leave it at that. However, it should manage to keep you entertained (albeit, at times also annoyed) for a reasonable duration before you reach that stage.

As far as the game's presentation goes, it is pretty easy on both the eyes and the ears. It also smells like a rose and tastes like chocolate. (Yep, that was another made up bit). While hardly the greatest looking game around, the graphics stay pretty faithful to the look of the film and do have a few moments of grandeur. The reflections on the ice and other such effects add plenty of charm. The characters are all rendered and animated quite well too. There is some minor slowdown here and there, but it is never too extreme. The only real downside to the graphics is, as I already said, that you can't adjust the "camera" and it tends to force some awkward viewing perspectives.

Narnia's music is, I'd assume, straight from the flim's score and I found it to be very pleasant and suitably rousing (not in any kinky sort of way). The actor's from the movie provide the speech for the game's characters and that works nicely. The limited array of sound effects are repeated to an irritating degree though, which does take the aural side of things down a few notches.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is a solid, yet unspectacular, game. It won't rock your world, but it is certainly amiable enough and the gameplay does have a few strong elements to it. If you're a big fan of the film and/or books, I'd say you would definitely enjoy this one very much and be able to overlook its shortcomings. This would be an excellent "family" game- as in, one that parents could happily go through with their kids. Otherwise, for older gamers, if you dig action games that also require you to think a bit, I'd recommend Narnia to you as a rental title.

by: Hillelman

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More articles by Hillelman

This is well above average for a licensed game, with quite a bit of charm. Especially recommened to Narnia fans & younger gamers

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ToonlogoBy Borgieman

Manifest '07 Report

Ninja's note: Once again, it's time for another Buttonhole report on the Melbourne Anime Festival, otherwise known as Manifest 2007. If you missed Ichibod's feature on a previous Manifest, check it out here. This Manifest coverage comes to you courtesy of forum regular and newest Buttonhole contributor Borgieman, a cool guy who knows his Anime and has been known to play a video game or two. So read on true believers! A Day at Manifest 2007

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ToonlogoBy Australian Ninja

Only Yesterday. Anime Review

The problem with having favourite films is that every time I watch another Studio Ghibli film it becomes my new favourite. It kind of renders the word 'favourite' meaningless when every Studio Ghibli film takes my breath away. Still, I can't complain about being thoroughly entertained by this whimsical and insightful film, "Only Yesterday". This gem was directed by Isao Takahata, well known for his anime film Grave of the Fireflies. Although Only Yesterday is a light hearted film that ambles along at a leisurely pace, it still manages to explore themes such as love, work, family relationship struggles, following your dreams and country versus city living. In the film, the main character Taeko decides to take a working vacation in the country, getting away from her office bound job and unexpectedly starts t

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ToonlogoBy Jason

Speed Grapher V1. Anime Review

Well, "I don't like it" was my initial feeling when viewing this Anime for the first time. Subsequent viewings haven't changed my views a great deal. Nothing really stands out as being absolute shit but it seems that this series tries too hard. It's almost like they were more interested in creating something 'edgy' and confronting but sadly forgot to include an even remotely palatable story. The hero of this particular piece is a bloke called Tatsumi Saiga. Tatsumi is a photographer and a veteran war journalist for whom taking photos has become somewhat of a fetish. Although he seems to have become jaded - nothing is worth wasting his film on - that is, at least until he stumbles across an exclusive club for the mega rich

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