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The Nightmare Before Christmas has a high place in my heart, it was an excellent looking film both in design and animation, had great songs and a macabre story. I had high hopes when I heard that a game was to be released based on the film, there are some great options for game play in the film although probably more in an adventure sense rather than the overloaded action we have here.
It is now one year after the events of the original film when we first met Jack, Sally, Zero, Lock, Shock, Barrel and Oogie Boogie. After an improved, but all too familiar Halloween night, Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, decides to go on an adventure and find new and original thrills and chills for the next Halloween. As Jack prepares to leave on his quest he meets Doctor Finkelstein who provides him with a handy new toy. It is a living invention called the Soul Robber. It is a green, stretchable entity that can be used as whip-like weapon, a lasso and even a bungee chord. With this new gadget in hand (literally) Jack heads off for new ideas.
When Jack returns to town a few weeks later he finds that not all is as he left it. For when Jack left town, Oogie Boogie had returned. Oogie, with the help of Lock, Shock and Barrel, had tricked the people of Halloween Town into believing that Jack had left town in disgust and wouldn't return until they made a new Halloween. A more dangerous Halloween! The townsfolk helped Oogie make booby traps and even Doctor Finkelstein helped to make an army of evil ghosts, skeletons and other monsters for Oogie to command.
Now, in complete control of Halloween Town, Oogie has sent his henchmen into the other Holiday worlds to capture their leaders (The Easter Bunny, Cupid etc.) and kidnap them so that Oogie can rule not only Halloween, but all of the major Holidays. Jack, with help from his pals Zero, Sally, the Mayor, The Vampire Bros., the Clown, Corpse Kid and many more must fight Oogie's army, return Halloween Town to normal, rescue the holiday leaders and defeat Oogie Boogie once and for all.
To do this he will battle and explore his way through areas you know from the movie as well as new areas including: Town Hall, Jack's House, The Mayor's House, The Holiday Dump, Doctor Finkelstein's Lab, The Graveyard, The Pumpkin Patch, The Corridor of Fright, The Power Station, The Hinterlands, Oogie's Lair and even Christmas Town to rescue Santa Claus.
The gameplay in The Nightmare Before Christmas isn't all that advanced, the game uses a slightly enhanced version of the Devil May Cry engine, so as you may be able to tell just from hearing that, the game is action orientated. You main weapon of choice is called the Soul Robber, it allows you to do varied attacks like "Soul Robber" which hits a target when you press the X button or if you hold it down gives a hard hit. Next you have "Soul Slam" this is triggered by pressing the Y button and grabs onto a target and allows you to throw them at another enemy. There are other variations on these such as performing whip spins and taunts. Your Soul Robber can also be used to jimp up to new areas when you see a shimmering spot on the screen. This allows you to access various "hidden" areas in the game so that you can earn more souls which can be sold later on for enhanced weapons. The game also awards you for doing good combo attacks and the better taunts you do to enemies, what happens here is that at the end of each level you will get a Nightmare Ranking, the better the ranking the more chance there is of unlocking some bonus costumes and extras.
The enhanced weapons are things like Flame Throwers and Fire Bombs. Depending on what character you are playing, Plain Jack, The Pumpkin King or Santa Jack, you will have different objects and weapons at your disposal, if you are Santa Jack for example you can throw presents that can scare enemies, but if you are the Pumpkin King you get a flame thrower that can burn away enemies and cobwebs that hide bonuses. The gameplay changes when you come up against a boss, from here you get an injection of music for a Dance Battle, at first I thought this wouldn't really fit in with the game at all, but to give Capcom it's due, the movie was full of music and songs and this is a good way of putting them into the game in a slightly more inventive way than just relying on background music.
What happens here is that when you attack the boss, musical notes fly out when you hit the enemy, you quickly have to pick them up and this then fills up a meter in the top left of the screen, one this meter is full it triggers an rhythm game in the style of those Parappa games that you may have played in the past. You have to press the right buttons and directions on the gamepad in the correct sequence that shows up on screen, the more you get right the more damage is done to the boss. It works well for the bosses and takes out some of the more mundane action that fills up the rest of the game.
The game consists of 24 levels, split up into various chapters. As mentioned earlier you are taken from Halloween Town to Christmas Town and through graveyards and houses during these chapters, the only problem is that the game is far too dull throughout. I can't fault what Capcom have tried to do to get the license used well, but filling the game up with repetitive, dull action is not going to endear the game to fans of the movie. The most fun I got from the game was hearing new songs which were actually well written and seeing the great looking characters once more.
Graphics & Sound
The Nightmare Before Christmas is clearly a Playstation 2 port, admittedly it's easy to see due to the fact the game has been out on the Playstation 2 in Japan for some time, but also the games graphics don't live up to other titles on the Xbox right now. That's not to say that there is anything majorly bad here, its just that they could have been done better. The characters and the art-style of the game are perfect though, they fit in with the world that Tim Burton created back when the film came out. There is no slow down in the Xbox version that I have noticed either which is good considering there was some on the Playstation 2 version. I do have to credit the designers for some of their ghost designs though, they look excellent on screen, oh and for the fact that it's also displayed in 16:9 something that some companies are still not going with in this day and age.
The sound is excellent, there are some great new songs and of course there are the various original tunes and songs from the film in the game. The voice acting is almost spot on, yes they have brought back most of the voice cast from the film but some of them don't sound as good as they did do. The sound effects on the whole are great and the game is in full Dolby 5.1 as well. There is an annoyance though, why oh why have Capcom added the voice clip "Soul Robber" to the game so that every time you use the Soul Robber by pressing Y you get to hear what its called each time, there is nothing more annoying that repeated voice work in a game and it's something this could really have done without.
The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogies Revenge isn't an awful game, its just mediocre and doesn't do the license the justice that it deserves, yes there are some good moments and some excellent voice work and scripting, but the forced fighting gets dull very very quickly and not even the great songs and music can save us from what is, overall, a very boring title.