A One Way Ticket to Boredom
Why does every movie title need to make a video game counterpart nowadays? Does a movie like the Polar Express really have to be made into a game? Even the creators of this game probably understand that the answer is no. So what happens when you have to make a game that will turn out awful no matter what you do? That’s right! Make a weak platformer where you collect stupid items.
The vast majority of this game will take place through a 2D side scrolling view. The player takes control of a young child that hitches a ride on the Polar Express to the North Pole. Each level will force the player into doing something really unexciting. Finding a ticket stub or an engine part is not exactly what any normal human being would call fun. Actually, most people would call it a chore.
The game play is painfully slow. The character’s walking pace will make your grandma in her wheelchair look like the Indy 500. And you know you are in for a bad game when your biggest nemesis is moving luggage. If you get hit by a moving handbag too many times, it is game over. Candy canes and silver bells are scattered throughout each level. The game encourages players to collect these useless items, but many candy canes are totally out of the way. And since the main character walks so slow, no one will want to collect these items.
The end of the stage is usually marked by a white door. However, to get there, you must push and pull boxes out of your way. Moving boxes is even slower than walking and can literally take thirty seconds to move it across the screen. The playable character only can only do four things: walk, run, drag boxes, and crawl. I think the developers left out any type of attack function because they did not want to make a violent game. So what do they add to try and spice up the pathetic game play? A pogo stick. Jumping has never been more inaccurate with this thing.
These side scrolling levels all take place on a train, so the environments look the same. Jumping on tops of boxes and bags of luggage will be very common. Occasionally, however, the player will find himself on top of the moving locomotive or next to the hot furnace. I find it funny that this is a kid’s game, where you cannot attack anything, but yet you can get burned by a searing flame or run and jump on the top of a moving train.
Occasionally, a mini game type level will break up the lame side scrolling action. In a skiing mini game, the player must simplely duck low passageways or jump over blockades. A train driving level will have player select which track to drive on: the left or right. While these levels are more exciting than the side-scrolling platform ones, they still are very basic and dull.
At least the game has a battery backup to save the player’s progress. This eliminates the need for writing down a long password. Also, players can go back to any level at any time to try and collect the items that they missed, even though I am not sure they would want to.
The graphics are pretty lame as well. The playable character moves like an ungreased robot and looking at the same background is never a good thing. Many objects that are in the background also look like they are in the foreground and vice versa. It is frustrating when you want to jump on a platform but realize it is just a background decoration. These side-scrolling levels may be boring to look at, but I did find the train driving level to be well done. The train is a 3D model with some quality Mode 7 scaling in the background.
The musical score will not exactly make you sing or hum along either. More musical tracks would have been nice instead of listening to the same tune repeatedly. The audio effects will probably make you turn the volume down instead of up.
I hope no child receives this game from Santa. Receiving this game as a Christmas present is worse than getting a lump of coal. The bogged down play control, the tasteless graphics, and weak game play concepts make the The Polar Express a title that should be avoided at all costs.