Reviewed: June 3, 2006
Released: May 17, 2006
After playing X-Men: The Official Game on the PC and big consoles (even the 360) itís hard to stomach playing something as primitive as the NDS version of the same game. Sometimes I wonder why publishers even bother cross releasing their big-budget titles on handhelds, but I suppose there is a certain demographic out there that only plays portable games. Iím just not in that group, for the most part.
Itís rare that I even break out my DS these days. All of the best games seem to be first-party titles and Nintendo pretty much wonít even acknowledge our existence, so my DS quietly gathers dust until the occasional third-party title arrives for review. Activision and Amaze are known for their handheld excellence, at least when it comes to the GBA. They still seem to be getting their DS legs, but I was still a bit eager to try X-Men: The Official Game just to see what they could do with the license.
Amaze has created an ambitious title that makes decent use of the touch-screen and plenty of action revolving around four of the more popular X-Men mutants. Much like the console version, the story takes place between the second and third movies, allowing you to play Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Iceman, and Magneto (who was not playable on the console).
Rather than recreate the console game on the DS the designers have created something totally new for the franchise and even a bit fun at times, but for the most part the gameplay quickly slips into a rut and you are lulled into inevitable boredom and even some frustration.
I applaud the use of the touch-screen for gameplay but forcing you to use it during the menus when the D-pad and A button would work just as well is annoying. Combining the touch-screen with the D-pad and buttons offers a unique style of control but is limited by the actual gameplay, which ultimately devolves into a handheld version of Gauntlet.
You can move around with the D-pad (or face buttons if you are a lefty) and then tap the screen to attack the enemies. If you tap-attack correctly you can manage some pretty cool combos. Itís innovative in its concept but never fully thought out for an entire game.
Most of the time you are paired with another mutant with one character doing melee and another doing ranged attacks. You can cycle through the available characters with the shoulder buttons using each of their abilities to get through any current obstacles in that level.
Wolverine is your ďtankĒ and can hack and slash his way through most all encounters. Iceman can shoot ice attacks from a good distance, but they donít do near the damage Wolverineís claws can do. Nightcrawler is another fighter, again, not as powerful as Wolverine, but he is able to pause time.
Magneto is probably the best part of the game, mostly because I didnít get to play him in the other versions, but originality aside; he just has some cool magnetic abilities that shield him or allow him to toss objects around the levels.
The AI is pretty simple and even the boss fights donít prove that much of a challenge once you figure out the timing and best choice of characters. This lack of challenge also takes away from the thrill of the Boss Rush and Survival modes.
Graphics are adequate but not nearly what weíve been seeing with other contemporary DS titles. They look really good until things start to move. Itís the same problem Amaze had with their Spyro game and Iím betting this is the same engine or a close cousin.
The 2D levels are your typical tiled design with nice details and a good variety and they even offer more color than Iím used to on the DS. The small characters are 3D with moderate textures, but their complexity is ultimately what chugs the framerate into something that is obviously slow and annoying.
The menus, splash screens, and comic-style cutscenes are probably the best part of the game, making good use of both screens and some sliding animation.
The soundtrack rises to the occasion bringing some heroic scores to the mix making the audio the best part of the game. Regrettably, we donít get the same great voice acting from the console and the sound effects are merely what youíd expect from a combat-intensive action titles Ė lots of punches, mutant powers, and explosion effects.
You can shred this title in 5-6 hours and the extra modes are merely fodder that wonít hold up to the simple and unchallenging gameplay. If only the bosses were harder (I never though I would hear myself say that).
X-men: The Official Game was a great game on the big console and I have to give kudos to Amaze for actually trying something new. At least they worked the touch-screen into the gameplay rather than reducing it to menus.
Unfortunately the gameplay is linear, repetitive, and boring after the first two or three levels. The chugging graphics engine is also in need of a major overhaul before we see another DS game try to use it. Play if you must, but real console-owning X-Men fans would be better off with any other version than this.