'If you're going to do something, you might as well do it well', goes the old adage. When it comes to business, however, that message is often put through the wringer, resulting in more of a 'Only do it if it's going to make you some money' attitude. You could say that IG Fun's Journey to the Center of the Earth movie tie-in falls firmly into the latter category.
And it's such a disappointment, too, because there can't be many more books with greater potential for a grand transition to the video game medium than Jules Verne's adventure. Even New Line Cinema's upcoming movie will probably serve up a fair chunk of inspiration on its own. Yet, Lakshya has sidestepped all the creative opportunities proffered on a plate to create the most simple, droll gameplay imaginable.
It's almost insulting. Split up into neat segments of varied play, the game follows the Professor and his entourage as they head towards – funnily enough – the Earth's centre, but sadly doing so is more of a chore than an adventure. Most of the game's sections revolve around simple movement – usually travelling from top to bottom, or vice versa, and the movement itself is taken care of automatically, with the only input being one pertaining to direction and timing.
One early stage, for instance, tasks you with escorting the pack through a series of tunnels on a runaway cart – à la Indiana Jones. It sounds like an exciting premise, but in reality all that's required is the odd button press when prompted – button presses that all revolve around keeping the cart on the track. Yet all such actions are heavily signposted, so no talent is required other than the ability to hit each key when the number on the screen flashes green.
As with all the stages, pressing the wrong button at a key moment will see you flying out of the cart to your doom.
Other sections are equally basic and, as a result, banal. The game's 'grand' opener is enough to put even the most tolerant players off, with the Professor Abseiling down into a cavern. This consists of moving left and right to dodge rock falls (which you're given prior warning to) and hitting '5' to jump over ledges. It's fairly standard stuff and, while the game itself is incredibly short, consisting of just six stages, the levels themselves are far too repetitive and monotonous.
But that is Journey to the Center of the Earth through and through. Rather than considering what sort of gameplay could be entertaining and building a title around those ideas, developer Lakshya has fallen into the trap of simply ticking off boxes it thinks pertain to the license its game is based on. There's no denying that Journey to the Center of the Earth is full of settings that live up to its name, but the gameplay that has been slotted into these settings is vacuous and simply duplicated, over and over.
There's a chance that a young audience – specifically those who have enjoyed the film – will be able to use their imagination enough to make this journey worth the short trip, but the rest of us will find it hard to siphon off the game's dull tones. Even if you managed it, you'd find that there was little left underneath, other than an empty and substandard core.