Software Review: <I>The Spiderwick Chronicles</i>

This is no enthralling, intricately designed Harry Potter, so keep your expectations low if you buy it.

spiderwick chronicles 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
spiderwick chronicles 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It's a general rule - with rare exceptions - that when a videogame is produced in the wake of a feature film, the result is disappointing and aimed mainly at magnifying box office profits. Unfortunately, this fantasy adventure game for preteens does not veer from the general rule. Based on the best-selling book series by Tony DiTerlizziby and Holly Black and the movie in local cinemas, The Spiderwick Chronicles spotlights a just-divorced woman named Mrs. Grace who moves into the old Spiderwick Estate in New England that she received from her aunt, together with her belligerent daughter Mallory and her twin boys - daredevil Simon and simpleton Jared. The girl discovers a dumbwaiter behind a wall in her great-uncle Arthur's house, and through it, Jared finds a monogrammed key that opens his study. When they use the key to open a chest, they find his field guide to faeries, goblins and other fantasy creatures and read it - even though a note warns them not to. The volume leads to the kids' discovery of a hidden world of fantasy around the house, but this enchantment is in danger when an ogre named Mulgarath who keeps changing his form declares that he wants to pocket the field guide himself. Each of the three siblings can be played in a very linear story line whose rigidity leaves no room for the player's independence. Each of the siblings uses a variety of unique weapons to fend off the goblins, changelings, trolls and other fantasy creatures that want to own the field book. By capturing any of 10 different kinds of sprites with a special net, the siblings can earn power-ups to make them more aggressive and successful. Videoclips from the movie are often interspersed between missions, an obvious way of enticing kids who have not yet seen the film to buy tickets. Completing the game, which has little replay value, takes only about five or six hours. Graphics are quite pleasant, but some players will be frustrated by missions that are too easy even at the highest level of difficulty. This is no enthralling, intricately designed Harry Potter, so keep your expectations low if you buy it. The Spiderwick Chronicles, a DVD-ROM in English by Stormfront Studios for Sierra Entertainment, distributed here by Hed Artzi Multimedia, requires Windows XP or better and and a 1.5 Ghz PC or higher, for ages 11 and up, NIS 219. Rating: ***