Avatar: The Last Airbender Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

Nintendo Gamecube
Release date:
October 10, 2006

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Best anime licensed game I've played this year.

Review by Ken Horowitz (Email)
November 23rd 2006

Aang has major problems. As the young Avatar, he has to worry about mastering all the elements in order to unite his world in peace. His problems are compounded by the Fire Nation, which threatens total domination of everything he loves. Even with the aid of his friends Sokka and Katara, Aang knows his mission is a daunting one.

Sounds pretty good so far, eh? If you're a fan of the Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoon, then that may be appealing to you. If not, then you're looking at a game that while still quite playable, doesn't do enough to reel you in to what's going on. That is perhaps the biggest problem here, and if you can look beyond the license, it's not such a bad way to spend an afternoon.

...it almost seems like it's trying to attract more than the casual gamer without making things too complicated for younger fans.

As licensed games go, Avatar holds up decently beyond the obvious tie-in attraction. Essentially an action game with some light RPG elements, it almost seems like it's trying to attract more than the casual gamer without making things too complicated for younger fans. Simple, spacious environments promote exploration, and the plethora of characters to talk to ensure that players will be wandering around villages and landscapes for some time before actually moving on with the main quest. This can be both a bounty and a bane, however, as I'm sure the younger set will enjoy wandering around, smashing boxes and containers, and completing the miscellaneous mini quests the townspeople have for them, while those unfamiliar with the whole Avatar universe may tire of the game's slow pace and minimal storyline.

Even so, I have to admit that it was fun for a while. Aang's multiple fighting moves are easy to pull off, and he and his companions have some cool attacks that are as effective as they are pretty. There are lots of items to buy and equip, and the ability to switch between Aang and both his friends on the fly adds at least some variety to the standard beat-'em-up gameplay. It's lamentable that the presentation doesn't go as far enough (love those facial expressions in the cut scenes though!), but there's no reason an Avatar fan won't still lap this up feverishly.

That isn't the only area where the game's flaws come into focus. Remember what I said about it not being a bad way to spend an afternoon once you get past the license? It's true, but your mileage will vary as to exactly how much you'll want to keep playing after the first few hours. Though the combat and "go there, get this" style are solid, they're entirely too generic for their own good. Even Momo, the little lemur friend who sits loyally on Aang's shoulder, has his own mini quest in each chapter, but it's just another take on the old fetch quest.

The main culprit here is the gameplay itself. It initially seems to be deep, with experience points gained for each fight and the ability to customize your move set. Once you begin to fiddle around a bit though, you notice that you can't have more than four moves equipped at any one time, and most of them are entirely too alike in style and effectiveness. Sokka and Katara each have moves of their own, and you'll need to make good use of them for passing certain obstacles and during boss battles, but again, it's nothing revolutionary…or even evolutionary. There's definitely some great potential here, and I just can't help feeling bad that Avatar only scratches the surface. Given some more development time and inspiration, it could have really been a great game. Instead, we're left with another "me too" beat-‘em-up that can't break out of its mold, no matter how many punches and kicks It throws.

If you're looking for a game that does more than you're used to, look elsewhere. Fans and gamers seeking something simple in between those big name 4th quarter titles should be content with what they're getting. Solid but nothing spectacular.

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