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If you haven’t heard of James Carmeron’s Avatar yet, you’ve obviously been living under a rather large rock for the past few months. If you were to poke your head out from underneath that rock however, you’d hear people saying things like “Cameron’s first film since Titanic”, “budget of 100 million” and “groundbreaking”. Avatar is the film the whole film industry is currently talking about, and you obviously can’t have a high profile film without a game to accompany it. Currently, Avatar is available on all of the home consoles as well as the PSP and DS. Not wanting to be left out, the iPhone can now be added to that list courtesy of Gameloft.
The game is set on planet Pandora, some two decades before the events of the film. Following an original story, players assume the role of one Ryan Lorenz, a human who takes control of a Na’vi body through the Avatar program. For anybody unaware of the term already, the Na’vi are the large smurf like beings who are indigenous to Pandora. So, you’re controlling a Na’vi who is in turn being controlled by a human. Avatars controlling avatars in other words.
Although offering more than a few features of the action–adventure genre, Avatar is a 3D platformer at its core. Gameloft have managed to pack a hell of a lot into the game, but climbing, sliding and jumping make up the majority of the gameplay. The game spans 15 chapters, or levels, and although the first half the game is a fairly linear experience, the latter levels introduce a more open world style of gameplay that encourages exploration and deviation from the plot path.
Controls are a mixed bag. On the one hand they are largely successful; the virtual analogue stick is in the right place, moving Ryan around the screen is easy enough, and everything generally feels pretty solid. With platform gameplay being at the very heart of the Avatar experience however, the game is let down through a combination of unresponsive controls and badly designed levels. Although on the whole it’s easy enough to get from A to B, it can be very hard to judge distances, and certain spring and timed jump sequences will have you screaming at your iDevice in rage. In addition to this, Ryan seems to flick between walking and running whenever he feels like it, making the classic run through falling rocks sections incredibly difficult to time.
Combat is plagued by a few niggling issues too. For the most part, taking on the nasties of Pandora is a simple case of mashing the attack button as fast as you can in front of them. There are some combos that can be used performed if you introduce a jump into the mix, but the easiest route to victory can be found simply by hammering away on the attack icon. This makes combat more of a chore than anything else, and often it’s easier to just run past enemies, missing them out all together. A choice of gun, Na'vi staff and bow add some nice variety to combat, but it still essentially boils down to the same button bashing antics.
These flaws can be easily forgiven however, as Avatar is an incredibly tight, lengthy, and well presented package. And boy it well presented. Graphically the game is up there with the best the App Store has on offer, and the rich orchestrated scores accompany the visuals perfectly. Indeed, production values are remarkably high throughout, and do wonders in masking the minor flaws in the gameplay.
The game weighs in at a hefty £5.99 on the old price scales, but for high production values and sheer amount of content on offer, the price is justified. Avatar tries to do a lot, and although often to its detriment concerning individual mechanics, the game as a whole is incredibly diverse, with new gameplay elements introduced around every corner. Although film licenses are notoriously bad, James Cameron’s Avatar (on iPhone at least) can stand proudly alongside the film.
- Sound: 9
- Graphics: 9
- Gameplay: 7
- Longevity: 8
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