In a bizzare OXM experiment, we've seen this game through the eyes of a ten-year-old, (albeit a 30-year-old man hypnotised into thinking he's a ten-year-old - see Official Xbox Mag #54 for the gory details) - and we can see how much fun it is for kids.
But our mature adult brains are bound to hate this sort of generic licensed guff, right? Wrong - the simple puzzle-based action and top-class presentation of The Chronicles of Narnia actually exceeded all our usual expectations for a movie tie-in.
The game sticks faithfully to the plot of the motion picture, following the exploits of the four children - Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy - as they discover the secret world of Narnia inside a magic wardrobe, and help liberate its natives from the reign of the evil White Witch. The opening level kicks off with you trapped inside your house during a bombing of London in World War II - it's here that you're introduced to the abilities of the four playable children.
Peter, the older and stronger of the two boys, can move heavy objects (like cupboards in the house) and batter through doors and other blockades. He's also the most effective in melee combat. Edmund is the climber - he can scale trees, drainpipes, streetlamps and other bits of scenery. Susan specialises in long-range attacks, throwing projectiles like tennis balls. And little Lucy uses her petite size to squeeze through small openings into caves and other hard-to-reach areas. She can also magically heal her three siblings. We don't remember her being a magician in the film, but if it works for the game, we won't complain.
You can tap the Right trigger to switch control between the four children and solve simple environment-based puzzles in the beautiful outdoor world of Narnia. As you explore its snow-covered forests you'll be burning away bushes to clear paths, tip-toeing across frozen lakes avoiding the thin ice, or downing trees to form bridges. Action icons highlight significant parts of the scenery and show you which character to use - helpful for younger gamers, although more experienced players will find it a little patronising.
As well as exploring Narnia, other stages take you out of the wardrobe and into the real world, where you snoop around the house hiding in cupboards from the mean professor, who'll send you back to your room if he catches you. These contrasting levels keep the game feeling varied, making for some highly enjoyable adventuring.
But things go drastically wrong when later levels ditch the puzzles and resort to dull hack-'em up missions that force you to fight endless waves of enemies. This is not only boring but painfully difficult, as huge swarms of enemies totally overwhelm you. It's not so bad if you connect a second controller and play co-operatively with a mate - a second player can join in at any point in the game, like in Lego Star Wars. But that doesn't excuse the fact that these battles are a nightmare in single player, and a disappointingly shoddy end to an otherwise solid game.
Experienced gamers probably won't find anything new or challenging in The Chronicles of Narnia - it's simple and predictable. But it looks great, plays well and will no doubt occupy young fans of the film for a good ten hours.
Surprisingly polished for a movie tie-in, this is a fun puzzle adventure let down by a dull hack-and-slash ending.