There are many holiday traditions within the media around Christmas time. Classic Christmas movies replaying for days, Christmas themed TV specials, and most dependable of all, new Christmas films hitting the big screen. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens has been adapted as an animated film for the 2009 season, and released along side the film, A Christmas Carol game for the Nintendo DS. The question is however, does Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas make for an enjoyable game?
Beyond being a tie-in with the film, A Christmas Carol is essentially a seek-and-find style game with mini-games in each scene to play and advance the story. The game follows small narrated cutscenes involving hand drawn and poorly animated characters through the Dickens novel. Granted, everything is accurate to the original tale for the most part, but the story doesn't necessarily lend itself well to a game in any way. For those who are unfamiliar with the harrowing tale of Ebeneezer Scrooge, the story is as follows: old fellow's friend dies, old fellow is grumpy about Christmas and everyone hates him, friend comes back and warns old fellow to change his ways by threatening him with three ghosts, 'God bless us, every one!'
The game itself is very boring with little input in the scenes, not to mention advancing them can be tedious and aggravating. For example, the input on the scenes which involve tapping on people or dragging items to other people. This seems like an easy task, but in multiple instances this task was very picky. If actions in the scenes don't advance the plot, then they usually open a mini-game to play. Mini-games are usually very arbitrary in nature, ranging from a simple card game (which is probably the best mini-game), to annoying and hard to play musical games. Very little effort is actually required however, as going through any mini-game once usually allows the player to continue, no matter how badly they may have lost.
Some of these single player mini-games can also be taken into a four player multiplayer mode. The only problem with this is that the mini-games are still just as bland, boring, and bad as they were when played in the story the first time. In essence the multiplayer is basically irrelevant. It's almost as if it was added simply to show off on the back of the game's box.
The one and probably only redeeming quality of the game is some of the audio. There are a lot of classic Christmas songs throughout the game, even with the option to sing along to them in one mini-game. The rest of the songs are sampled from the motion picture and sound fairly good. Narration is also actually very well done and and this holds true for the entire length of the game. Unfortunately the length of the game means about an hour, since that's the length of one playthrough. Nevertheless, the narration work is probably the highlight of A Christmas Carol.
One playthrough is also about all the player will need to be done with the game. In terms of a reason to go back, there isn't too much to bother with. For kids with Disney's D gamer service there is a little incentive to go back since players can unlock new items for their online D gamer space. This works by completing challenges faster or finding hidden items throughout the game. This system is basically an achievement system to interact with friends online and show off what has been accomplished by the players. But really, unless the player wants to unlock Tiny Tim's crutch or flat cap that badly, there is no point in doing it again.
There is one other option in the game after the story is finished, and that's that the choice to read the original Dickens novel, if players should so choose to do so. Reading a book is not exactly the most fun on the DS anyway. The only people this is really beneficial to are children who haven't read the story but may want to.
So, what sort of redeeming quality is there in A Christmas Carol? Well, there really isn't any. On a side note of the game being only roughly one hour of boredom, there were also multiple crashes that caused a forced restart of the game. In reality there is probably much more enjoyment to be had in the film, and its runtime is 96 minutes - a whole 30 minutes longer than the game itself. Even taking age groups into consideration, there isn't anything but the exception of the story for kids to learn if they haven't already heard of the novel. Besides, if this game is more of a teaching tool, then it isn't exactly much of a game, or a very good teacher.