Reviewed by Tinnanski - 11.10.06 (Wii edit 01.10.07)
Avatar: The Last Airbender is the latest Nickelodeon game from the Nick Games development team of THQ. If you're thinking Avatar is going to be another silly adventure into the weird anomaly know as Nickelodeon, rewind those thoughts. Avatar: The Last Airbender brings a serious quality out of the Nickelodeon series that gives us a quality game of depth, intrigue, and adventure. Read on young, Airbenders.
From that introduction, you might think I know a thing or two about the Avatar series on Nickelodeon. The truth is I have no clue who, or what Avatar is? And I just chuckle when I hear the phrase Air bending. Ignorance aside, I'm really excited to see what Avatar: The Last Airbender is all about ever since it first caught my eye this fall at the Sony press event. My first glance at Avatar left me stunned, I was immediately hooked by the different look and feel of the game, and instantly added Avatar to my review list. Now that Avatar: The Last Airbender has been released; I can explore the world of Avatar and see if the game lives up to my first impression.
After a little experience in Avatar I now understand what the game is about and why kids would love the show. Based deep into Hindu Philosophy, Avatar is not only phase used to describing the lead character, but it's also a referenced to a person who can control elements. Not only was I surprised by the principles of the subject matter, I was also surprised to learn this is an American animated TV show.
The game follows lead character Aang a reincarnation of an Avatar who is destined to master all four elements. Aang is known as Avatar by the townsfolk, and he is also referred as the Last Airbender. Besides Aang, you will also follow the path of three other characters. Katara, a girl who has the power to bend water, Sokka a young warrior who is also Katara's brother, and Haru representing the Earth with ability to control the very foundation of the world. Each player is equal in importance and can be switched upon once unlocked. Like Aang, each character has the ability to advance in levels and become more powerful as allies.
Avatar: The Last Airbender plays out like an action, RPG game similar to Bualders Gate. During you adventures you have the ability to gain skills and focus powers, along with experience points, and gold and items. As much as action is a focus in Avatar, so is the role-playing element. The characters are fully customizable and upgradeable from their outfits and magic elements, to powers and fighting moves. You will also do a large amount of conversing with people, and searching out clues, and different assignments.
For action the game is based on a uniquely created Kung Fun style along with the mystical powers to bend elements. The controls are simple and are limited to make the player grasp the game easily. There is a block and attack controls and similar to Marvel Ultimate Alliance, or the X-Men games you hold the right trigger down and press a corresponding button to active your powers. I never once had a problem with controlling the game and I feel that younger players will be able to adapt and understand how Avatar: The Last Airbender works.
The journey in Avatar will have to fighting off threats and solving all sorts of problems across the land. You will progress through seven villages that span the Avatar world with lots of new and inviting characters. The enemies won't provide much of a challenge, but none the less they are interesting. The main foe in the game is the Fire Nation and an army of machines. You will a few puzzles and objectives to keep you busy as you march on in your quest. I think gamers will find Avatar to be just the right mix of adventure and action.
Experienced gamers might not find Avatar: The Last Airbender entertaining as the casual gamer. This is because deep under the core the experience isn't overly deep in either RPG or action aspects. I'm sure more expereinced gamers would find the combat system a little underwhelming and the storyline too linear and contrived. This is all understandable considering the games target audience is young teens, or younger. If you're of an older age, I would have to recommend something with a little more substance like Marvel Ultimate Alliance.
THE Wii TAKE (added 01.10.07)
The Wii take on Avatar is obviously the control scheme which moves Avatar in a slightly new direction making the gamers arm more involved. The Wii controls are straight forward, although in certain instances you will be required to do more than just push a button. You will use your Wiimote as a paintbrush and as your weapon, like a poor mans Zelda, you will swipe left and right and up and down to use your attacks and occasionally trace designs with the Wiimote. This adds a little extra fun to the game, but after experiencing Avatar on a "normal" controller I would gladly take it back.
Against the Wii? Well, one problem is that you can not lock onto enemies which makes combat a little more difficult and overall the controls seem sluggish. It feels like the adaptation to new control scheme wasn't fully worked out before Avatar shipped, I guess they wanted the Wii version to make the gates along with its release on the other platforms. This comes up to my next problem with the Wii version and that is price. Avatar for the Wii is ten dollars more than the other console versions and twenty more than the PC version. If I had to pick a winner out of the consoles it would be anything but the Wii. Better luck next time, and Wii owners hold off on Avatar until he returns with a proper Wii-bending experience.
The production value in Avatar: The Last Airbender is higher than expected after seeing some other Nick products. I really enjoyed the visual style of the game even if the textures are stripped down to the basics. I felt the cartoon inspired line-art does wonders for the overall feeling of Avatar.
One area that could use a little upgrade would be the placement of full overdubs for the text and the removal of the horribly executed one liners. The cast is represented from the talent that's on TV, so their lines where fine. It's when you dealt with the NPCs that the one liners, and badly under and over dramatic lines came into play. Despite that criticism, Avatar: The Last Airbender is visually nut real and pleasant to view.
Avatar: The Last Airbender is a fun action; role-playing game based on the Nickelodeon animated series. Never becoming too complex, Avatar blends the right amount of kung-fu air-bending action along with story telling and adventuring. If you're a fan of the animated show, I'm sure Avatar: The Last Airbender will be an experience that lives up to the popularity of the show.
Game: 6.5, Graphics/Sound: 7.5, Innovation: 6.5, Mojo: 7 Final: 7 / 10