E3 '07: The Golden Compass First Look

We get a first look at Sega and Shiny's upcoming adventure game inspired by the beloved children's novel.

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Take one beloved children's novel, add a movie inspired by the book and starring Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, and Ian McShane, and what do you get? If you answered "a tie-in game inspired by the film and/or the book," you're on the right track with Sega's upcoming adventure game The Golden Compass. We had a chance to get an early look at the game, which is due for release in conjunction with the film this December.

The story of The Golden Compass game centers around the main character from the book and film, Lyra Belacqua, her shape-shifting demon friend Pan, and a heavily armored talking polar bear known as Iorek. In the demo version of the game, we got to see Lyra riding Iorek as he trekked through a snowy wasteland, battling packs of wolves as they traveled. As you might expect from a polar bear, Iorek's abilities are all about brute strength, and he tosses off attacking wolves with ease in order to protect his rider.

That isn't to say that Lyra is helpless. Thanks to her demon friend Pan's ability to shape-shift, Lyra can access areas of the map that would otherwise be unreachable. Though Pan can shift into many different forms in the books, the developers at Shiny have settled on four different forms for Pan in the game: ermine (essentially a weasel), sloth, hawk, and wildcat. Pan and his shape-shifting will be most useful in the platforming sections of the game, where Lyra has to use Pan's various abilities to get from one point of the level to the next.

While you might not think a sloth or an ermine would be useful, each form Pan can take offers its own unique abilities. For example, when transformed to sloth form, Lyra can use Pan as an extension of her own reach to grab ledges and poles. In hawk form, Lyra can glide using a double-jump move, and descend huge cliffs via Pan's hawk-form wings to glide to safety. As a wildcat with Lyra on his back, Pan can climb obstacles that would otherwise be insurmountable. Interestingly, you can switch between any of these forms on the fly; indeed, some of the more difficult puzzles in the game will require you to move from one form to the next quickly in order to move from spot to spot.

The titular golden compass isn't used for navigation in the game, but rather to divine the truth about the people and situations Lyra meets over the course of the game. Along with collecting clues about the many symbols on the compass as she navigates the game's levels, she'll use the compass to help answer questions that will periodically creep up throughout the course of the game. Though we weren't entirely clear on the mechanics of how the compass works, it sounds as if it might be add another level of depth to the game's adventure genre roots. We'll be bringing you more on The Golden Compass as we get closer to its release, so stay tuned.

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