This largely linear fantasy adventure, based on the book series of the same name, follows the adventures of the Grace family as they stumble into a unique situation when they move into a new house. Freddie Highmore does great double duty as twin brothers Jared and Simon while sister Mallory is voiced by Sarah Bolger. All three children do a fantastic job with their American accents and believable performances.
Jared seems detached while Simon avoids conflict at all costs. Sarah’s fencing skills are predictably handy when mysterious events begins happening around the house. The adventure begins as one of the siblings uncovers some amazing history about their great, great uncle Arthur Spiderwick, voiced by David Strathairn.
You can play as Jared, Simon, Mallory Grace and even small Thimbletack the Brownie throughout the chapter quests. Optional side quests are also available. As with other fantasy games like Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, etc. etc., you must use certain characters to complete certain level areas. Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You offers available help at any time (+ button) and background into finding hidden creatures like faeries and goblins. The guide also gives hints for your next task while providing background, interesting trivia and options/abilities.
The game has a good mix of puzzles and collection activities as well. Collect from ten types of faeries/sprites then keep up to three at a time. Get your creative juices flowing a bit by painting each sprite when you nab each one to record them in the guide. You can go back to capture free sprites, found in the same spot. Catching several of the same kind boosts their power. Observant players (plus players who have read the book) can take quicker advantage of the items while keeping others in mind for future use, though you can get stuck at times (e.g. finding the broomstick in the beginning turned into a bit of a chore for this reviewer).
Enemies include goblins (collect their teeth for bonuses), changelings, trolls and ogres. Attack movements and range weapons (e.g. tomato sauce gun) help you dispatch them fairly quickly, though the sprite power come in very handy for key battles, even the puzzles. The attack movements, which make good use of the Wii remote, include charge attacks (holding A then releasing) and regular charge by pointing the remote up.
Flipping the Nunchuk up to enact a sliding jump move, which has advantages in battle, but be sure to plan your direction on the Nunchuk before you do it. Options and button combinations allow you to set the camera to your liking, otherwise the way you move is pretty basic. Players can get to a center point in the environment then pan around or just run through every nook and cranny waiting for the interaction icons to appear.
The plotline (closely follows the film) predictably has a linear base, so you can’t always use exits when you want to. Moving through the dark environments (you can adjust the lighting) can be challenging as well. Most dead ends have a large solid black background.
The colorful icons help show the exits and key interaction points. Four save points help manage the progress/checkpoints, especially for younger players.
This game provides a nice bonus by allowing unlimited character switching once you complete the game. Other bonuses, including a competitive multiplayer mode, and unlockables reward you along the way too. Well schooled players can conquer the game quickly, but even without extensive knowledge (though cut scenes, with film's stars, provide some background), most players can finish the game without hitting double digit hours, so the unlockables and multiplayer mode helps boost the replay value. Options for possible future installments could include designing your own sprite then sharing online plus participating in International Sprite League tournaments.
The Spiderwick Chronicles is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for fantasy violence and animated blood. This game can also be found on: Nintendo DS, PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.