When Coraline’s father tells her to count everything blue in the house, viewers of the stop-motion movie Coraline can clearly feel the pain of being a bored, neglected child. But when you’re asked to perform the same time-wasting task as part of the Coraline game, you have to wonder whether you have better things to do. That feeling continues throughout the game. While it’s theoretically for kids, many of the mini-games you have to complete to advance the plot will try even adult attention spans.
Coraline’s designers apparently had little grasp on how to balance gameplay difficulty. You quickly move from ultra-simple picture-matching to frustratingly difficult tasks like maintaining your balance with the joystick during a long walk on a pipe. Some games, like repeating a sequence of bell rings, at least have solid concepts, but the multiple music games show that sloppy execution can ruin even a good idea. The Guitar Hero and Rock Band clones lack the rhythm that makes complex sequences intuitive. And even if you think you’ve finally beaten a grating puzzle, don’t be surprised when it comes back later, this time with a timer just to make it harder. Players can slip particularly vexing tasks by buying a pass with buttons rewarded from optional mini-games. But the prices are steep, so the only way to regularly escape those trials is to farm buttons from games that don’t deserve the attention.
Spending a lot of time on a task can be satisfying, but it doesn’t feel that way when the big payoff is delivering a missing piece of paper to complete a fetch quest. Instead, the game manages to suck out all the wonder out of Coraline’s rich story and setting, leaving only tedium behind.
Beyond the game: Coraline movie cast members Dakota Fanning (Coraline), Keith David (the cat) and Robert Bailey Jr. (Wybie) provide voices for the game.
Worth playing for: The incredibly creepy opening cinematic, which is also the opening sequence of the movie.
Frustration sets in when: The timer runs out one second before you complete a particularly long mini-game, and you have to start from the beginning.
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Final judgment: If the movie leaves you with a craving for more, you’re better off reading (or even re-reading) the book.