Thursday 8 October 2020

Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia ★★☆☆☆

Welcome to our review of Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia, available on PC, PS4, Xbox One & Nintendo Switch

Nowadays, the idea of a full console game tie-in for a movie or TV show feels a little retro. Back in the day, even the likes of Little Britain and Pimp My Ride got adaptations, even when they really, really shouldn’t have. Yet in 2020, even the biggest blockbuster will be lucky to get a mobile game release.

That’s why Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia piqued our interest. Based on the Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia series by Guillermo Del Toro, it combines all the classic DreamWorks Animation charm with the Del Toro’s trademark weirdness. Following teenage hero Jim as he finds himself transported to a magical realm filled with trolls and other fantastical beasts, it’s a premise that would appear to be right at home in the world of gaming. 

Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia attempts just this, offering a platforming experience with an original story, in which a new troll has appeared named Porgon, who has somehow managed to track down a time travel device. With this device he sends main character Jim into several alternate timelines that he must then protect. But does the magic of the show translate, or should tie-in games like this be left in the past? Read on to find out…

Firstly, the best thing that can be said about this game is that the visuals look pretty much identical to the TV show, regardless of what console you’re playing on. This goes beyond mere character design, as motion is also fluid and aesthetically pleasing, just like fans will remember. And with levels faithfully based on the show’s different locales, it’s clear a lot of effort went into making a faithful visual recreation for the game. 

We wish the same could be said for the story, which doesn’t have the same spirit and charm as the show. While much of the dialogue is voiced, the plot itself is very stripped back, without any real exposition. This is a real shame, as it’s one of the real strengths of the show that keeps things entertaining for kids and adults alike. 

Yet this would be passable if the gameplay wasn’t equally basic. Most combat boils down to essentially spamming the same button until the enemy dies. While this is inoffensive (if uninspired), it’s the more unbalanced elements that’ll draw the ire of players. For example, enemies that fire projectiles are almost impossible to avoid, and in a game designed to appeal to younger players feel incredibly unfair.
Unfortunately, the platforming is pretty bland too. It’s often little more than heading left to right, with no real imagination offered in the traversal. This makes it very easy, which might be a plus for younger players but will feel hollow to everyone else. It’ll be fun if you’ve never played a platformer before, otherwise you’ll soon realise it’s painfully derivative. 

And perhaps most disappointingly for a game so relatively by the numbers, it’s riddled with bugs. During our playthrough, some platforms don’t move when they should have, making progress virtually impossible, and we even experienced full game freezes, requiring us to restart the console. Situations like this are annoying at the best of times, but losing that much progress can be heartbreaking for younger players. 

To wrap up, Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia is not a good game. At its best it’s generic, and at its worst it’s broken. However, it isn’t a complete lost cause. If you have kids who enjoy the TV series, it’s an easy, short game (roughly 6 hours), and offers a basic introduction to platforming games. But even then we can think of over half a dozen games that can do that better, so shop around before committing to this one.

Tom Baker

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