TBT – Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
Adopting films into video games used to be a common practice in the gaming industry. Back then, no mater what big budget film was in theater chances were you could find a video game of the same name on your local game retailer’s shelves. Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events released during this time period on the PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, and PC (a Game Boy Advance version was also released, but that is an entirely different game).
For those that don’t know, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is a video game adoption of the 2004 film of the same name, which in turn is an adoption of the first three novels in the best selling book series written by American author Daniel Handler. Centering around the exploit’s of the recently orphaned Baudelaire siblings whom are forced to constantly outsmart a failed actor turned despicable villain named Count Olaf who desires the lucrative fortune that their deceased parents left behind and hounds them from guardian to guardian as the children are passed around like a hot potato. There were plans for a continued film franchise in the vain of Harry Potter, but despite this, no other films were ever made. However, thirteen years later a television adoption was greenlit by Netflix. And now with the debut of the second season of said series right around the corner, it seems like the perfect time to reflect back on this movie licensed blast from the past.
The game makes it clear from the get-go that it expects you to be familiar with the source material when playing the game, which is sort of a no-brainer really, but it doesn’t speak to highly to the developers storytelling prowess. Using storybook-esque animations to quickly make the necessary introductions of the three Baudelaire orphans and their plight, the game then puts you right in control as they find themselves living in Count Olaf’s decrypted mansion. Whereas a good licensed game expands on the established cannon, A Series of Unfortunate Events does little to add onto what was already established in the film. Apart from a few references to the mysterious V.F.D organization, there are no Easter eggs for fans of the books to find, which with ten other novels to borrow material from is pretty disappointing
Most of the prominent characters have their portrayers from the film reprise their roles, though the results are mixed. The performances of Emily Browning and Liam Aiken, whom play the two eldest Baudelaire children, feel phoned in and leave a lot to be desired. Count Olaf’s portrayer Jim Carrey, on the other hand, delivers the high-energy performance you expect, but his appearances in-game are few and far between, a far cry from the actual film where his character was the driving force of the story. The only major character to be recast is Lemony Snicket, the titular character and narrator of the story, whom in the film was played by Jude Law but who’s voice here is provided by Tim Curry. Cheeky and enigmatic, Curry captures the essence of the character perfectly and delivers several humorous lines in his narration, typically when the player dies and he has to explain why they get to try again.
Gameplay wise, the game has a lot of interesting ideas but fails to execute them in a way that to make them feel more than just busy work. The best thing the game has going for it is exploration, with there being several different game worlds to explore, each based on location from a different book. Starting off at Count Olaf’s mansion, you are able to switch freely between the two eldest Baudelaire children, Klaus and Violet, as you explore and search for the items required to build the inventions they need to make accomplishing the list of chores Count Olaf has tasked them easier. Meanwhile, Sunny, the youngest of the three Baudelaire children, is only playable in brief platforming segments that popup throughout the game. Although the control’s work well, the game’s attempt at puzzles are so straightforward and mundane that they barely qualify; the same can be said about the combat and stealth segments. The final act of the game is also lacking the polish of the earlier sections, as the game introduces and then begins to overuses shooting gallery-esque gameplay segments to move the story along.
Along with having not aged well visually, like many movie licensed game’s from its time, the simplistic nature Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events of its gameplay makes it hard to recommend to anyone, even the most diehard fans of the franchise, which is the game’s greatest failing.