|System: X360, PS3, PC, PS2, Wii, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Ubisoft||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ubisoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Dec. 1, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The platforming challenges also get more and more involved, incorporating platforms that move or even electrocute you. The earlier boss battles get repetitive (wait for him to throw an explosive at you, throw it back), but some of the later foes have very clever weak spots, and beating them requires some strategic item use.
This trajectory of easy tasks building into a tougher challenge is perfect for casual gamers, and for children who can handle somewhat-complex puzzles. However, even the game's most demanding moments probably won't hold the attention of a hardcore gamer. The map is a little too helpful, not only telling you where to head for your next objective but also pointing out some of the collectibles you missed. Because you can save any time you enter a new area, there are almost no consequences for dying. If a boss kills you, the only punishment is that you have to re-watch the opening dialogue before trying again, which admittedly is a little obnoxious. Also, of course, you lose any damage you dealt before dying.
Much of your character's development happens automatically as you progress, but you also collect pieces of lore, as well as currency. The lore unlocks various upgrades, which you can purchase at a "lore-sharing shrine" with the currency. You can do everything from making your staff more powerful to giving yourself more life to carrying items more easily. There are 70 pieces of lore in total, and you can't grab them all on the first play-through, so they provide a reason to keep going past the end credits. Avatar doesn't quite achieve Zelda levels of bonus material (in our years with that franchise, we've spent almost as much time on side quests as on core missions), but it does make a good-faith effort to provide gamers value.
In terms of presentation, the game succeeds for the most part. The graphics don't exactly push the DS to its limit, but they're pleasing to look at and do a reasonable job of depicting a foreign, exotic planet and the creatures that live there. The sound effects are fine, though the music is a little stereotype-heavy in how it evokes a tribal society (it sounds Native American). The dialogue scenes are the low point here, and can make the game drag in places. They're just cartoonish images of heads with speech bubbles attached, the writing is terrible, and they don't fit the game's overall dark feel.
Over the coming weeks, almost all movie-lovers will flock to Avatar. DS owners will have a less frenzied response to this licensed game. Anyone who likes Zelda-style gameplay will find something to like here, but it's hard to justify a Zelda knockoff when a real-deal Zelda just hit shelves. We can't say Avatar is a bad buy, given how much fun we had solving its many puzzles and smiting its tougher bosses. Still, we'd rather spend our time and money on Spirit Tracks, which is listed at only $5 more.
CCC Freelance Writer