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Legend of the Guardians The Owls of Ga'Hoole Wii Review

18/04/2011 Thinking Story Gamer Review
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Legend of the Guardians The Owls of Ga'Hoole Nintendo Wii

Legend of the Guardians The Owls of Ga'Hoole

Nintendo Wii



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Legend of the Guardians Wii is an unusual game, putting the player in the role of an owl. However, unusual protagonist aside, the generic fantasy plot and shaky gameplay make for a mediocre game.

I'm not sure how to classify Legend of the Guardians. Owl 'Em Up? Owl Combat Simulator? Owl Playing Game?

Maybe best just to kick it into the genre bucket marked Mediocre Film Tie-Ins: it's based on a 3D animated kids' film directed by Zach Snyder (300, Sucker Punch), itself drawn from a series of fantasy novels by Kathryn Lasky, all of which feature a race of warrior owls.

I don't think I've ever played an owl in a game before, and if I did it was back in the 8-bit days when one platforming creature moved the same way as any other. Legend of the Guardians is more of a fully-fledged (no pun intended) owl-playing experience: your character, young guardian Shard, is constantly in flight, and on the Wii is controlled by holding the Wii-mote sideways and tilting it to rise and fall.

On the plus side, this control system gives a real sense of grappling with the aerodynamics of flight and thinking in three-dimensions. On the down side, the Wii-mote isn't the most precise device, and any manouvere can rapidly end in the Legend of Faceplant due to an ill-judged twist of the controller.

Being an owl has a certain novelty to it.

At its most fun, Legends of the Guardian is a simple but engaging exercise in flying and fighting, and there's much enjoyment to be had from swooping low over stock landscapes - a desert, a forest - riding air currents and engaging in aerial scuffles with evil bats. The combat is button-hammeringly simple, and a generous lock-on will point you in the right direction when you get spun around too much.

On a basic level, being an owl has a certain novelty to it, but once I got used to the mechanics the game offered very little to do with it. The player character may be unusual, but the missions are all absolutely standard: pursue and fight, destroy the bases, capture the flag (in this case, a cute squealing owlet) and carry it back to camp.

Some of these generic objectives are poorly suited to a flying game: missions where you trail a subject from a distance are never much fun (and are most wisely used as a form of semi-active cut-scene where you listen in to a conversation, as in the Assassin's Creed series), but trying to stay at the right distance from a group of evil owls, never falling too far back or getting too close, is near impossible in a game where the controls are this tricky.

Fly slowly and you'll get stuck way behind, swoop down and you'll be buffeted right into their fluffy evil tailfeathers. Either result is a frustrating fail.

Beneath all the beaks and feathers, the game's story isn't that inventive

Beneath all the beaks and feathers, the game's story isn't that inventive either, instead being a fairly standard fantasy tale of a young hero, the owl Shard, the noble warrior order and the mysterious evil force rising in a nearby land.

There's some charm in the 2D animated cut-scenes, which have a style and charm missing from the rest of the game, but the dialogue is mainly portentous fantasy cobblers. Heed this young sir knight, and all that rubbish. The voice-acting is good, but not enough to enliven the generic characters.

Playing a bird, flying on feathered wings and fighting with beak and claw, is actually a sound basis for a game. I just wished Legend of the Guardians had elected to do something more interesting with it.

Written by Mark Clapham

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Mark Clapham writes the Story Gamer column.

"I love a good story. Games tell many different stories: the stories told through cut scenes and dialogue, but also the stories that emerge through gameplay, the stories players make for themselves."

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