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Lemony Snickett's A Series of Unfortunate Events

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:  Griptonite Games
Publisher:  Activision
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Adventure
ESRB:  Everyone
Date Posted:  1-29-05

The console versions of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events were above average movie-to-game conversions, and although the GBA version isn't quite on the same level it's a decent game as well.

The storyline is essentially the same as the console versions and the movie, although there are several changes in how the children perform various tasks. Based on the book series and upcoming movie, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events follows the lives of the Baudelaire children as they live through one unfortunate event after another. Violet, the oldest at 14, is the inventor who throughout the adventure makes a variety of devices using common household items scattered throughout the house(s). Klaus, 12, loves to read and remembers everything he's ever read. He's also afraid of heights (something which isn't really emphasized in the console versions), and as such will not climb ladders. Sunny, the baby has four very sharp teeth and loves to bite through things. She's also very small, and as a result can fit in places the other two cannot. After the children's parents die in a mysterious fire, the children are sent to stay with Count Olaf. It soon becomes apparent that the Count wishes to kill the children, thereby inheriting the vast Baudelaire fortune.

The game takes place over three distinct books (which I assume mirror the first three books in the series), with the same basic gameplay as the console versions only in 2D. Klaus and Violet take turns clearing obstacles and conquering enemies, with the child used in each situation depending on the circumstances. For example, Violet uses an Apple-Chucker to toss apples at enemies. When the children need to collect ink, Klaus uses a modified water gun to suck it up. Klaus' water gun is also useful in killing smaller enemies, since Violet's apples often sail over their heads. When an area is blocked off or has a small entrance, Sunny will use her small stature to go through one of several areas to get to the necessary objective.

One of this game's strengths is that it provides several different types of gameplay over the course of the adventure. As I mentioned before Sunny's adventures take place in 2D, either forcing the baby to navigate a series of jumps or avoid obstacles while sliding down an incline. Towards the end of the game several more types pop up, including a short light-gun sequence (without the gun of course) and a version of Simon Says used to open a lock. The majority of the game takes place from a behind the player 3D perspective however, and in these situations the tasks Violet and Klaus must undertake are rather easy since the game is linear and the goal usually obvious. Even if the player somehow dies, the game merely puts him back just before the last area attempted with unlimited lives.

Since the game is now in 2D, gameplay is slightly different from the console versions. Although the player still uses inventions to get past obstacles and accomplish tasks, there's much more platform action involved. Most rooms are huge vertically, with many different tiers of floating platforms and other items high above. The objectives here are slightly different as well. Players can now collect photos from destroyed enemies or simply scattered around each level. The player can also collect butterflies, which grant access to purchasing different items (invention upgrades not essential to the storyline, high quality movie stills, concept art, etc.) with those photos based on the number of butterflies collected.

Unfortunately, movement isn't entirely precise and in a game like this that's enough to lead to frustration. As a result the player finds himself repeatedly falling after climbing up a considerable amount, having to start all over again where the tiniest mistake will once again send him tumbling to the ground. Also, what is and isn't a solid object to stand on is somewhat inconsistent (ex: you can stand on a bed in one area, but not another), so several areas in the game are a series of trial and error leaps of faith. Of course, even if the player dies the game merely puts him back just before the last area attempted since he has unlimited lives.

Also, interaction is handled with a separate menu accessed by pressing the R button. There are usually several different options here, with Ask/Discuss/Tease/Offer for character interaction and Examine/Open/Pull-Push/Tinker/Take/Use with item for object interaction. While this does encourage players to think more about what action to take in each situation, it also seems like an unnecessary complication at times. To Griptonite's credit, whenever an action is obvious (like taking a tomato) it's usually the only available one.

Also, interaction is handled with a separate menu accessed by pressing the R button. There are usually several different options here, with Ask/Discuss/Tease/Offer for character interaction and Examine/Open/Pull-Push/Tinker/Take/Use with item for object interaction. While this does encourage players to think more about what action to take in each situation, it also seems like an unnecessary complication at times. To Griptonite's credit, whenever an action is obvious (like taking a tomato) it's usually the only available one.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events is a solid game graphically. There are some decent special effects and the animations are pretty good as well. Character models look realistic enough, and the unlockable movie stills are very high quality. The levels are quite large, and with plenty of interesting and unique detail. Unfortunately, the game suffers from some massive slowdown in areas with more than several enemies on-screen and even at full-speed it sometimes feels like slow motion compared to most games in the genre.

The soundtrack is good, with high quality music that matches the dismal mood of the environments and storyline. The sound effects are decent enough, but don't stand out as anything special.

Highs:

  • A variety of interesting challenges await the Baudelaire children.

  • The unlockable invention upgrades and movie art are good rewards.

  • Environments are huge and full of detail.

Lows:

  • Sloppy control results in a lot of frustration when having to redo the same areas over and over again. If I had trouble with it, I'm sure a child (whom this game is really aimed at) will.

  • Massive slowdown plagues some areas, and everywhere else the game is simply just slow.

  • The interaction menu is a little cumbersome at first.

Final Verdict:

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events is a decent 2D adventure game that's unfortunately on a system with a number of better ones already. The license is the main draw here, and for fans it'll prove a fun but slightly frustrating diversion.

Overall Score: 6.0

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