Narnia Video Game Preview

On Wednesday, June 29th, I had the privilege to go to New York City to preview the forthcoming video game “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” Buena Vista Games, a division of Disney, provided this first glimpse of the game, which is still in development. Traveller’s Tales is the company responsible for the creation of the game. One of their more recent achievements is the Lego Star Wars video game.

The development team at Traveller’s Tales has spent 18 months creating the “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” video game, working closely with the film’s director, Andrew Adamson, and C. S. Lewis’ stepson, Douglas Gresham. Mike Jacob, executive producer of Buena Vista Games, told me that many of the levels have been examined by Mr. Adamson and Mr. Gresham for playability and film-to-game accuracy. In fact, Mr. Adamson had recently approved one of the levels shown to us – a sequence where Peter, Susan, and Lucy must cross a frozen lake. Mr. Jacob said it is just a brief scene in the movie, but that Traveller’s Tales had chosen to expand the scene’s role in the game.

The actual game play is interesting. The demonstration we were shown was on the PS2. One of the features that intrigued and delighted me is the ability to instantly change which character you control. In the Frozen Lake level, you can control one character (Peter) and switch to another character (Lucy or Susan) withouth restarting the level. In the same vein, switching from single-player mode to two-player mode is as easy as the touch of a button. Mr. Jacob demonstrated this to us on the “Rescue Edmund” level – a boss battle with Ginarrbrik. He plugged the second controller in during game play and pressed the start button. That allowed him to control Edmund as player 2. Switching back to single-player mode is just as easy – press the start button again, and choose the appropriate option from the menu.

Each of the four children have specialized abilities. Peter is the classic fighter character, and is the primary melee warrior. Edmund is also a melee fighter, and can climb. (At one point, Mr. Jacob mentioned Edmund climbing the lamppost.)

Susan, unsurprisingly, is a ranged fighter. Before she gets her Bow and Horn from Father Christmas, Susan uses rocks and snowballs as her ranged weapons. She also has a set of panpipes, which can be used to put enemies to sleep. These panpipes, apparently, are replaced by the Horn, once she is given it.

Lucy is the healer of the group. Her ability allows her to heal the entire party. She also has a push attack which, when done correctly, allows her to climb onto the back of her enemy for a few seconds. During that period of time, you control that enemy. Mr. Jacob said that, in focus testing, this ability has made Lucy the favorite character to play.

To date, there are 30 creature types in the game. Each type has been modelled on the Weta creature designs. Mr. Jacob assured me that Traveller’s Tales has been working in cooperation with the production crew. The production has even sent them 62 DVDs of dailies and shots of the action from all angles as reference material.

Buena Vista Games is currently negotiating with Harry Gregson-Williams to get him to compose the score for the game as well as for the movie. Mr. Jacob said that the main issue in the negotiations is Mr. Gregson-Williams’ busy schedule, not a lack of interest. Mr. Jacob also said that Buena Vista is also talking with several other well-known composers, but declined to give any names.

The four child actors are scheduled to begin dialogue recording for the console games sometime in the next few weeks.

A brief look at the level names

These are some of the names of the levels in the game.
1. Bombing Run
2. Professor’s Mansion
3. Enter Narnia
4. Follow Mr. Beaver
5. Rescue Mr. Beaver
6. Escape through the tunnels
7. Allies’ Enclave.

I’d like to thank Traveller’s Tales, Buena Vista Games, and the many people behind the scenes – the game looks great! I’d also like to thank Mr. Mike Jacob for his time, patience, and enthusiasm for the subject matter.