I'm not even going to bother wasting my time writing some creative, over the top, interesting introduction here. In fact, I'm not even going to bother writing a review for this game (Just kidding on the latter item; our hard-working editor here would not be too impressed if I chose to do that). And quite frankly, I like my job too much (most of the time - this review not included). What am I ranting about now you ask? How about the complete commercialization of the video game industry where high profile company executives in meeting rooms make daily decisions about what we, as gamers, want to play, when they themselves have never even picked up a controller or portable gaming system themselves.
Okay, even I will admit that might have been a little extreme. But seriously now, the reason behind all of this is that I cannot help but feel disappointed here. I mean, The Nightmare Before Christmas could have been a wonderful game. Unfortunately, it feels more like a straight up, we're-not-trying-to-hide-anything attempt at a quick cash grab from a well-respected movie and writer/director. I'm not going to sugar coat this one: this game is bad. Real bad. So let's stop wasting time and get on with the lackluster details so I can go back to dreaming of Hyrule and saving the princess.
In case you didn't know, The Nightmare Before Christmas: The Pumpkin King is the GBA game that was released in the recent wave of games based on the Tim Burton move from 1993. If anyone does not know who Tim Burton is, please go Google him now. Other versions released include an Xbox and PlayStation 2 game under the same theme. The games are published by Buena Vista Interactive and the GBA version is different from the others in the fact that it is set before the timeline of the movie. As a prequel, it explores how Jack Skellington first crossed paths with the infamous Oogie. It is presented as a classic 2D side-scrolling platformer, and, of course, the main goal is to defeat Oogie and save Halloween Town.
Now where was I? Ah yes, the review. As far as GBA games to, The Nightmare Before Christmas is merely average. I've seen worse. I've also seen much better, which is precisely the problem. If it doesn't make an effort to stand out in a library of games this large, then who in their right mind would spend the money to buy it? To me this game is slow, boring, and repetitive. It seems like every time I turn around I am fighting the same old enemies with a standard assortment of (albeit creatively named, but functionally basic) weapons. And no, the fact that it is inspired by Tim Burton's genius alone is not enough to save it.
Of course there is an attempt to make an exciting storyline with invigorating word puns, but please, re-read the last two sentences of the above paragraph before considering making a purchase. The gameplay boils down to a basic platforming experience that could have been good if more thought had been put into it instead of simply attempting to capitalize on the success of a name. Awkward controls hinder the overall experience, especially when attempting to jump from the top of a ladder to a higher ledge. The setup, probably created by the same people who invented the stress ball or similar items, involves a ladder conveniently placed directly under a roof (or ceiling, or other ledge, or any solid object). This becomes maddening as you continuously watch Jack hit the roof above him and fall ever so slightly short of the ledge across the way to which you are attempting to reach. In another early-game stroke of genius, this same group appears to have come up with the challenge in which players must guide Jack's friend Zero down a chimney at breakneck speeds while avoiding (or, in my case attempting to avoid) spider webs. Unfortunately, I personally am not a fan of this type of unnecessary side-quest in games.
Although the graphics and sound are both fairly well done and also well suited to the eerie atmosphere created for the game, The Pumpkin King fails to compare to any current or past platforming game on the market. The shortcomings are too significant to ignore and if I were you, I'd stay away from this one in order to avoid the disappointment altogether.