Well executed motion controls, great music and voice acting, and good art direction
Far too short and the in-game graphics can get foggy at times
Owls are one of the coolest birds in the animal kingdom. Go ahead, ask ornithologists… they’ll confirm it. Considering this, one would automatically assume Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole to be totally cool; however, it also happens to be based on a movie, so that leads to some doubt. Surprisingly, the coolness of owls ultimately outshines the reputation associated with movie games.
At its core, Owls of Ga’Hoole is in the same vein as classic flight games Star Fox and Rogue Squadron, with a nice mix of straight-ahead on-rails levels and more open, combat- and exploration-based environments. The major thing that sets apart Owls of Ga’Hoole apart from the genre staples is its emphasis on melee combat. This technically brings it frighteningly close to the less than stellar Lair, but luckily it avoids the frustrations of that PS3 exclusive by utilizing motion controls that actually work.
Owls of Ga’Hoole uses the Wii Remote by itself, held sideways. Tilting the controller controls movement while the buttons adjust speed and attacks. The button layout takes some getting used to, with attacks mapped to the D-pad, but once you have it down the game controls perfectly. The combat itself isn’t necessarily all that revolutionary, but it is surprisingly fast and works very well thanks to a great lock-on mechanic.
Compared to the gameplay, the visuals are a mixed bag. For telling the story, Owls of Ga’Hoole presents some via beautiful cinematics and other scenes with higher-res versions of the in-game engine, but the majority of the story is presented in a highly stylized manner that looks more like an animated picture book, and a gorgeous one at that. The in-game graphics are where things disappoint. While the art style remains relatively strong throughout, the game world is often far too foggy to really appreciate what should be sweeping vistas. Since you will spend most of your time looking at these visuals, they ultimately detract from the overall experience.
Thankfully, Owls of Ga’Hoole comes out swinging when it comes to audio design. While the sound effects are pretty much par for course, the music is suitably epic while also surprisingly subdued in all the right places, making for a satisfyingly dynamic soundtrack. Another positive aspect of both the audio and game as a whole is the voice acting, and while it might seem a little silly at times, it fits the setting, and remember, this is targeted more at kids.
While most of this review has been positive, Owls of Ga’Hoole does posses one major problem– length. A dedicated gamer could easily storm through this game in less than five hours, and while there are numerous bonus missions and a variety of unlockable armors that emphasize different strategic approaches to the game, the levels aren’t all that compelling or difficult to warrant multiple replays. So, while you might enjoy playing this game, you’re unlikely to spend much time with it after it’s finished.
Altogether, Owls of Ga’Hoole is a fun game with many positive attributes but one major flaw that significantly detracts from its overall value. Being unfamiliar with the source material, I can’t comment on whether or not Owls of Ga’Hoole is a must-play for fans of the series, regardless the game’s flaws. However, as a game completely detached from all potential fandom, Owls of Ga’Hoole is a solid experience that’s worth checking out once the price comes down to match the game’s unfortunate length.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.