Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas: The Pumpkin King Review

Developer: Disney Interactive Publisher: Buena Vista Games
Release Date: October 11, 2005 Also On: PS2 and Xbox

That which I knew could happen ever since I received Herbie: Fully Loaded has finally occurred. I saw in that game a true glimmer of potential, but that glimmer was overshadowed by poor decision-making on the part of the programmers. I knew in my heart that Buena Vista could make a good game, and they have finally proved me correct with The Nightmare Before Christmas: The Pumpkin King. I must admit I have no idea why this game and its console brother were released this year, seeing as how there is no movie based on the series coming out this year that I am aware of, but when a good game is released, you don’t spend too much time questioning motives.

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Don’t get me wrong. This game is far from perfect. The graphics, unfortunately, are the game’s weakest point. They are simple and far from refined, but they are appropriately spooky for the locale where the game takes place and the movie on which the game is based. So, overall, the graphics do everything they need to do, but not much more.

The sound is a different story. The music in particular had that delicate balance of being just spooky enough to be appropriate for the type of game that this is without being so scary that it would scare young players of this game. A little more scary than the music in say, Scooby-Doo: Unmasked, this music lacks addictiveness but is otherwise very well written and doesn’t sound too bad for a GBA game either. The sound effects are typical platformer fare, not awe-inspiring but not worthy of a conscious complaint either.

So far as gameplay goes, this game seems to be based heavily on the 2D Metroid games, with multiple areas to explore and the need to go back and forth between them. Like in the Metroid games, there are a slew of items that you can get, and each item opens up new areas for you to explore. As a caveat to the fact that there are going to be some fairly young kids playing this game, there will generally be arrows pointing in the direction that Jack is supposed to be going, but part of the fun is ignoring those arrows, as they only point to what Jack needs to do and ignore the extra items that can be picked up, among which the items that increase Jack’s health bar are particularly important.

Yes, that’s right, you’ll actually need to worry about finding the health-increasing items because this game, unlike most games aimed at kids, is reasonably difficult. Indeed, some parts of the game are challenging enough that, while not being impossible, they have me wondering if this game was indeed aimed at younger children after all. Such a balanced difficulty is something that helps to make this game worth the time of people who are a little bit older and are more experienced at platformers.

Another major difference between this game and most Buena Vista games is that it is reasonably lengthed. Actually, compared to most Buena Vista games, this game is long. This is hardly a disadvantage, however, as the game remains fresh enough in its objectives as to not become repetitive. Even the bosses show elements of creativity and are reasonably difficult: indeed, the bosses can be one of the hardest parts of the game if you don’t have enough of the health-increasers collected when you get to them. Other than bosses, there are collect-a-thons and other traditional platformer objectives.

However, there’s really no reason to play this game after you beat it. Still, the game clocks in at a reasonable length compared to other GBA games, and there are three mini-games that you will unlock during the course of the main game. These mini-games are not anything particularly exciting, but they may be worth coming back to in short bursts once in a while if you’re into that sort of thing. Overall, if you are a fan of the 2D Metroid games or of platformers in general, or if you are a fan of the movie on which this game is based, you should consider giving this game a try.

Graphics: 5
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 7
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 6.9
Written by Martin Review Guide

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