PROS: Beautifully rendered environments create an appropriately seedy mood; lifelike animation of heroine.
CONS: Bad game controls; fails to utilize film's unique characters or plot; dull object-fetching gameplay; game resolution denied gamer.
Add THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN to the list of movie-to-games causalities. Psygnosis has taken a wholly original film and gutted it of almost everything that gave it worth. Laden with a cumbersome interface and frustrating gameplay, yet blithely unburdened with any semblance of story, character, challenge, or rudimentary gaming satisfaction. THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN trumpets its originality while delivering nothing more than pretty pictures.
THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN looks great. Rich graphics capture the oppressive world of Mielte, The twelve-year-old orphan at the games center. Forced to steal by Pieuvre, her evil Siamese-twin headmistress, Miette scampers across a decaying waterfront city and uncovers the truth behind a series of child kidnap pings. A variety of camera angles highlights the games beauty while ably emphasizing the vulnerability of tiny
Miette as she moves in believable motion-captured animation. Unfortunately, too many of the lush visuals are wasted in numerous non-interactive transition screens.
But the outstanding graphics cannot disguise a game that is hollow at its core. Aslonishingly, the game designers have managed to take a cast of wholly unique characters - including the headmistress, cyclopean thugs, a mad scientist stealing children's dreams, and a brain living in an aquarium - and deliver a product absolutely devoid of plot and character. More than alf the game passes before the alleged story - revealed in lackluster, non-interactive cut-scenes - actually kicks in, and then it is paid even less lip sercive that the latest Pauly Shore vehicle.
STUMBLING IN THE DARK
THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN is further encumbered with a remarkably chunky interface. Everything is controlled by keyboard, which results in finicky, imprecise movement that alternates between plodding and maniacally uncontrollable. Talking to characters or using objects requires lining up Miette just right (or else nothing happens). Going upstairs is particularly tedious as Miette burns ten seconds or so finding that perfect line before trudging on her way.
The unfriendliness of the interface is echoed in the elements of gameplay. Essential items are frequently hidden entirely from view, forcing you to fumble your way through clutter and inky shadows until you finally stumble upon them. This, coupled with the unwiedy controls, would make a game of "hunt the pixel" a welcome relief.
The games biggest transgression occurs at the very end. What little story there is gets resolved entirely without any input from the gamer. With gameplay as skimpy and short as it is in CITY, rudely snatching the culmination of the player's efforts away from him is inexcusable. You're not the hero - the game is.
One more thing. THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN is guilty of one of the most jarringly inappropriate, unfounded, and simply distateful actions I've seen in a game. Miette murders an innocent man for his watch.
It makes absolutely no sense in the context of the game for a sympathetic child, acting under the honorable impulse of wanting to rescue other exploited children, to casually kill this wholly unthreatening man. The story lays no foundation for this sudden, easy brutality, and it is doubly confounding considering that the myriad characters responsible for Miette's miserable life go unpnished.
Visually rich but gaming poor, THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN Really isn't worth visiting.
APPEAL: Fans of the film who can stomach the perversion of inspiration.