Into the closet and out of this world

As tasteful music - sometimes lighthearted and sometimes tension-filled - plays in the background, players must protect the children from hostile creatures.

narnia disk 88a (photo credit: )
narnia disk 88a
(photo credit: )
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, a DVD-ROM in English by Disney, Traveler's Tales and Walden Media, distributed by Atari-Israel with a 16-page Hebrew-language user's manual, requires Windows XP and a Pentium 4 PC, for ages 10 through adult, NIS 230. - Rating: **** 1/2 In Alice in Wonderland, the way to a strange and amazing place was down the rabbit hole; in Narnia, the beloved book series by C.S. Lewis, the entrance to a mystical land was in a wooden wardrobe (closet) in an old British mansion. Disney, whose blockbuster film is now showing in Israeli cinemas, has produced an excellent spinoff whose frequent, high-quality movie clips meld seamlessly with the animations of characters and scenery in this delightful action adventure game. The story begins suddenly with the German Air Force's bombing of London during World War II, shaking and pulverizing the home of the fictional Pevensie family. Working against a ticking clock in a sequence that serves as a training mission, the player must round up the four Pevensie children - Susan, Edmund, Peter and Lucy - from their rooms and get them out the door to safety. Once you have rescued the four, their parents send them to reside with Prof. Digory Kirke, who lives in the country. In the old mansion, the smallest child, Lucy, plays hide-and-seek and wanders into a wardrobe in one room. It takes her to the land of Narnia - a snow-covered winter wonderland where she meets a Faun named Mr. Tumnus, who has doe-ears, wears a red scarf around his neck and has never seen a human before. When Lucy manages to return to the mansion through the wardrobe, none of the other children believes her story. Lucy and all her siblings quickly return to Narnia, which was frozen into a century-long winter and ruled by an evil queen named the White Witch. Creatures such as wolves, cyclops, satyrs, centaurs and minotaurs roam the land, but a legend predicts the coming of four children who will restore the rightful king of Narnia, Aslan the lion, to power. As tasteful music - sometimes lighthearted and sometimes tension-filled - plays in the background, players must protect the children from hostile creatures. Played at several levels of difficulty and switching among the children (or using two cooperatively) to take advantage of their individual strengths, the game offers hints on the bottom of the screen about what to do. For example, pick Lucy to hop onto a snowball and roll it around to swell in size and hit collectible coins. As the youngest and lightest, she is the best to send across a wooden plank in the burning London home when a hole opens in the floor and fire burns below. Peter, the older boy, is the best melee fighter, but the other three are also good at swinging their fists at enemies. Edmund climbs trees and poles to collect twirling coins, medallions and bonus items (which entitle you to upgrades) and Susan throws tennis balls at bats and dispatches arrows that her enemies try to intercept. The graphics are excellent, with nice touches such as a full moon glistening in the ice. The children's faces are very similar to those in the film clips, and when sticks are smashed, the wood explodes into splinters. Although the action would be a bit scary for younger children, it is completely bloodless, and even the werewolves - routed with wooden sticks - quickly slink away when beaten and disappear into nothingness. Controls in the land of Narnia are easy to play with keyboard keys, and since the overhead camera is fixed, you don't have to waste time on maneuvering it. All the main characters from the movie use their voices in the game, which adds to the authenticity. C.S. Lewis, a Christian true-believer, combines Christian myths with those of Greco-Roman, Celtic, Norse and other traditions in his story, but these are not visible at face value in the game, so it should not disturb even religiously observant Jewish parents, just as J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings did not offend Jewish audiences. The main shortcoming is that the game is over in nine or 10 hours, which will leave Narnia fans hungry for more.