Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, developed by Krome Studios, is a game based on Kathryn Lasky's well known fantasy book series, Guardians of Ga'Hoole. Legend of the Guardians is also tied-in with a film adaption of the same name. Unlike the vast majority of movie tie-in games, Ga'Hoole isn't a complete throwaway and doesn't feel rushed out the door. The game's standalone side-story and charming cutscenes will no doubt please fans of the series, and the accessible combat is ideal for kids. That being said, experienced gamers will likely find the simple mechanics tedious and the overall package lacking depth.
The Owls of Ga'Hoole shares its name with the film version, but doesn't share its plot. In the game players take control of Shard, a young, prospective guardian of the Great Ga'Hoole Tree. Shard was brought to Ga'Hoole by a group of guardians who rescued him from certain doom after his family was shunned by owl society. Shard's dire situation was caused by a misunderstanding that saw his father take the blame for a devastating attack on the owl monastery. He must know prove his worth to a mostly hostile crowd at the Great Tree under siege by the mysterious Pure Ones. If that sounds confusing, make sure to read up on the series beforehand, as the game largely assumes players are familiar with the world.
Legend of the Guardians consists of a few fairly simple combat mechanics that value accessibility over depth. Seeing as the protagonist is an owl, it comes as no surprise that the core combat takes place entirely in the sky. Players are placed in a series of air battles that place a heavy emphasis on locking onto enemies and properly timed button presses. Attacking, counter-attacking, throwing projectiles, directing squad members and evasive maneuvers are all at the player's disposal. Each of these actions simply requires a single button press to perform, which definitely suites a younger audience, but will quickly leave "core" players wanting more.
Alongside the combat, Ga'Hoole's other mechanics follow the same philosophy of accessibility. There's a leveling system in which players can upgrade Shard's attack power, speed, health and prowess, but the options are extremely limited. The mission structure typically consists of straight forward escort, attack and defend, and chase sequences, with little deviation. Overall, the mechanics are competent, but feel shallow after a couple hours of play.
Presentation is an area where Ga'Hoole can appeal to gamers with varying levels of skill. In particular, the mixture of in-engine and cartoon still frame cutscenes do a good job of keeping the story engaging - the generally enthusiastic voice acting doesn't hurt either. However, the actual battlefields don't hold up as well visually. While the special effects that kick in when you enter a barrel roll or swoop in on an enemy from a distance increase the intensity of each encounter, the environments and character models look flat. Legend of the Guardians doesn't break any barriers in terms of production values, but it's a generally well put together package.
Once the campaign has been completed, lasting roughly four hours, players can replay with one of the other three owl classes. Unfortunately, these classes feature only minor differences on the battlefield and the campaign remains identical throughout. There isn't much incentive to return, which is a problem considering the relatively short length of the initial playthrough. Coupled with the lack of multiplayer to extend the experience, Ga'Hoole suffers in the long run.
Overall, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole is a surprisingly competent package considering the reputation movie tie-in games have earned in the past. The game does a good job of playing to its audience, namely young gamers and fans of the series, with fairly simple mechanics and a standalone story that provides further insight into the guardian's world. However, experienced gamers will quickly find Ga'Hoole repetitive and tedious.