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The Polar Express: The Video Game is an action-adventure video game based on the 2004 film of the same name. It was developed by Blue Tongue Entertainment, published by THQ and is available on the PC, Game Boy Advance, GameCube, and PlayStation 2.

Gameplay

The game follows most of the main plot of the film. One major difference is that the Ebenezer Scrooge Puppet, who only makes a minor appearance in the film, plays a much bigger role as the main antagonist with a goal to keep the children from believing in Santa Claus by stealing their tickets, thus getting them thrown them off the train and not reach to the North Pole.

The game features fifteen levels taking place across six chapters, allowing players to explore areas like the train, the North Pole and more. The player controls Hero Boy in each level, which features puzzle-solving and minigame-styled elements, as well as coins and toy parts to collect. Every twenty coins earn the player an additional life while finding enough toy parts to complete a toy unlocks a bonus feature.

Several scenes from the film with altered music are featured as cutscenes.

Levels

Chapter 1: The Polar Express

  • Scrooge's Plan: The Scrooge puppet steals all the children's tickets and hides them across the train. When the children, including Know-It-All, go to find them, Hero Boy goes to help them while Hero Girl stays to distract the Conductor. Along the way, they encounter some of Scrooge's friends who use various tactics to try keeping the children from finding the tickets, including hiding in a darkened car and starting a food fight in the dining car. This level is featured in the demo version.
  • The Lonely Boy: The train passes by Billy's house, so Hero Boy goes to pull the emergency brake, despite the risk of getting thrown off the train. However, Scrooge is in front of the brake and Hero Boy must throw balls at him to clear the way.
  • The Lost Ticket: Hero Boy continues helping to find the other tickets. He plays tennis with a Jack-in-the-Box in a boxcar and sneaks past the cook in the kitchen car, who was angry about the food wasted in the food fight. Next, he clears a boxcar of wind-up toy mice and uses an ice smasher to thaw a ticket from one of several large ice blocks. Finally, he fights some Jack-in-the-Boxes by throwing toys at them and hitting them with a big mallet. With all the tickets retrieved, everyone returns to the passenger cars. Parts of this level are featured in the demo version as part of the "Scrooge's Plan" level.

Chapter 2: The Rooftop

  • The Rooftop Rescue: Scrooge is angry at his plans being foiled, so he steals Hero Girl's ticket and sticks it to the air vent. The Conductor comes to punch her ticket, but she cannot find it, so he takes her away. Hero Boy finds the ticket on the air vent and goes after Hero Girl and the Conductor by walking across the passenger cars, dodging obstacles in the way, including signals, bridges, and water towers. Along the way, he meets a Hobo.
  • Chasing the Train: The Hobo is impressed with Hero Boy's determination and helps him to the locomotive by taking a shortcut where they jump off the train and ski down the hill. Hero Boy must lean to the sides to shift their weight and steer them away from logs, trees, houses, and icicles along the way. This level is featured in the demo version.

Chapter 3: The Engine Room

  • Repair the Engine: Hero Boy lands in the engine room to find Hero Girl driving the train. Suddenly, she uses the wrong controls, nearly causing the locomotive to explode. Luckily, Smokey and Steamer return to the engine room to fix everything. Hero Boy helps by grabbing the parts that fall out and throwing the green ones to Smokey and the blue ones to Steamer.
  • Stoke the Flame: After the caribou clear the track, Smokey and Steamer have to start the train again. The Conductor, impressed with Hero Boy's skills, asks him to help. The goal is to mimic Smokey and Steamer's dance moves, which involve digging and shoveling. The train is soon moving again, but the Conductor brings up Hero Girl's missing ticket, which reminds Hero Boy that he still has it, so he gives it back and saves her from being thrown off the train.

Chapter 4: Back on Board

  • Toys! Toys!: While returning to the passenger cars, Hero Boy and Hero Girl encounter the Jack-in-the-Boxes. Like earlier, Hero Boy defeats them by throwing toys at them. After that, they enter the frozen room and find a pair of ice boots, which Hero Boy uses to walk across the car and move the crates, clearing a path for Hero Girl, who slides across the ice while using the crates to push herself. They also go through the car with the mice, so Hero Boy catches and throws them in the bin again.
  • Scrooge's Last Stand: Hero Boy encounters Scrooge again, who has become very large. Hero Boy tries talking sense into him, but he scoffs. Hero Boy throws snowballs at his chest, which weaken him, while resisting the vibrations caused by him pounding the ground. After being defeated, Scrooge falls to the ground and disappears.
  • Hot Chocolate: The Conductor shows up and invites the children to the dining car for refreshments, which include hot chocolate and cakes. However, they are short one waiter, so Hero Boy is asked to fill in. He learns how to serve the children by watching what the other waiter does and copying his moves. Afterward, Hero Girl gives Hero Boy a refreshment she saved for him, then she and the Conductor go to give Billy some hot chocolate.

Chapter 5: The North Pole

  • Runaway Car: The train arrives at the North Pole and the children get off, but Hero Boy and Hero Girl notice Billy staying behind and go back to convince him to come. However, Hero Boy steps on a lever which uncouples the observation car and causes it to roll down the hill. The children use the brake wheel to tilt the car and avoid hitting potholes, oncoming vehicles, and other passenger cars. However, tilting it for too long will cause it to fall over. At the end of the tracks, the car stops on a turntable.
  • North Pole Center: After watching the elves use the pneumatic, the children decide to ride it back to the Square. The pneumatic has a screen which shows what color switch, blue, green, or yellow, the player has to hit in order to switch the right gate. The pneumatic stops at a factory where the children get off.

Chapter 6: Race to Santa

  • Sorting Room: At the factory, Billy sees a present he thinks might be for him and chases it, but loses Hero Boy and Hero Girl. The player must catch up to Billy using the conveyor belts to make it through the factory. They can pull levers to change the direction of the belts. Each room has a tunnel that takes the children to the next room and other tunnels which take them to a different part of the same room, the latter of which are marked by lights of the same color.
  • Inside the Sack: The children go down a slide and land at the bottom of a big pile of presents. They climb it like a ladder to the top, thinking it might be a way out. They encounter presents that bounce or elevate, vines which they can climb or use to swing across large gaps, and Jack-in-the-Boxes that spring them to higher platforms.
  • Final Delivery: The presents are lifted in a big bag by a pair of zeppelins. The children are taken onboard the zeppelin where the captain, who initially seemed mad at them, is glad to have someone to fly the zeppelin while he helps the other elves. Hero Boy agrees to help, but he has to avoid hitting bridges, hot air balloons, ships and buildings to keep the presents safe and arrive at the Square on time. When they get close, the captain returns to take over again and the children return to the bag.

Demo version

For the PC, a demo version of the game was made available free to download from the film's official website. It features the levels "Scrooge's Plan" and "Chasing the Train", the former of which features parts of "The Lost Ticket."

Cast

Development

THQ first unveiled the game at the E3 convention in 2004. The PlayStation 2 version has EyeToy support, though they did not give specifics at the time. A Game Boy Advance version of the game, developed by Tantalus, was also in development.

Reception

The PC version received generally mixed reviews while the other console versions received mostly negative reviews according to Metacritic.

Differences from the film

  • Some elements in the game are more similar to that of the book:
    • Most of the events at Hero Boy's house in the opening scene are cut.
    • The game does not focus on Hero Boy's crisis of faith.
    • The train does not have any "Polar Express" lettering except in scenes from the film.
    • Glacier Gulch and the Ice Lake are not featured.
  • The train features several cars not seen in the film, including the kitchen car, dining car, and boxcars.
  • The film does not feature any sentient toys.
  • Know-It-All says in the film that Hero Girl will be thrown off the train for not producing a valid ticket, which only implies the rule. In the game, the Conductor says it is part of railroad regulations.
  • In the film, the train does not miss Billy, but Hero Boy still pulls the emergency brake for him as he was hesitant and changed his mind when the train was already moving too fast.
  • After Hero Boy stops the train for Billy, the Conductor says, "Who in the blazes pulled that cord?!" instead of, "Who in the blazes applied that emergency brake?!"
  • When Hero Boy first meets the Hobo, he was multiple cars from the rear of the train in the game, but on the observation car in the film.
  • Hero Boy and the Hobo ski down the cars in the film instead of a hill to get to the locomotive.
  • The film does not feature the scene where Hero Girl nearly causes the locomotive to explode, though a deleted scene, "It Takes Two", is similar.
  • When the train is stopped for the second time, the Conductor says, "Why in blazes have we stopped?!" instead of, "There can be no Christmas without the Polar Express arriving on time! Am I the only one who understands that?!"
  • In the game, the Conductor seemed to have already known that Smokey's screaming could be understood by the caribou.
  • Hero Boy does not help Smokey and Steamer start the locomotive after the caribou crossing in the film.
  • Hero Boy gives Hero Girl her ticket after the scene on the Ice Lake which the game omits.
  • Refreshments are served after the train picks up Billy in the film and not in a separate the dining car. The passenger car instead briefly transformed into a dining car for the refreshments. They are also not short any waiters and only hot chocolate is served.
  • "Jingle Bells" plays over loudspeakers at the roundhouse and surveillance room instead of "Winter Wonderland" and "Here Comes Santa Claus", likely due to rights issues.
  • The observation car's brake wheel functions more as a real brake in the film. Plus, its runaway trip is shorter while having no obstacles or steep hills.
  • In the film, the only control the children use while riding the pneumatic is pushing a button.
  • When Billy follows his present in the factory, he does not get separated from Hero Boy and Hero Girl in the film.
  • The children in the film land on top of the present pile, which also has no bouncing or elevating presents or vines. In the "Inside the Sack" level, the pile appears to be much larger than in the film.
  • The children were never on board the zeppelin in the film.
  • The game has two instances of Know-It-All saying he was only following the other children, once to the captain when on board the zeppelin and the other time, in a scene from the film, to the elves who rescue the children from the bag.
  • Santa Claus does not give the first gift of Christmas in the game; he leaves to deliver the presents as soon as the children return to the Square. The game also ends at this point.

Trivia

  • The game was released on the GameBoy Advance and the PlayStation 2 in the PAL region on the same day as Chris Coppola's birthday.
  • The interior of thirteen different cars are seen throughout the game. In "The Rooftop Rescue" level, Hero Boy walks across over thirty cars before meeting the Hobo.
  • The save icon is the train on the PlayStation 2 version and Hero Boy on the GameCube version.
  • During the Hot Chocolate level, duplicates of Hero Girl and Ping appear with different colored pajamas.

Goofs

  • The train features cars other than passenger cars, though they all appear as passenger cars from the exterior.
  • Because scenes from the film are featured as cut-scenes, the "Polar Express" lettering on the train keeps appearing and disappearing.

Screenshots

External links

Merchandise
Toy trains Bachmann Brio Lionel
Board games The Polar Express Game Matching Game Train-Opoly
Books The Polar Express A Guide for Using The Polar Express in the Classroom The Art of the Polar Express The Gift of Christmas All Aboard the Polar Express The Journey Begins The Magic Journey Trip to the North Pole Keepsake Memory Book Shadowbook The Movie Scrapbook
Albums Original Motion Picture Soundtrack For Your Consideration
Other Cereal Video Game CD-ROM Multimedia Edition
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