‘Coraline’ a good movie, bad game and movie, but it sucks as a game

Coraline” is everything a video game should not be. A video game should not suck, it should not be unoriginal, it should not suck, it should not look like it was created by your unemployed neighbor, it should not end in just four hours and it should not suck.

Video games based on movies are bum-rushed to cash in on pop titles, thus they are lame, with few exceptions (see “Wall-E” and James Bond games). Likewise, this game limps like a quick buck, since it’s based on Neil Gaiman’s book and the movie directed by Henry (“Nightmare Before Christmas”) Selick.

Gaiman’s book is a creative horror-fantasy about 11-year-old Coraline. She escapes the humdrum of her house and her preoccupied parents. In doing so, she gets drawn into a parallel universe where a more attentive version of her parents shove yummy cake in her face.

The movie based on “Coraline” suggests the girl’s “other mother” (who has buttons for eyes) may have issues. “Be careful what you wish for.” Yada-yada. The movie works well, because it’s in 3-D, which is cool, and because Selick’s stop-motion animators paint a pretty picture.

The video game (not in cool 3-D) smellingly mulches “Coraline’s” characters, story, art and dialogue. To make “Coraline” a game, developers added minichallenges, such as “Go Fish” and “Hide and Seek.” I’m not sure when you last played “Go Fish.” But I bet it also was the last time you played “Hide and Seek.”

Since “Coraline” is based on a movie, it must behave within the limiting parameters of the film. The movie clocks in at 100 minutes and takes place in a three-bedroom house and a yard. I finished “Coraline” in four hours, trudging through that same old house of “Go Fish,” over and over.

Such movie games usually are shallow. By comparison, play a nonmovie game lasting 60 hours or more, such as October’s “Midnight Club: Los Angeles,” and you drive past intricate drawings of the entire city of L.A.: roads, banks, homeless people, you name it. You could play that game for months.

What’s most nuts about “Coraline” is the narrative is so fractured, it makes no sense unless you see the movie or read the book. The game play is even worse. It may bore kindergartners. Use a slingshot to shoot apples. Dumb. Catch pancakes flapping through the kitchen. Stupid. Water a plant. Simpleton.

The game won’t let you walk on the yard, even though you own feet. You can’t hop forward, even though hopping forward was invented many years ago.

You can’t control camera viewpoint, so you bump into walls constantly. And buttons aren’t very responsive.

The only thing going for this game is that the film’s star, Dakota Fanning, reprises her voice-over. Teri Hatcher does not. I wonder if Hatcher finally realized her darker role in the movie was to play herself as a tabloid caricature, a stick-thin simulacrum of a female wire hanger?

Therefore, bypass this putrid, mundane, suck of a game, for if you don’t, you will regret every sucking minute, and that goes for 5-year-olds, too. “Coraline’s” suckitude overcomes all bounds of age, grace and social consequence. It is suck personified to the sucketh degree of super duper suck. It also sucks.

(“Coraline” by DP3 retails for $30 for Wii, PS 2 and DS — Plays as unfun as unfun can play. Looks shoddy. Very easy. Rated “E 10+” for mild cartoon violence, mild suggestive themes. Zero stars out of four.)

What do you think about all this? Write your thoughts on my blog (reviewjournal.com/elfman) or e-mail me (delfman@reviewjournal.com), and I’ll post them. My column runs Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. See you then.

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