Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a classic kids' book that has wowed children the world over. It's tale of a young boy from a poor family who wins a tour of the great Wonka Chocolate factory - something every small child can relate to and wishes they could do themselves. The new Tim Burton Movie, staring Johnny Depp, brings the story to a new generation of kids (kids who don't like to read as many books as older generations) and the videogame based on the movie should, in theory, be a perfect kids' game. How it misses the mark so badly and includes very little of the magic found in the story is a real mystery and a big shame.
The first problem is the fact that the game doesn't follow the story of the movie or the book. You play Charlie and must join with the Oompa-Loompas to clean up the mess that the other Golden Ticket winning children have made. Quite why Charlie has been tasked with cleaning up the factory isn't clear, but it doesn't seem like he is having as much fun as the other kids. Anyway, the kids have caused a number of problems and you must use the Oompa-Loompas to sort things out.
This is the second major problem. Oompa-Loompa control is a shambles. You need to direct them to carry out certain tasks and choose the right Oompa-Loompas for the job. Once you've chosen the right type of Oompa-Loompa and directed them to the place in the level where they must go, the problems start to arise. Even though these little guys have been working in the factory for years, they don't appear to know their way around. I can't imagine kids being too thrilled with the game when they have to sit and wait while the impostor Oompa-Loompas amble around the levels, getting stuck on scenery and generally taking an age to get to their destination. You can't even do anything to point them in the right direction. You might be able to forgive them if they sang some nice little songs, but they don't. The real Oompa-Loompas were obviously a little too pricey to appear in the game.
There are some more traditional platforming sections in the game, but these are equally annoying to play due to the incredibly awkward controls. Being a kids' game you aren't really punished for doing badly, but you'll often miss jumps and find yourself back at the start of a level. I've rarely played a game that is so infuriating. Children's games are often rushed to get to market in time for a movie release, but that is no excuse for a game as horrible to play as this. There are also moments where you can't figure out what to do in order to progress. Seeing as the target age for the game is probably 12-year-olds and under, it's ridiculous that there aren't clear signposts that tell you exactly what to do, and is another example of a horribly rushed game.
Visually things aren't much better, with a level of blandness that makes the wondrous factory appear more like some kind of industrial complex. The only resemblance to the fantastical place where every kid's dream comes true is in the loud colour palette used to paint the scenery. Seeing this isn't easy though, as the camera will often hide behind objects and generally cause problems.
The game's audio is its only saving grace, with voice work by all the actors in the film (bar Depp, but someone does a good job at impersonating him), and generally solid music and sound effects throughout. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, there are no songs from the Oompa-Loompas. It is another strange decision from the developers and something that is hard to understand.
I didn't think that there would be a movie licensed game released this year that could be worse than the Fantastic 4, but I was quite badly wrong. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is poor on a completely different level to Activision's effort. Yet, despite this almost complete damning of the game, it has and will continue to do well in the sales chart. It's a real shame. For the price of the game a kid could see the film, buy the book and a selection of other Roald Dahl classics.