Reviewed: March 21, 2008
Reviewed by: John DeWeese



Released: February 5, 2008
Genre: Adventure
Players: 1


System Requirements

  • 1.5 GHZ
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 256 MB DirectX 9 Video Card
  • 8 GB Hard Drive Space
  • DirectX 9.0c compatible Sound Card
  • Windows XP/Vista

    Recommended System

  • 2.5 GHZ
  • 1 GB RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GT and above Video Card
  • 8 GB Hard Drive Space
  • DirectX 9.0c compatible Sound Card
  • Windows XP/Vista

    Screenshots (Click Image for Gallery)

  • I grew up watching fantasy movies like Willow and The NeverEnding Story, so there's a soft spot in my heart for movies like The Spiderwick Chronicles. I love the story of three siblings who discover a magical book that reveals for them to a hidden world of fairies, goblins, and ogres.

    What I absolutely hate though are lackluster video games made solely to cash in box office success. While Spiderwick Chronicles certainly isn't the worst movie-based game that I've played, at the same time it's a run-of-the-mill kid's adventure game. Much of the gameplay involves figuring out easy puzzles, fetching items, jumping over obstacles, and mashing the right buttons to smack mean little goblins. Also, the controls seem better suited to consoles rather than the PC.

    On the plus side, the game does capture the look and feel of the movie. Adult players will find the gameplay too easy, but it's probably perfect for Spiderwick fans ages 9-12.

    Here's a brief recap of the Spiderwick story. Many years ago a brilliant naturalist named Arthur Spiderwick discovered that he could see magical creatures. He wrote down his findings in a book – the Spiderwick Chronicles – which is later discovered when the Grace family moves into Arthur's gothic mansion. You'll get a chance to play one of the three Grace children on various levels. There's Mallory the tomboy, Simon the science nerd; and Jared the restless daredevil. As you can imagine, each character has a specialty. Mallory battles goblins with her fencing sword, Simon builds contraptions, and Jared does a lot of climbing around when he's not clubbing things with a baseball bat.

    Much of the early game involves exploring your surroundings and trying to find the Spiderwick book. Don't expect complex brainteasers because this game spoon feeds you everything you need to know. In fact, the hardest part is remembering where certain items are located throughout the house. You'll see quest items highlighted from the beginning, but you won't be able to pick them up until you unlock a given quest. As an adventure game fan, I missed the freedom to collect everything in sight and see what works. The jumping puzzles are also ridiculously easy. Push forward and your character will automatically climb over an obstacle or hop to the next ledge.

    Eventually you'll find the book and run into the evil ogre Mulgarath and his legion of goblins. Suddenly the simple adventure game becomes a somewhat challenging combat game. This is the one area where the game seems better suited for an Xbox 360, as you must keep mashing buttons to evade hits or launch combo attacks. For example, you have to shake goblins off your back by moving the mouse around like crazy. While this might be fun to do with a gamepad, it feels awkward with a mouse. Finally, Spiderwick Chronicles offers a little third-person shooter action as some characters have ranged attacks. The shooting aspect of the game feels just right – not too easy like the jumping puzzles, but also not too frustrating like the melee combat.

    The final mini-game involves capturing fairies with your magical net. Once you catch a fairy, you have to record it in your field guide by moving your mouse back and forth on a blank page before the timer runs out. This reveals a drawing of the creature and a list of its abilities. Fairies provide bonuses such as extra health, speed, or temporary invulnerability, but you can only trap three at a time. My only complaint about the field guide is that no matter how many health or speed fairies you've caught in the past, you still have to record each new one you add to your inventory.

    I don't want to give the impression that the game has no fun surprises. My favorite parts include tricking a water troll into eating a group of goblins that were hot on my trail, watching Simon create cool gadgets, and fencing goblin bosses with Mallory's saber. The mash-up of adventure puzzles and hack-and-slash works to a certain degree, but none of the gameplay features truly stand out. I debated about giving Spiderwick Chronicles a 5 or 6 for gameplay, but decided on the higher score because the game does cater to a younger audience.

    The visual style of the game really captures the look of the movie, although don't expect any flashy cut scenes or amazing physics. The indoor scenery is the best looking, and the Spiderwick mansion is a lot of fun to explore. Outdoor scenes are pretty but uninspiring. The monsters and fairies are fun to watch at first, but quickly become repetitive as you fight the same goblins or catch the same fairies for the umpteenth time. There are a few cool combat maneuvers, but most of the fighting animations get dull quickly. The camera view can also be a bit wonky, but it's easy enough to zoom in and out of first person view as needed.

    The cut-scenes are taken from the movie and are well done if a little too short. You may not know what's going on if you haven't seen the film version first.

    The musical score is created exclusively for the game itself and the whimsical tunes aren’t painful to listen to. The voice acting and sound effects are passable.

    The biggest problem with Spiderwick Chronicles is the gameplay is entirely linear. Your field guide tells you where to go and what to do, and outside you must follow set paths. There's little in the way of truly exploring your surroundings or discovering new things. This means the game has zero replay value. The problems with controls designed for a console also drops the value score for the PC version.

    Spiderwick Chronicles does offer a few hours of enjoyment, but I wouldn't recommend this game to anyone over the age of 13. The gameplay should have been a lot more free form considering the nature of the adventure movie on which it's based. If your child is a rabid Spiderwick fan this game would be a decent purchase, but I would still recommend a console version. Adults and casual Spiderwick fans should stay far away.