The Highlands of Scotland provide the setting for the latest computer-animated feature from the talents of Disney Pixar, and, as can be expected these days, a game tie-in is served alongside it.
Naturally, this will mostly appeal to those who enjoyed the film, a medieval fairytale set in mythical Scotland, and places players in the role of feisty female protagonist Merida, a skilled archer, who journeys to remove a curse afflicting her mother that she herself is responsible for causing.
Whilst the Nintendo DS version provides more uninspiring visuals than its console counterparts, Merida’s adventure still proves an entrancing experience that younger players will certainly find enjoyment from. Yet older players longing for a challenge won’t find that much here.
Hand-drawn, narrated sequences grant an overview to the film’s storyline, although it is probably recommended to play this after seeing it to make sure that the player is able to fill numerous gaps that stunt continuity.
Players must also ‘purify’ Mor’du’s creatures, and it is here where the game’s most commendable design comes into play. For the uninitiated, Mor’du is a giant demonic bear that attacked Merida’s family in her youth, and has continued to plague their kingdom. Fun, right?
Across the game, the player will be granted access to four charms, accessible through the Nintendo DS’s touchscreen. These take the form of Fire, Earth, Air and Ice, and enable the player to add elemental effects to Merida’s attacks, be they with her sword or bow. Certain creatures are vulnerable to certain elements, indicated by an icon hovering above them, and you must, therefore, use the corresponding Charm to more effectively defeat them.
Such elemental attacks are also key to platforming within the game, the player required to use specific elements to trigger switches that then raise rocks, for example, that allow them to progress.
Hidden caves are scattered throughout each level, usually where you’ll find many of the chests that contain weapon upgrades, orbs and health potions. Such orbs are also gathered from defeated foes, and at the conclusion of each level, you are then able to spend orbs to unlock abilities that further strengthen and enhance Merida’s combat prowess.
These encompass statistic enhancements such as Health Boost, as well as more diverse attack capabilities that include Rain of Arrows, Piercing Arrows, Circle of Blade, and Slam Attack, incrementally broadening the gameplay experience.
So, in entirety, the game amounts to an enjoyable experience, yet one that ultimately feels short, simplistic and relatively uninspired. Most certainly perfect for those that want to relive Merida’s adventure, but won’t ignite enthusiasm amongst others.