Review: The Golden Compass (Wii)

Philip Pullman's epic Northern Lights gets the movie-turned-videogame treatment. But is it up to scratch?

"Unmistakeably, this title is aimed at the book's younger readers..."

Developed by Shiny Entertainment, this Sega published movie tie-in attempts to envelop you in the world of the highly successful books. But can the game escape the usual brush movie tie-ins are tarred with?

Unmistakeably, this title is aimed at the book's younger readers - which will delight in being able to play through this action adventure as Lyra, controlling her daemon Pan (the physical representation of a person's soul which all people have in this fantasy world), and also by fighting as the armoured bear Iorek.

Shiny Entertainment (think Earthworm Jim) have singled out their target audience for this title as kids, and so older readers of the books need to be aware the game will not challenge them in the slightest. The game starts right in the middle of the action, centred up in the Arctic where players will learn the basic controls. The game is a simple to follow, linear affair, with objectives clearly stated and gameplay restricted to going somewhere and doing what you are told to.

And yet the storyline of the game flits back and forth - the next chapter being a flashback to the beginning of the story, set in Lyra's version of Oxford. Lyra's sections of the title are largely about platforming - navigating the roofs of Jordan College or the precipices of the North by jumping, with aid from her demon which can take four animal forms - the hawk, for example, allows Lyra to glide from platform to platform, while another allows Lyra to examine her surroundings from a first-person perspective to hunt for clues. However, only the youngest gamers will actually be stuck on this title for very long, as the game's level of difficulty is very easy. Iorek's sections by contrast are all about beating the living daylights out of your enemies, of which you can happily obliterate very easily by simple button-mashing.

Mini-games ensue when Lyra must pass enemies by lying to them. These are more fun, and entail Lyra deceiving NPCs by a series of quick fire-questions, and are a welcome break from the often relentless platforming. Another concept is her control of the alethiometer, the magical 'Golden Compass' of the game's title, a sort of truth-telling device which answers Lyra's questions through a series of symbols - which you must collect during the game to gradually aid in your deciphering.

Graphically, its disappointing that the Wii version can be compared more to the PS2 incarnation of the game than any other. Some of the visuals in the Arctic have the potential to be stunning, but are instead stunted by last-generation graphics. Film clips from the movie, spliced in rather randomly throughout your progress through the game, only show how beautiful this game could have been if more time were spent on it.

On the audio side of things, the game does impress. The title boasts the full might of the film's orchestral score, which has been made to fit the game surprisingly well. Add to this the original voices of Lyra and her daemon from the film, and the result is generally very pleasing for the ears - with the aforementioned pair bantering together as you trot around the levels.

To sum up, this title will appeal to the book and film's younger generation of fans. It's strange, because the game contains references to the wider world of the books which will probably be missed by this audience, but the title just doesn't get challenging enough to warrant the interest of the more discerning gamer. Older fans of the source material may find pleasure in the title, but need to be warned they will not be stretched at all throughout the game's duration.

Scroll down for the title's scores...

N-Europe Final Verdict

Poor graphics and simple game-play detract from what could have been a great film-game conversion.

  • Gameplay3
  • Playability2
  • Visuals2
  • Audio4
  • Lifespan3
Final Score



Beautiful music
Original voices
Younger fans will enjoy


Repetitive gameplay
Low level of difficulty
Last generation graphics

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