The Last Airbender Review
The Last Airbender box art
System: DS, Wii Review Rating Legend
Dev: Halfbrick Studios 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: THQ 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: June 29, 2010 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
Bending the Elements
by Robert VerBruggen

The Last Airbender may prove to be the death knell of M. Night Shyamalan’s directing career, but surprisingly, it inspired a decent DS title. The game isn’t a masterpiece by any means, and it can be completed in five hours or so, but developer Halfbrick put together a solid experience.

The Last Airbender screenshot

This game is aimed directly at fans of the Avatar: The Last Airbender anime series, so story plays a large role. It picks up where the movie left off. You control two different characters at various points in the game. One is Prince Zuko, who can throw fireballs and otherwise manipulate flame, and who has an alter ego, the stealthy Blue Spirit. Zuko’s goal is to capture the Avatar, a powerful “Airbender” who can fire gusts of air and learns how to “bend” (that is, manipulate) water partway through the game. The other character is Aang, the Avatar. His goal is to avoid being captured and protect his community from an attack by Zuko’s people, the Fire Nation.

There’s even some character development here, as Prince Zuko has misgivings about his mission and Aang struggles to grow into his role as the Avatar. It’s not exactly Shakespeare, but the plot adds to Airbender lore, and it moves forward in short, well-done cutscenes that don’t interfere with the flow of the gameplay.

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Speaking of gameplay, it borrows heavily from the DS’s Zelda titles, but the emphasis on projectiles, as opposed to swords and shields, helps distinguish it. Also, there are some light RPG elements; you can improve your characters’ powers by collecting currency and spending it in the pause menu. We found the ability to instantly kill enemies you’ve knocked down to be especially helpful.

The Last Airbender screenshot

The Last Airbender gets off to a slow start (there are too many hand-holding training missions, especially for experienced gamers), but an hour or so in, everything falls into place. The developers struck a great balance between fighting off rank-and-file enemies, taking on bosses, and solving puzzles. There isn’t much variety in the basic enemies (they’re mostly just guards who attack with swords or projectiles), but it’s fun to hack, slash, and burn your way through them between sets of puzzles. The puzzles themselves involve a variety of tasks including pushing blocks around and manipulating fire, air, and water to open the way forward. The boss fights also offer a lot of variety, with each foe being defeated in a different way. This is a kids’ game, so don’t expect a lot of challenge, but a couple of the puzzles are tough, and until you figure out the trick (spoiler alert: use a special move to knock them off guard before attacking them), the enemies with shields can be a pain.

The controls work well, and they’re simple enough that kids should have no problem; the entire game is played with the stylus and the L button (R for lefties, of course). The stylus enables you to move and attack enemies, while the L button puts you into your “Bend Stance,” in which you can perform your character’s special moves. It’s completely intuitive and rarely gave us any problems.

The Last Airbender screenshot

Screenshots / Images
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