The Golden Compass First Details

We got the first brief info on the forthcoming action game based on Philip Pullman's hit children's book.

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After New Line Cinema's unfettered success with The Lord of the Rings trilogy a few years ago, the Hollywood powerhouse must have been feeling bullish on the prospect of turning other multivolume fantasy literature into lavishly produced, big-budget movies. Next on the docket is the first entry in Philip Pullman's celebrated His Dark Materials series, titled The Golden Compass, which is due to hit theaters in December. Famed developer Shiny Entertainment is hard at work on an accompanying video game to be released by Sega. At the publisher's press event this morning, we saw some brief work-in-progress footage of both the game and the movie. We also got a few details on the production of the game, which is due to hit shelves a little before the movie itself.

The book, movie, and game all follow the journey of Lyra, a young girl in an alternate, fantastical universe who must travel to the desolate north to rescue her best friend. She'll be joined by Pan--a shape-shifting and friendly daemon that we saw become a cat, a butterfly, a mouse, and several other animals during the movie footage--and Iorek, a massive bearlike creature that appears to serve as the brawn of the outfit. You'll get to play as all three characters throughout the game's 11 action levels, and two of those levels will be set in environments that don't appear in the movie at all. (The designers plumbed the original novel for the inspiration of these exclusive levels.)

You'll encounter characters in the game based on those of the film, including the icily lovely villainess played by Nicole Kidman and a matronly witch played by Eva Green. Nascent James Bond Daniel Craig will also appear in the movie and game, though Sega and New Line are giving such sparse details about the project right now that we don't know a lot about any of these characters just yet. Nor did we get any real information about what the gameplay will be like, though we did see a few brief clips of what looked like standard platforming in some nice-looking fantasy environments.

In fact, New Line is holding back information on The Golden Compass in preparation for an unveiling of several minutes of the finished film at the Cannes Film Festival in just a couple of weeks. Afterward, there ought to be quite a bit more in terms of media and information released on both the movie and the game. We do know that the artists and designers at Shiny are working closely with the people making the movie, using facial scans of the principal actors and photographs of the costumes, props, and set designs to create a game as aesthetically cohesive as the movie on which it's based.

Because we barely glimpsed the actual game itself, it's hard to say exactly how The Golden Compass is shaping up, but New Line appears to be giving the film due attention: It said the studio will ready a massive marketing push for the latter part of the year. We should get to see the game by that time and will bring you firmer impressions of its gameplay as soon as we can.

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