We'll give props to the Nintendo DS rendition of X-Men: The Official Game for one core reason: this is truly a game that tries something different on the touch screen handheld. Instead of throwing together some generic brawler that in some obscure way represents a shoehorned handheld rendition of the console design, Activisionand compelling, and this version of the film is far too easy and repetitive for its own good.
X-Men: The Official Game for the Nintendo DS has been developed by Amaze, a studio that once rocked on the Game Boy but is all rocky on the DS platform. The game the team's worked on the dual-screen handheld is an all-out action game that puts players in control of four of the most popular and powerful X-Men that, like the console renditions, takes place in a story arc that sandwiches the plot comfortably between the second and third movies. Wolverine, Iceman, Nightcrawler, and, yes, even Magneto, make an appearance as the main, playable characters in this game, and much of the focus on the design is how players use their abilities on-the-fly.
What makes this game so unique is it's not a by-the-numbers handheld port of the console brawler. The developer could have gone that route, but instead made a valiant attempt to work an original DS-specific design that pushes the system's touch-screen element for all of its gameplay. By combining D-pad movement with touch-screen gameplay in a top-down environment, Amaze has brought up a style of game that's not the usual fare. It, at the very least, feels different.
But just because it's different doesn't make it good. The game is, essentially, a touch-screen Gauntlet - one character's used for close attacks, one character for projectile shots. Magneto is quite possibly the most creative of the four characters in the game, since players can use him to lift up objects to fling at enemies or to shield against attacks. But Wolverine, Iceman, and Nightcrawler are ho-hum heroes since the game's combat system revolves around a stupidly simple mechanic - tap on an enemy and the active character attacks it until it's dead. That's about the entirety of the game design, and this gets unbelievably old after about three rounds. Players will be required to cycle between three characters since some enemies can't be attacked with ice balls from afar, and airborne enemies can't be slashed at by Wolverine. And as much as we'd love to play the game exclusively with Magneto, it's just not possible since moveable objects aren't in some levels.
The game lacks a serious challenge, and most deaths are because you stepped too close to an explosive and got inside its blast range. Boss battles are stupidly simple to blow through, too -- which makes the additional "Boss Rush" and "Survival Modes" sort of a dull waste of time.
It's pretty clear that the sluggish graphics engine that was employed in the development team's awful Spyro the Dragon DS game of last year has been used for X-Men: The Official Game. What you'd think the DS could handle - small texture-mapped 3D characters on a detailed scrolling 2D platform - is presented in a sluggish, chugging experience on the handheld with some glitches still left over. We've had characters float around on their own when the camera cuts away to show a different part of a level, for example - little things that don't necessarily affect the gameplay but still shouldn't be in the final product.
But also like Spyro DS, X-Men: The Official Game's soundtrack is by far the coolest aspect of the game. Whether it's the sound engine or simply Amaze hiring a good soundtrack composer, X-Men's tunes shine through the rest of the game's mediocrity. It's unfortunate that the DS cart size limitations mean that the rest of the audio presentation can't be as good as the console version - apart from their photo likenesses used for cutscenes, there's no Patrick Stewart or Ian McKellan in the DS game.
has, instead, brought DS owners a somewhat ambitious design that pushes some creative uses of the system's touch screen for its gameplay. In going this route, though, the designers fail to produce a game that's both creative