Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia is not a great game… if you’re an adult. If you’re a small kid yet to become jaded by the world, it’s good. At least that’s the impression I got from my 4-year old boy, Charlie, who has helped me out in some previous reviews, like Minecraft VR and Gigantosaurus
I suppose what’s really important with a game like Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia is remembering who the game has been made for. It hasn’t been made for grown men like me, or for hardcore gamers like you, but instead for young kids looking for a simple yet fun gaming experience.
In that sense, Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia succeeds, but it’s not without some issues that take it down from being a great game for kids, to just being an OK game for kids. Let’s start from the beginning.
Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia is based on the hit Netflix series, and due to me owning a small child, I’m quite familiar with the series and, honestly, it’s one of the few kids TV shows that I can actually watch. I’m sick of Boss Baby and that annoying brat Blippi on YouTube.
The game is a side-scrolling action-platformer. You’ll batter bad guys with your sword, and jump through challenging sections of the game’s levels. There are some nice mini-games, too, as well as some not overly difficult bosses. The combat isn’t difficult at all and, strangely, if you simply jump over some enemies then you’ve beaten them as they’ll just keep running instead of turning around to fight you. Weird, no?
The platforming can be quite tricky at times. Every level has floating platforms that either move up and down or left and right, as well as some that disappear a few seconds after being jumped on. The platforming was perhaps the biggest hurdle for Charlie, and it was in these moments I stepped in and earned some Daddy points by overcoming the harder sections. It’s what I’m here for. I know my place in this house.
Generally, the game isn’t very difficult at all, and that’s fine. While I might have liked a bit more of a challenge, Charlie was more than happy with it. He especially liked the collectables, like the coins littering the game’s levels, the smelly socks that can be collected and traded later on in the game for upgrades. This is where Trollhunters started to fall apart for little Charles, though, and it’s only the start of some odd design choices.
Charlie can’t read. He’s 4. He can do his numbers and he can recognise different letters, but reading a sentence is out of the question for now. I imagine that for a lot of kids in the age group targeted by this game (6-12 years) reading isn’t what they want from their games. They want colourful graphics, simple gameplay, and a sense of accomplishment, not menus with upgrades and objectives.
Another poor showing is how the game handles its story. Trollhunters manages to bring in a few of the original cast from the TV show, but they’re massively underused. Rather than proper cut-scenes that resemble the show, character interactions are limited to cardboard cutouts talking to one another. For young kids, this just doesn’t work, and it feels rather cheap. I know that Charlie would have enjoyed it a bit more with some proper animation, as would I.
There’s a “quest” system that involves reading the jobs set to you by Merlin. You have to read and understand what is being asked of you, and then use Merlin’s map to go to the corresponding level. Not a problem for a kind-of-literate man like myself, but a nigh-on impossible task for a 4-year old. The game keeps most things simple, but making progress is a touch more complicated than it needed to be.
Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia isn’t a graphically impressive game either, not that it really needs to be. When was the last time you heard a pre-teen ask about frame-rates, resolutions, and ray-tracing? It’s good enough and in fairness, there’s never too much going on visually that it becomes hard to read the screen. Consider it the gaming equivalent of nice big blocky letters in a pop-up book; simple but functional.
While Trollhunters isn’t a game for us old-timers, nor is it a game for the general gaming public, it’s a decent game for younger kids wanting a bit more from their favourite Netflix show. Great for kids, not so great for everyone else.
Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia PS4 Review
Overall - Good - 6/10
Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia is a decent game for kids. Colourful graphics, simple gameplay and child-friendly controls make it an easy recommendation for the younger audience. It’s let down a little by its lower production values and reading requirements. Expect to jump in and earn some Parent Points every so often, but otherwise, Trollhunters is a fun extension of the Netflix show.
Easy to play with simple but responsive controls
The graphics aren’t great, but the simple presentation means younger eyes won’t be darting all over the screen, wondering where to look next
Some of the original cast lend their voices to the game, which is always a great touch in licensed games
- The “quest” and “items” systems make progression difficult for kids who aren’t yet of reading age
- Talking pictures are a cheap replacement for proper cut scenes
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.
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Chris has been writing about gaming news for far too long, and now he’s doing it even more. A true PlayStation know-it-all, Chris has owned just about every Sony console that ever existed. Trophies are like crack to this fella. (Bronze trophies, that is – he only has one Platinum.)