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April 12, 2006

REVIEW: Legendo's The Three Musketeers

It was the best of games, it was the worst of games, it was a time of joy, it was a time of frustration, it was the spring of fun playing with my kids, it was the winter of fear and suspicion about sypware.

The Three Musketeers, developed and published by Swedish company Legendo Entertainment, claims to be the “first game ever based on the masterpiece by Alexandre Dumas”, and this may well be true. However, it also bears a striking resemblance to Dickens’ classic French Revolution-era novel, because this game is a tale of two games.

But more on that later. First, the game, which, judging by the demo version, looks cool and is fun to play.

Did I say cool? I think Legendo’s The Three Musketeers looks terrific. It has a uniquely striking comic-book-esque cell-shaded look, and it’s just a pleasure to gaze upon. Many gamers bemoan the fact that pre-rendered cut-scenes often look much better than the actual gameplay (machinima notwithstanding). In this case, the game looks better than the cinematics, which, while lovely, have a more traditional Flash-animation-based look to them.

So yeah, it sure looks purty, but in the wonderful world of video games, even gorgeous cell-shaded graphics are nothing without solid gameplay (Auto Modellista, anyone?). In this case, this classic side-scrolling platformer (though you get to travel around the occasional corner) is fun to play. The demo level is pretty basic, but the full game has some more challenging elements that are reminiscent of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, one of the best “grownup games” I’ve ever played.

You play as Porthos (at least in the demo you do), and you have to rescue your swashbuckling compadres, Aramis, Athos, and D’Artagnan, who have been kidnapped by the evil Count Xavier.

Given the subject matter, there are naturally swordfights, and some of the later levels have blade-embedded walls (a Prince of Persia staple) that must be traversed. However, the violence is very cartoony, and there is nothing graphic at all.

For my taste, I thought that the cut scenes were a little long (though not quite at the Metal Gear Solid 3 level), but maybe it was just me being impatient, since my kids really enjoyed watching the “little movies” between levels. So, in the words of Gilda Radner’s hearing-challenged Emily Litella from SNL’s mid-‘70s golden era, “never mind!”

OK, here endeth the positive part of the review. What follows is what made me want to chuck this game into the deepest recesses of the Bastille.

When I discovered a second demo of the game, I immediately downloaded it, figuring that I could not only make my kids happy, but also make this here review just that much more robust. However, when I clicked on the icon to play, I got a warning that StarForce (yes, that StarForce) had been installed on my computer. I immediately recoiled in horror, tossed my CPU in the shower, then proceeded to scrub it down like was Karen Silkwood’s workstation at the nuclear power plant.

Without going into too much detail, StarForce is a copy protection/anti-piracy mechanism that installs its very own device driver onto your very own computer. I’m not a big fan of that kind of insidious crap. Don’t ever install software on my computer without my consent. Homey don’t play that.

So what you do is completely your call. If you can somehow find a way to play the game and leapfrog the whole StarForce thing, then your kids should have themselves a fun game to play.

So what have we learned here today? Simply this: It is a far, far better thing to have a fun, great-looking game to play with your kids, but it is also far, far worse to wake up to a spyware-infected computer the next day.


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