My colleague has already extensively covered the Nintendo DS version of Avatar: The Burning Earth, but for those inclined to purchase the Game Boy Advance version, let this review serve as a warning. Though at first glance Avatar is a nostalgic nod to the 8- and 16-bit days of action games, it's far too shallow and short to warrant a purchase.
For fans of the show, it'll be easier to follow along. The Game Boy Advance version picks up at the start of book 2 and travels to different, familiar locations with each new chapter. What is essentially a 2D side-scroller shows true potential through the first few levels. There's even a flying level thrown in early on. The problem is that the diligent player will complete the game in one or two sittings. Even younger players should have no problem getting through Avatar rather quickly. It is a little more challenging getting A rankings across the first set of levels--which ultimately extends the game by opening up more levels--but even with everything unlocked, the adventure is just too short.
Overall, Avatar isn't a bad game. It's just so repetitive and short that I would be remiss in recommending it.
Most levels offer a controllable first character that can be swapped with a support character, complete with regular, charge attacks, and support moves. Characters control well, and being able to swap between them on the fly is a nice addition. Actually, everything about the combat is a pleasant nod to old school beat ‘em ups. There are a handful of playable characters to master and learning the various ways to double team enemies can be a lot of fun. One example: using Sokka to throw a rang and dizzy an enemy, followed by Aang's dash drive to send them flying and taking out nearby enemies. Sadly there are very few enemy types in the game. Katara has a freeze attack that can be used for enemies and puzzles, Toph disperses pillars that get larger the longer they are held underground, Iroh spits fire, and Zuko throws fireballs. As you can see, there is no shortage of moves and for a simple game, the combo approach works quite well. There just isn't enough action, plain and simple. Add to it the limited variety of enemy types.
Chapters are designed around comboing strings of enemies and completing puzzles to move to the next section, with occasional boss fights thrown in for good measure. The puzzles require using each character's special abilities to activate switches, move blocks, and dash through gates. Some are more challenging than others, but once you figure out the general idea, it becomes repetitive and will have you hoping for more fighting and less puzzle solving. There is no character development, but there is a point system that directly relates to the rank you receive for each chapter. It would also have been nice to be able to choose the characters to take in to each level, instead of having them predetermined.
The password system is unnecessarily difficult. There's a grid and you're supposed to put faces of the characters in certain squares. Seems easy enough, but the faces aren't labeled. So you have to try and draw the faces on a piece of paper and then pick the right ones when re-entering the password. Once you do it a few times and learn who is who, it's simple, but man it definitely brings back the old days of gaming (note I didn't write “good” old days).
Overall, Avatar isn't a bad game. It's just so repetitive and short that I would be remiss in recommending it. The action and dual-character system works quite well, but there is far too little fighting and far too many puzzles. A few additions and this could have been a great action game. As it stands: it's only for the hardest of hardcore Avatar fans, and only if they don't already have a DS.
Xbox 360 screens shown