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Gamer Tuesday

December 20, 2011

Winter Wonderland Gamer Tuesday Special: Disney's A Christmas Carol

Developed by: Buena Vista Games

System: Nintendo DS

In what seems to be an endless sea filled with hundreds (if not thousands) of A Christmas Carol adaptations, I think that Robert Zemeckis' 2009 3D motion capture movie A Christmas Carol is kind of underrated. Despite some of the characters looking kind of weird due to the motion capture animation employed to tell the story, and focusing a lot on 3D-heavy action scenes, the film is a very solid adaptation of Charles Dicken's literary classic that captures both the beauty and the grim imagery of one's man trip into his sad past, ignorant present and dark future. But what comes as the most surprising is that Disney released a video game adaptation of the movie at the time of its November 2009 release.

In Disney's A Christmas Carol, you follow the story of Ebenezer Scrooge as he learns the errors of his ways when he is visited by the spirit of his deceased partner Jacob Marley and the three spirits of Christmas. That's the sort of premise that doesn't seem to lend itself towards a video game adaptation. Yeah, the movie does have a couple of action pieces, but with a story that is as character driven and emotionally charged as A Christmas Carol, how CAN video game developers turn it into a interactive video game? That's why Disney's A Christmas Carol has been labeled as a mix between a visual novel and a point and click adventure... sorta.

Visual novels are games which are designed strictly to tell a story, with limited interaction coming from the player. This is different from story driven video games where as you keep playing and completing missions, more and more of the story is revealed to you through cut scenes in-between game play. In visual novels, on the other hand, you are plunged into the story right away, and the most common action coming from the player is pressing a button to continue the story.

Disney's A Christmas Carol tries to differentiate itself from the standard Visual Novel game by adding short gameplay segments. While reading the story, players can participate in mini-games based on the major events in the story. You can aid the Cratchit family in their Christmas dinner preparations, help Scrooge survive his small predicament (and by small I mean that he has shrunken in size by the Ghost of Christmas Future) and even sing Christmas carols by reading the lyrics on-screen. You can also have Scrooge interact with other characters as he makes his morning commute.

Despite the presence of a heavy story its briefs bursts of game play makes it a nice interactive experience without getting in the way of the story. Not only that, you can also unlock the original Christmas Carol story, meaning that once you experienced Disney's version you can read about it as Charles Dickens originally envisioned it. The game also features an interactive calendar that unlocks a new surprise till Christmas day should you decide to play that far into the year.

When designing the graphics of the game, Buena Vista forgoes the film's realistic CG animation for a 2D, hand drawn presentation that is very reminiscent of classic Disney animation. The character sprites are quite large and the worlds are detailed, giving the game a soft and warm atmosphere that will make players nostalgic for a good old Christmas season.

Despite the fact that the film received mixed reviews, Disney's A Christmas Carol is both a great film and a fun little game for the DS. The title doesn't try to push the boundaries when it comes to video game adaptations of popular franchises and stories, but it doesn't need to, and it still manages to capture the essence of the film and the story as a whole through short but fun gameplay segments and a story that has yet to lose any of its emotional grip. As Tiny Tim would always proclaim: 'God bless us, everyone!'


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