Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is based on a series of bothersome books of which the The Grim Grotto has just surfaced, and two more are yet to appear.  The story is extremely unpleasant and tells the unhappy tale of three very unlucky children, Klaus, Violet, and Sunny Baudelaire.  The three children suffer a series of unfortunate events that occur after a disastrous fire took the lives of the three children’s parents. 

The most unpleasant and unfortunate event is the first in a long series of unfortunate events; the children are sent to live with Count Olaf.  Count Olaf lives in a large house populated by other actors of dubious rapport such as him including a pair of singers, a man with hooks for hands, and a pair of hideous ballet dancers.  One look at the despicable Count Olaf and has troupe of actor friends will tell you that they have not taken in the children because they love them, and thus begins Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Lemony Snicket is based on a series of books which is set to be released as a major motion picture starring Jim Carrey and Billy Connolly this holiday season.  This helps the folks at Amaze Entertainment as the artwork in the books and the cinematography helps bring the game to life.

Much of the world of Lemony Snicket revolves around the home of Count Olaf.  The house is a run down Victorian mansion full of expansive ballrooms, belltowers, and grand staircases.  The catch is that the Count cannot be bothered to actually clean any of this magnificent house, so it has run down and has become overrun with vermin and filth.  Amaze has done a great job in recreating Olaf’s home complete with creepy paintings of Olaf all over the house and various water stains and tapestries streaked with grime. 

The environments are not the only things that got the royal treatment.  The incredible likeness present in all three Baudelaire children as well as Count Olaf was obviously a painstaking labor of love.   There is a remarkable likeness of the characters to their movie counterparts on all four game platforms.  The bit-part characters like the Baudelaire’s reptile-loving Uncle, played by Billy Connolly in the movie, are well animated and immediately recognizable as their real-life counterparts.

As even more unfortunate events occur the orphans are whisked away to even more bizarre locations to interact with even more bizarre people.  While the other characters you meet aren’t as detailed the Baudelaire trio or Count Olaf, the characters are unique, odd, and fit the world of Lemony Snicket perfectly. 

Snicket features a solid graphic engine that held a solid framerate throughout the entirety of the game.  The only real drawback of the entire graphics subsection is that the game, like almost all multiplatform titles, suffers a bit from the proximity of its brethren.  The game for all of its detail really doesn’t push the limits of the Xbox system by any stretch and some of the texture levels of the close-ups give a sharp reminder that this is indeed a multiplatform title. 

Tim Curry as narrator, Jim Carrey as Count Olaf, Emily Browning as Violet, and Liam Aiken as Klaus – with a stable of voice actors as strong as that list you can’t go wrong.  You might note that I didn’t say “These people sound like Jim Carrey or Tim Curry”, the voices you are hearing are the real deal.  You won’t be suffering a series of unfortunate voiceovers here.

The sound effects are subtle and well executed.  When you assemble the Fruit Flinger, it comes with the requisite and satisfying splat sound as you toss rotten tomatoes at your hook-handed foes. The Horrible Hook has a springy sound that you might expect from an overstretched spring.  You can tell that the Foley artists had a ball with making the sound effects for this most unfortunate tale.

Given that the story of Lemony Snicket is indeed filled with a series of unfortunate events, it needed a series of dreary yet whimsical soundtrack. Amaze hits the spot again with a soundtrack that is non-intrusive, quirky, fun, and as odd as the subject it frames.  The soundtrack sounds like it might be part of the movie soundtrack in parts of game including the climactic ending featuring a full orchestral score akin to something you might hear in a Tim Burton movie.

The sound, effects, and voiceovers are painstakingly rendered to perfection, and the use of licensed actors is a tasty topping on an already fantastic feast.  No unfortunate events in the sound and music category, kids.

The controls for Snicket make progressive use of the controller.  The analog sticks are used for movement and full-rotation camera swing respectively.  X activates the invention you are holding, whether it be the Fruit Flinger for Violet, or the Brilliant Bopper for Klaus.  The A button is the jump button, but with the right inventions and a double tap and hold you can sustain flight for a short while.  The B button is used later in the game when you’ve augmented the Fruit Flinger to be able to pick up reptiles.   The right trigger snaps the camera back into a forward looking view, although you’ll find that the camera is fairly responsive and well behaved throughout the game requiring adjustments only when rounding corners.  The right trigger gets double-duty when you play as Violet as when you hold the trigger in for a second it allows her to aim in a third-person view for more precision targeting.  The Y button allows you to switch between Klaus and Violet, but little Sunny has a more area-specific use so you can’t unleash her four sharp teeth wherever you wish. 

When reviewing a game aimed squarely at kids (and kids at heart) you have to look at how the game handles the ramping of control difficulty.  Lemony Snicket handles the control scheme very well throughout the vast majority of the game.  While the controls expand as your list of inventions expands, you are not required to combine any of them or use them in rapid succession.  In only one later stage did the control scheme become a little shaky, and with a little bit of practice and pattern recognition I was through it in no time.

Creating a game based off the content of a book, or in this case three books, is a very difficult task.  You must remain true to the books while fitting what is realistic to pull off in a meaningful and fun way into the game all while keeping it engaging.  Given that there are 11 books under Mr. Snicket’s belt already, there is a large fanbase looking forward to this game and the upcoming movie with baited breath.  All the graphics and voiceover work won’t help if the game gets bogged down in too much detail from the books and forgets how to be fun.  From the opening of the game till the unfortunate ending it’ll be very apparent that the team at Amaze are not only fans of the book series, but also understand how to make great games.

The game kicks off with the children being stuffed into a small attic room and being given miscellaneous chores by Count Olaf.  Their first two tasks are to take out a house full of rats and spiders, but the children are given nothing to accomplish the task.  This would normally be a problem, if Violet wasn’t a genius.  Using some miscellaneous parts and a boxing glove Violet creates the first invention of the game, The Brilliant Bopper.  Once all the pieces have been collected, you get to assemble the invention before you use it.  It’s a fun distraction from the action and provides a level of anticipation to the game as you begin to wonder what the crafty Violet will come up with next. 

Klaus is the MacGyver of the group.  Klaus reads everything and remembers it.  Early on he recalls a piece he read on the ductwork of the home-type that Count Olaf lives in.  This provides a chance to show off the powers of baby Sunny.

Sunny Baudelaire has four sharp teeth.  When I say sharp, I mean the kind of sharp that can rip through piping and trees.  Sunny just loves to bite things, so why not let her have her fun?  When you play as Sunny the game switches to a side-scrolling classic platformer.  Sometimes you are sliding down platforms and jumping over various obstacles.  Other times in the game you’ll have to manually walk Sunny through treacherous landscapes to help Violet and Klaus with objectives that they otherwise couldn’t reach. 

The difficulty of the game ramps gradually as you progress through the chapters of the game.  As more unfortunate events beset the orphans, their world expands and more bizarre events unfold.  They are taken to a few different locations seen in the books, one of which is a home that gets struck by a hurricane, which in this review means another unfortunate event.  The house begins to deteriorate and you must help the children escape.  Small sections of the floor fall away as you use your double jump and float skills to blow through long hallways along your escape route.  It was in this section of the game, just before the end, that the game became very difficult.  While there are checkpoints that you hit as you move forward, this particular area in general was rather difficult and might be discouraging to younger players or those without the old-school console skills to whip right through this area.  Once past this area, the difficulty returns back to a sane and even level to round out the game.  A fairly minor oversight, but one that could create a stumbling block or a bit of repetition to complete.

A great deal of production value went into Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.  The voiceover work and overall polish to the game is fantastic.  Unfortunately, this might have had a negative effect on the overall length of the game as you can finish it in a weekend or two.  There are many puzzle pieces that you can collect throughout the game that allow you to unlock artwork pieces, but some of the puzzle pieces would require playing through some very difficult portions of the game to achieve.  Your mileage may vary on whether those artwork pieces are worth completing those sections over again.