Amazon parents: I went to the movies and my kids' imaginations are so good they can make this game fun to play.
Rise of the Guardians is still sitting in my Wii U like a badge of shame that stares at me every time I boot it up to play games I've downloaded off the eShop. I beat the game before I left for my vacation in Oregon back in December and am only just now finally writing the review. Why have I let it sit so long? Because I knew it'd be a review I'd have difficulty getting into.
It's not that Rise of the Guardians is bad, per se; it's just not particularly good either. The problem is trying to figure out what to say about it at all. As far as generic top-down dungeon crawlers go, I suppose it's just fine, though it lacks the panache of translating a brand into the genre. It's functional, but it isn't interesting in any way.
The game follows the narrative of the film, and you can play as any of five "Guardians," mythical figures of childhood belief and faith—Santa Claus, The Tooth Fairy, The Easter Bunny, The Sandman, or the newly recruited Jack Frost—with friends or AIs playing as the other characters. It plays lip service to the plot with a shadowy bad guy making nightmares and stealing the belief of children from The Guardians; they have to stop him before they wink out of existence. But it does so in such a lazy way with barely animated paper cut-out versions of the characters that I turned off the audio and listened to the soundtracks of better games instead. That meant I never really learned any character names, because I could not be bothered to get invested in a story that was so poorly told.
I played through the game as North, the Slavic (or vaguely Russian, I guess) Santa Claus character, who gruffly yells out short quips while I pressed and pressed (and pressed ) the basic attack button near enemies. Despite the lack of attention to the story, it's surprising how smoothly animated the figures move in the 2D plane. So it's frustrating how uninspired the level design is and how tiny the figures look on the screen.
The GamePad houses the level map and character stats, but it just goes to show that this is a lazy port for a lazy game. It had been developed to be as competently unbroken as possible, but in no way interesting or ambitious. In short, it's an example of most uninspired media tie-in shovelware.
While trolling around on Amazon, which recently learned with it's brainy algorithms that I have a Wii U, I saw it suggested I buy Rise of the Guardians for the system. Perhaps it did so because of the low volume of games currently available, or maybe because I also love any movie released in 3D. In any case, I decided to look at the reviews to see what kind of people bought the game. The answer was extremely to the point. You can check out the reviews yourself.
In short, that's who buys uninspired media tie ins: parents willing to play or provide a game for kids whose imaginations are active enough to overlook the flaws and imbue the game with their love of the film. So basically, the people who will enjoy this game have already purchased it for their children and live the joy of the movie vicariously with them.
This means that anyone else is probably better off just letting the thing sit on the shelf unless you need to unwind with the video game equivalent of pedestrian smooth jazz: bland, boring, uninventive, but still technically a functional example of the art form.