Saturday, May 7

Game Review - X-Men: The Official Game (GBA version)

    X-Men: The official Game is a tie-in to X-Men 3: The Last Stand. As we all know, games based on movies are always amazing, right?

    To be fair, most movie-based games have a very limited development schedule, and are released at the same time as the movie. As a result, it's not usually the developers fault when the end result is lackluster at best. Most good movie-based games didn't even release with the movie, like Super Star Wars for example.

    So why would I seek out this game, knowing full well that it would likely suck? Curiosity. As I said in my somewhat crappy Deadpool post, I recently got into comics. Part of what pushed me into comics was Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, a recently released fighting game that pits Marvel comic characters against Capcom characters in one of the most anticipated games in the last decade (it's been eleven years since Marvel vs. Capcom 2 first released.) More specifically one character, introduced to me in MVC3, got me into comics - X-23. I'll likely talk more about her in the future, but to make long story short she's a child soldier character who was forced to kill people at a very young age. She eventually escaped the facility, and she's since joined the X-men...and she happens to be a clone of Wolverine. I couldn't really tell you why, but child soldier-type characters interest me, to the point that I've actually written fictional stories about my own characters like that in the past. Anyway, I was curious about X-men: The Official Game for the Game Boy Advance because it's actually X-23's first appearance in a video game.

    I've been babbling on enough though, it's time to start the review.

    The game sucks, the end!

    Oh you were hoping for more? I'm sorry, let me explain. First of all, the game actually takes place between the second and third X-men movies as a mid-quel. It's a side-scrolling action-platformer. You play as four playable characters: Wolverine (duh,) Iceman, Colossus, and Nightcrawler. At first glance, the four characters play pretty much the same. However they do have their differences. Wolverine's health slowly regenerates after he takes damage while the others do not. Iceman's attacks have the most range, although half the time they miss their targets even though the ice gif moves right through them. Nightcrawler can jump the highest and run the fastest. Colossus hits the hardest and can sometimes smash through walls. You can switch between the four of them throughout every level and boss fight, but if one runs out of health, they're out until you either fail the level, finish the level, or pick up an X powerup that resurrects one character.

    The controls are pure crap. A and B jump and attack. Jumping works fine for the most part, but the hit detection is awful, especially with iceman. You'll often see the animations hit whoever your attacking, yet half the time the game won't detect your hit. This is worse for the boss fights than the regular opponents, but more on that later.

    The L and R buttons use special attacks and switch characters, and that's where the real control problems pop in. The special attacks have a power bar; you add to the power bar by either hitting enemies or picking up blue power-ups. The problem is, half of these special moves don't make sense. Sure, Wolverine goes into berzerk mode and Nightcrawler teleports, but rather than giving Iceman an ultra-powerful ice attack, he goes into some kind of berzerk mode too. What? Why not transform him into his ice form too? Oh wait…he doesn't do that until the end of the third movie, never mind. As for Colossus's special attack, well, it's a really powerful hit so that must count for something.

    The R button is used for switching characters, but half the time it doesn't work. You'll sit there tapping it multiple times, and when it finally switches, it will sometimes auto-switch to the next X-men character in line, which is most likely not the character you want to switch to. How hard is it to properly program a character switch button?

    While jump and regular attacks always work, using special attacks doesn't half the time. switching characters often takes two or three tries, meanwhile you're character is taking hits and dying. Music is annoying and never changes. The main levels are tolerable for the most part, although toward the end they start getting frustrating.

    Sometimes enemies are impossible to take down without losing health. Either way, it takes too long to fight most enemies. You'll often have to knock them down several times in order to defeat them, and it's always the same pattern. Hit the humans four times, and then they fall down. On second later they stand back up, so you hit them four more times. Occasionally you'll have to duck under their gunfire, but otherwise just keep hitting them until they die. In that sense, it's quite similar to the tediously long Batman Forever for the SNES; the controls are better than that though. You can rarely just walk past your enemies because the ceiling's often too low to jump over them, and if you're too close to them you'll just get stuck whenever you try.

(this happens way too often in the later levels, surrounded by enemies
barraging you with bullets and you can't do anything about it.)

    The game's strategy is insultingly simple. Primarily use Wolverine - his health regeneration will save you more often than not. Once his health starts to get low, switch to someone else and use them while Wolvie's health slowly comes back.

    The worst part about the regular levels is when you have to fight several goons at the same time. The second will often stay back a bit and fire his gun while you’re trying to kill your the first enemy. They'll often fire out of synch, so any sort of attack will get you hit. Worse though is when one of them lies down and begins shooting, because when they start shooting at two different heights there's simply nothing you can do to dodge them. And yes, in the last few levels, you'll fight against three or four goons at the same time quite often. If you backtrack, anyone you previously killed will respawn, surrounding you in a never-ending barrage of bullets that will massacre your squad of superhumans. After a while, beating levels becomes more of a matter of luck than anything else.

    Bosses on the other hand, not one of them is even close to fair. The best strategy is to primarily use Wolverine as his health slowly regenerates. When he gets low, switch to someone else and use them until their health is low, then switch back to a regenerated WOlverine. Sometimes, you can find a safe zone where the boss can't reach you, and you can attack from above. Other times, you just have to hope you get lucky. The X-23 boss is the worst, as she can follow you everywhere, moves faster than any of your characters, and she'll just tear you apart. The only way to have a chance against her is to find a ledge slightly higher up than her and smash her down whenever she tries to jump up at you. Even then, you'll lose one or two of your guys.

    So how is the game's story? Almost non-existent. Professor X sends several of the X-men back to Alkali Lake to retrieve irreplaceable parts for Cerebro, a device used by telepaths to detect mutants. As they arrive, they find out that Stryker, the main antagonist from the X2 movie, is still alive and is building an army of anti-mutant robots called sentinels. Magneto and his crew show up and they end up helping you stop Stryker, even after you fight some of them first. You end up stopping him, the end. According to Wikipedia, the console version has a more complete story, but I simply don't care.

    But what of X-23's video game debut (as a boss fight?) Is it worth playing the game for fans of the character? No, she's way out of character. In the game, she visits the lab trying to find out about her past. She doesn't know where she came from or where she got her claws. This is completely contradictory to her character in both the comics and the TV show that introduced her, both of which were released before this game came out - she even knows she's a clone of Wolverine.

    She remembers everything about her past and would much rather forget. "But maybe she wasn't that popular back then and..." No, the first issue of her origin story, Innocence lost, completely sold out and had to be re-printed for a re-release before the mini-series finished. She's not quite an A-list character, but she's popular to have her own ongoing series that's just been renewed for a second year - not many B-list characters can say that. I'm sorry, but there's no excuse to get a character that wrong, and she's not the only one out of character either.

    For some reason, Wolverine is the team leader in this game, even though he's a horrible team leader and isn't even an official member of the X-men at that point. In the movies, he mostly just works on his own, and happens to help the X-men while doing so. Magneto's mutants are out of character since they'd most likely explain what's going and ask for the X-men's assistance before fighting them. Iceman's out of character as he's acting far too confident for a student. Colossus, well, doesn't even have a character here. If anyone in the game is in character, it's Sabertooth.

    So how is this game overall? It's just another rushed, crappy movie tie-in that simply shouldn't exist. Bad controls, lazy level design, and completely unfair boss fights. The game ranges from boring to frustrating, and I never want to play it again. That said, far from the worst movie based game I've played, and in small chunks I found it tolerable. Activision should stop making movie tie-ins and just focus on making good Marvel games like Ultimate Alliance and Spiderman: Shattered Dimensions. They did get lucky with Wolverine: Origins though.

    Two word review - bury it

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