Software Review: Compass game loses direction

Basing a videogame on a popular novel that was made into a successful movie gives the developers a clear advantage.

gold disk 88  (photo credit: )
gold disk 88
(photo credit: )
The Golden Compass (Matzpen Hazahav), a DVD-ROM in English by New Line Cinema and Sega, requires Windows XP or better and a Pentium 4 PC or higher, for ages 12+, NIS 219. Rating: 1 1/2 * Basing a videogame on a popular novel that was made into a successful movie gives the developers a clear advantage. But there is always the possibility that the software will be a pale shadow of the original forms and aimed merely at capitalizing on their popularity. This is what happened to The Golden Compass, which is little more than an arcade game. Philip Pullman's fantasy novel is the first in his much-praised Dark Materials trilogy. It stars a young girl named Lyra Belacqua, who is accompanied on her adventures by her armored polar bear, Iorek Bannison, and a demon named Pan. (The demon changes its form from a weasel-like sloth to an ermine, wildcat and hawk, most of which give her the animal's characteristics.) After being abducted from her school and escaping the clutches of the evil Marisa Coulter, Lyra sets off to the land of the Samoyeds to find out what has happened to a number of missing children, who were taken to the ice region in the north. She has been equipped with the golden compass. Anyone who has not read the book or seen the movie won't have a clue what the story is about, as it isn't explained until a flashback fleetingly shows Lyra in her Oxford home. You begin in the snowy wastelands on the first of 11 levels. Lyra rides on Iorek's back, while he endlessly slashes, grabs and blocks with his giant paws at wolves, shamans and other human enemies, killing them ferociously but bloodlessly (as this is meant to be for kids from the age of 12) and raising the level of the bear's "rage meter." In general, the voice acting is awful and the graphics are so bad that Lyra's hands are even shown passing through poles. You are "distracted" time to time from the boring action by even more superficial minigames such as simple puzzles and tag games. And then there is the golden compass itself, which has a few dozen hieroglyphic symbols whose meanings you must discover by asking questions in the journal you keep. It's nice having a female hero for a change, but Lyra has so little personality that one doubts young girls will be lured into playing this game because of that. If you like fantasies, buy the book and see the movie, but don't waste your money on the videogame.