Reviewed: May 2, 2009
Released: May 1, 2009
Wolverine is invading theaters and videogame systems this weekend and even the DS gets its shot at a piece of the X-Men pie with the ultra-sanitized version of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. If you thought the PSP was cleaned up wait until you see the DS version, but what the DS lacks in blood and gore it more than makes up for with stylish comic book visuals.
After playing this game on three different systems and two handhelds the storylines are all starting to jumble together. The DS story keys in on the major points and locations from the film then takes the gameplay and concept into a whole new realm. The game is divided into multiple side-scrolling levels, each with its own set of collectibles like dog tags, war journals, and comic books. These are tallied on each summary screen along with your best rank for that level.
There is no speech for the storytelling but rather you get some artistically rendered comic pages in both top and bottom screens with text you can move through with the A button while some energetic music plays along. And when the comic pages turn into fully animated gameplay screens, the comic style artwork is seldom lost.
The game opens with you breaking out of your “bathtub” at the Weapons X facility and immediately facing off against Victor for the tutorial battle. Controls are simple with light and heavy attacks that can be combined for combos and then you have jump, dash, block, and a berserker rage attack that lets you scratch the touch screen below to inflict damage on whomever is in that same section of screen above, complete with claw marks.
Along with the combat there is a bit of level exploration for the dog tags and other collectibles. Even feral sense seems to be a bit of a collectible since you have to find the vapor zone floating in the levels to activate it. Feral sense is kind of gimmicky since you just stand there and wait for the X-Men symbol to align in the circle then touch the screen, which usually just reveals a comic book or perhaps some insight into a new ability.
Running and jumping around is easy enough and you eventually get a wall slide move to scrape down walls. Mastering the dash-jump is required to get to some tricky ledges with pick-ups. Dog tags often provide a nice trail so you know where to go next.
My biggest complaints with the game are the graphics and the infrequent checkpoints. Visually, the backgrounds and environments are excellent but the character design is way too small, plus they are going with the comic book version of Logan who looks like a crazy biker dude with wild hair. He’s okay in the static art shots used for dialogue but his animated character is just an ugly blob of green army pants, white tank-top, crazy hair, and terribly oversized claws, and when he moves or attacks it's all a blur.
The enemies aren’t much better, either indistinguishable humanoids or robots. Basically, if it moves you kill it, but you will seldom know what it is you are killing. And that leads up to my second complaint, which is a combination of checkpoints and gameplay. The enemies in this game are brutally hard and come at you in numbers and attack styles that keep you blocking like a boxer waiting for that single moment to strike.
What this means is that you seldom get to build up or use your rage mode and the entire game process slows down to something like a strategic fighter, all about the blocks and counters. If you try to play like Wolverine and go berserk you will die and find out just how un-often this game checkpoints. And as if combat wasn’t annoying slow already, you get to do it all over again. There are also very few places to distance yourself from combat and make use of your regenerative properties.
If this game had a slightly closer camera with a slightly larger and more detailed main character I think the graphics issue would be solved. As for the gameplay, you just never really feel like you are Wolverine. I felt more like a prizefighter in an ongoing series of sparring matches. Feral sense wasn’t implemented very well and while the slashing on the touch screen is very cool you seldom build up enough rage to use it.
Overall, the DS version of Wolverine was my least favorite. I did enjoy the more traditional comic book style art and presentation but it fails in nearly every other way that matters. While this version may be sanitized for the 10 and older crowd, the gameplay will likely frustrate younger gamers who won’t have the patience to master or even play this title.