The Tale of Despereaux (NDS) ~ A Review

I think I broke my platform game jinx this year not only by finishing Metal Slug 7, but also the recently released The Tale of Despereaux, both of which are on the Nintendo DS.

While the Metal Slug games have their own distinctive flair (and fan base), The Tale of Despereaux surprised me by being a book (and movie) tie-in which didn’t suck at all. The Tale of Despereaux is about a mouse named, if you have not guessed it already, Despereaux, who must save a princess held captive by a bunch of really bad rats.

The story is told in a very nice picture (medieval-style) story book form along with in-game cutscenes, usually at the start of the level. But if you are looking for a complete retelling of the story, you’ll be hard pressed to follow the narrative from the game as it is only bits and pieces. Best get the book as a companion as well.

Two Dee Smoo Dee

The game has quite a bit in common with earlier releases on the DS such as Tomb Raider and Journey to the Center of the Earth. While all these games are 2D platformers, a judicious amount of 3D textures and 3D backgrounds are used to flesh out the level environment. The art direction on TToD however, brings things up a notch.

I was pleasantly surprised with the opening levels, with beautifully rendered graphics, not to mention varied 3D backgrounds. The same thing can be said when I encountered the dungeon levels. However, things get a sloppy towards the end with some repetition and boring levels. It is a bit disappointing to note that the drop is quite evident.

Jump In

The level designs, while not similar to say, Super Mario Bros, are bound to give you quite a challenge. This is partially due to several gameplay mechanics introduced by TToD that set it apart from being a run-of-the-mill platformer.

For starters, Despereaux is equipped with a whole bunch of abilities that can rival even Lara Croft, e.g. crawling up walls to a certain extent, wall-jumping, grappling, use a needle as a sword etc, pull items with needle and thread. Besides using those abilities, the player will also have to manipulate the level environment in order for Desperaux to pass in one piece.

This include lighting candles with the stylus to scare rats. The same goes for Despereaux’s lantern when he passes through the dark parts of the dungeon levels, unless you want him to be literally pounced on by rats.


In here lies another gripe I have on the game. While it is clearly obvious that it is a kid’s game, several aspects of the game are not really suitable for the target audience. One example is the moment Despereaux gets pounced on by rats, it is a straight kill and it happens very suddenly (the rat comes from who-knows-where-off-screen before setting on the poor mouse in a back-breaking scene).

Drop the mouse into a pit of water and you can actually here the drowning gurgles. These two alone are, in my humble opinion, the stuff of nightmares and are not necessary to be added to the game. The only good thing out of this is that Despereaux has an unlimited number of lives and dying will result him being respawned at the nearest checkpoint in the particular level.

Jail Bait

Back to the game. Aside from rats, Despereaux will have to contend with bugs, frogs, scorpions, sparrows and bats. Despite that, the game has only 2 boss battles, the first one will have you fighting the pet cat of the leader of the rats (weird), and then the rat himself.

Here’s a tip for the cat battle, you are supposed to grapple its tail using the pull item button and then whacking his face. Repeat three times. As for the final boss battle, once you have him in the sun light, you’ll have a limited time to knock him off the platform.

The Bottom Line

I managed to finish the game in just over 3 hours. And while there is nothing much in the way of replay value, there are some unlockables in form of outfits.

I believe that kids would certainly enjoy a game featuring an intrepid mouse hero, but parents will need to be aware on how “suprising” the game can be. In any case, the game is available at Play-Asia, click here for purchase information.

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  1. slumbeRAJA December 12, 2008

    its been a long time since the last time i play any game. how much the price for nds now?

  2. tokyo_nights December 12, 2008

    yo slumber, it’s about RM 600