Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie's Revenge Updated Hands-On
We head on down to Halloween Town for a fresh look at this video game sequel to Tim Burton's beloved film.
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Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas endures as one of the most darkly endearing films of all time. And while the original continues to stand on its own, Jack Skellington has begun to make forays into new territory. The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie's Revenge brings the lanky lord of Halloween Town back for some new adventures on consoles. While the PlayStation 2 version is already out in Japan, we're set to see both PS2 and Xbox versions of the game this year. And after spending some time with the game, it looks like Jack has been keeping busy in the time after the movie's end.
The industrious Pumpkin King isn't content to rest on his laurels. He wants to continue to make Halloween an ever bigger, grander holiday. To this effect, Jack receives a gift from the wizened Dr. Finklestein called a "soul robber," a spectral ribbon with many useful properties. While Jack is away cavorting with his new toy, however, the mischievous Lock, Shock, and Barrel plot to bring back the wicked Oogie Boogie from the dead. And the raised Oogie Boogie, in true villainous fashion, soon sets about taking over Halloween Town and as many other holidays as he is able. Jack Skellington returns to quite a mess, and it's up to him to reclaim his holiday, free the others, and send the infamous bug lord packing yet again.
We were able to get some nice time with three different levels in the PS2 version of the game, and the soul robber is both an exquisitely mobile and useful tool to have. (Since Capcom built the game using the Devil May Cry engine, this might explain some of the ease of combat.) Pressing the square button lets Jack lash out with the glowing green ribbon at enemies in front of him, while pressing the triangle button lets him use the soul robber to latch onto things. These things can be objects in the environment, grappling hooks, or even enemies, as the soul robber is apparently coated with the best ethereal adhesive known. He can pick up items or monsters many times larger than he is and flail them about, damaging them or using them to beat other foes.
Pressing square along with circling the left analog stick will cause Jack to execute a stylish spiral, as well as twirl his weapon at the same time, which is handy for clearing out a pack of ghouls around you that's trying to get too chummy. Jack can also charge his soul ribbon for even-more-powerful attacks. If you hold down the square or triangle button for a few seconds, the corresponding attack you'll unleash is much greater. For example, the square melee attack, when charged, increases the size of the soul robber and gives it a spiky morning star on the end, letting it more vitally damage a group of enemies.
The triangle charge is even niftier. If you manage to charge your weapon and latch onto an enemy, you'll begin to whirl them around you in a circle. If you keep pressing the triangle button, you'll continue to spin the enemy round and round, and any foes in the vicinity will be drawn into the vortex and completely obliterated.
If you don't want to spend the time charging your weapon attacks, you can also "taunt" your foes by pressing one of the directional buttons while near them. If you're successful, they'll sprout angry exclamation points over their heads and become even stronger. A successful taunt means that your soul robber is automatically charged, so you can flay about yourself with reckless abandon to take down the angered creatures without that pesky waiting. As an extra bonus, taunted enemies will drop even more goodies than they would normally, so it's worth ticking them off if you feel you can handle the added animosity.
Where Holidays Come From
Jack has a few more tricks up his narrow sleeves, and these are his form changes. Early on in the game, Jack will gain the ability to assume the persona of two holiday deities, and he can change between forms on the fly. By hitting the L1 button, you can become the smoldering Pumpkin King, who wields some fiery powers. Pressing square will cause you to emit a steady stream of flame in front of you, and pressing triangle will cause a flame explosion that's sure to roast anything in the immediate vicinity. The Pumpkin King's flame can also burn away thick cobwebs that might obscure tasty power-ups or bonus areas.
The other form is Santa Jack, which can be accessed by hitting the R1 button at any time. Santa's a more peaceful sort, so you won't find him clobbering anyone in the face. No, this is Father Christmas, so he tosses presents instead. But these presents pack some surprises. There are a few different types, and the gifts have various properties, like freezing enemies or emitting poisonous gas, and you can detonate them from afar. We fought one battle with an ice giant and a fire giant that required us to constantly shift forms to be able to damage the creatures, flaming the frosty foe and freezing the fiery one.
Buena Vista also demonstrated another aspect of boss fights, which it called the music battle feature. Since the original film featured lots of great music, that's been brought into the game, with some all-new tunes sung in the background during boss battles. However, there's a twist to it. Attacking the boss will cause musical notes to spill out, which you can use to fill a meter. When the meter is complete, it triggers a rhythm game (in the Parappa style), where you have to hit the right buttons and directional presses in sequence to successfully sing at your opponent. When you accomplish this correctly, you'll open the boss up to attack, and you'll be able to get some good licks in. It's a neat way to integrate music into the gameplay in a meaningful way, and we're eager to be able to eventually try it out for ourselves.
There will be 24 levels in the game, each with a short computer-generated intro that shows off parts of the level and gives some direction to your objectives. As well as story objectives, there are many bonus areas and items scattered around the environments for you to discover and explore. There are copious spots that you can only reach by grappling with your soul robber; points that you can grab with the device will glow as you approach them. Going into bonus areas will let you earn points, as well as gather coins and other power-ups, some of which you can use to upgrade your weapon into even-more-powerful forms.
We got to see a couple of different zones, including a spooky graveyard and a fiery labyrinth with many moving platforms, and each area seemed to take design cues from the source material well, with plenty of gothic design and detail. The music in the game borrows memorable themes from the movie, but it will also include some original songs to mix things up. The original voice cast members from the film reprise their roles here as well, so you'll hear familiar voices along with the familiar music.
If you've ever spent time wondering just what happened to Jack Skellington and his friends after the events in The Nightmare Before Christmas drew to a close, then you'll surely want to keep your eye on Oogie's Revenge. The game is currently slated to ship for both the PlayStation 2 and Xbox consoles sometime in October (Halloween season!), so make sure you keep watching this gamespace in the interim.