The game plays directly into the story from the film. You are Lyra Belacqua, keeper of the alethiometer, the title device that allows you to answer any question you ask of it. You are trying to save your friend Roger from a group called the Gobblers who have kidnapped him. You have a daemon, Pan, who will adventure with you, as well as a huge polar bear named Lorek. The game often follows the same path that the movie did, while not giving you a chance or a reason to care about what happens to these characters. All told, it adds up to a mishmash that will have you wondering just what youre doing with that controller in your hands.
Trying to figure out the gameplay will have you doing that, too. There is a lot of the game that is spent on just roaming around, looking for clues to the next portion. There are a number of little side-games, but despite throwing the occasional change into the mix, they dont really do much your experience. In fact, theyll probably confuse you the first few times at how to perform in them, since documentation is nonexistent for a few of them. There are also numerous timed button sequences that require you to push one of your buttons at the specific time that it asks for it. These gameplay elements are not very fun, and dont add a whole lot that is positive to the experience.
If gameplay elements that are un-entertaining arent enough of a reason to keep you away, maybe graphics that will suck the magic of the movie right out of you are. The graphics in this game are dated and dark. The graphics in the movie itself were one of the best parts about it, but that tradition wasnt held to for the game. The sound effects, too, are low-budget, as they are either disruptive or not even present at all.
While there are games out there that take a movie and allow a player to participate in the storyline in a new and engaging way, this is not one of those games. The Golden Compass tries to bring the characters from the movie home to you, but with the large number of side games that are uninteresting, and a main game that isn't much fun either, its not really the sort of game you should waste your money on. Unless you have a child that is an enormous fan of the movie, this is probably one to hold off from buying.