Let's get one thing straight: motion picture tie-in video games are a mixed bag. On one end of the spectrum are games such as GoldenEye 007 (based upon the 1995 James Bond film of a similar name). On the other end, you have games like the ill-fated 1982 Atari 2600 title E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial. D3 Publisher's recently-released Wii U game Rise of the Guardians, which ties in with the Dreamworks major motion picture of the same name, is sadly more the latter and less the former.
As a direct tie-in to the film, video game Rise of the Guardians follows largely the same premise. An evil presence known as Pitch the Boogeyman (as in "pitch black") has happened upon the earth and is on a dastardly quest to steal the essence of childhood from mankind. It's up to five immortal guardians to take up arms and stop Pitch before it's too late.
Say what you will about the film, but it's actually a fairly intriguing premise. The guardians -- who are Nicholas St. North (Santa Claus), E. Aster Bunnymund (Easter Bunny), Tooth (Tooth Fairy), Sandy (The Sandman), and Jack Frost -- promise to be a great cast of characters in what should be quite the epic tale. Sadly, it's really not all that interesting. While the story is strongly presented upon starting a new game and makes regular appearances as if to remind players why they're doing what their doing, it fails to really draw the player in -- something this title's actual gameplay also seems to have difficulty doing.
The game is presented in a modern Gauntlet-style setup with drop-in-drop-out play support for as many as four players. When there are less than four, human players control whichever of the Guardians (s)he wishes with the ability to hot-swap that choice for another Guardian at a whim. The AI controls everything else.
Each Guardian plays differently, yet the same. Simple, repetitive button-mashing is the order of the day and, even though each protagonist has his/her own specific and special moves, seem to play all to similar to one another. Adding RPG-like elements to this title, each character also has attributes and abilities that can be upgraded. These upgrades do help a bit when going against Pitch's more powerful peons, but the system is easy to forget about while playing this nearly-mindless video game.
For how many things there are to do in each of the game's five areas, the game gets rather boring. Each area has the same five missions, so variety is actually rather limited. The redundancy is a real shame. There are achievements that can be unlocked for those who are into those, but even that doesn't really do much to keep one's interest. One nice perk, though, is that the game gives Player One use of the Wii U Gamepad (everybody else has to use a Wii Remote and Nunchuk). The Gamepad gives that player instant access to each area's map. The map includes not only the lay of the land and the player's location, but also the location of various goals and items for the players to locate. It's handy and one of the few genuinely good things that can be said about this game.
Aside from complaints that could be made about the art direction behind the game's opening cinematic, Rise of the Guardians is a crisp, yet uninteresting-looking game. Developer Torus Games did an acceptable job as far as use of color for the Guardians and environments, but none of it would ever be considered award-winning. Furthermore, the game's selection of Nightmare enemies are all fairly similar-looking (with few exceptions) and don't give the player much of a visual thrill. At least the graphics appear clean. To its credit, there didn't seem to be any slowdown during any point of the game regardless of what was going on on-screen and no visual anomalies or tearing was experienced during playthrough.
Rise of the Guardians features a mildly pleasant, yet uninspiring soundtrack that does a so-so job of setting the mood at best. It's not like the soundtrack really matters anyhow, though, as it is often drowned-out by the game's various stock sound effects and annoying character voices (none of which are by the actual motion picture voice actors).
The D3 Publisher-published Rise of the Guardians major motion picture tie-in video game is one that's probably best avoided unless you or your child is a big fan of the film. On premise alone, the game had potential to be at least a minimally interesting play, but repetitive gameplay, an underwhelming overall audio-visual presentation, and just sheer lack of player-motivation keep this from being anything more than a game destined for the clearance bin.
(D3 Publisher supplied a copy of this game for review.)