Before I start, I just want the world to know that I’m doing this review basically on a dare. I’ve done quite a bit of licensed cartoon reviews this quarter, but this is the first one I’ve done for a series that I expressly can’t stand to watch… unless my TV is on mute. (Take that as you will—your first thought’s probably the right one). Anyway, since I’m a trooper, and I refuse to let my wacky bosses get the last laugh, here I am!
In Winx Club: Quest For the Codex, the Winx heroines (Bloom the Fire Princess, Stella of the Astronomic Powers, Musa the Music Lover, Flora of Earth, Tecna the Queen of All Things Digital, and Layla, Mistress of Whatever) have to thwart Lord Darkar’s latest evil plans. The “Quest” mentioned in the title, in truth, barely reveals itself. In stark contrast to the game’s name, this new Winx isn’t a role-playing adventure like the last one was. Instead, it’s a collection of minigames that help to progress the game’s story once they’re completed. It also seems to be a Magix requirement that all of said minigames be inane as possible. Let’s run down the list of pain.
The main segment of this game is a shooter. Though Bloom and Stella spend much of their time here, you can eventually control any of the Winx characters, tag-team style, by touching their pictures on the touch screen, and use their powers as they fly around on the top screen. The shooting controls fairly well, and a small bit of depth is added by the fact that you can shoot to both your left and right. You can also power up your shots and do special attacks. So far, so good. The only problem is, your shots don’t do much damage. As fast as the enemies fly, it’s a better idea to just avoid as many as you can, because it takes less time to do that than to actually try and shoot one down. Even your vaunted special moves take two blasts to finish off even the lowest-tier enemies. Gradius’s Vic Viper never had days like this.
Outside of the lackluster shooter sequence, you play a minigame related to each of the Winx girls in a random order. All of them require touching the screen in some way, and some of them work out better than others. Note that “better,” in this case, is a relative term—all of these minigames range from “mostly harmless” to “soul-destroying.”
Flora’s game is the mostly harmless one: you must point at bugs threatening to eat her plants. As the game gets harder, the bugs become more numerous; however, there’s almost never any danger of actually losing this game, as there’s so much plant to be devoured that the bugs have a very hard time eating it before they get shot down. The only challenge here is that you can only shoot down one bug at a time.
Tecna’s game is reminiscent of the old game Pipe Dreams, in which you place pieces of path in advance for an electric spark to travel a circuit. This isn’t so bad, except for the fact that the touch-screen is ultra-sensitive in this minigame. There’s little room for error because the squares used for placing pieces of circuit are exceedingly tiny. If the slightest brush with the touch screen is just a millimeter off-center, then congratulations, your circuit piece just got placed in the wrong spot. To make matters worse, in order to make the game more accessible to younger players, each piece you get will invariably be the next piece you need to complete your circuit. This makes the minigame brain-dead easy… unless you mess up. Should you mess up placing a piece, the game sort of spazzes out, and who knows when you’ll get the right piece again, if ever?
I found Musa’s game especially annoying. It’s a rhythm music minigame, only double-layered. In order for the note to register, you must first tap the musical instrument that the note is coming from, then press the note at the right time in the right place. All of this is done as you listen to badly-composed music. As the notes come down faster and faster, your frustration rises higher and higher, until you finally throw your Nintendo DS across the room.
Playing these minigames will “advance” the game’s story (the quotes are there because, if you can figure out what’s going on, please let me know), and allow you to replay the same minigames on a harder setting, as well as add playable characters to the shooter sequence. In other words, it’s an endless cycle that sucks your life force the more you go through it. If you thought Musa’s game was hard the first time around, wait until you try it going at Paranoia 3000 speed.
The best and most functional part of this whole sordid spectacle is the Dress-Up mode. It’s reminiscent of Japanese KISS dolls—you get to dress the Winx girls in an assortment of outfit combinations, and the number of outfits is surprisingly large. Sadly, these outfits will be placed on the same very tiny, low-resolution N64-esque polygon character models that you use in the game, so it’s hard to get any enjoyment out of such a task. A colorful blurry spot, after all, is still a blurry spot. Pretty much all of the in-game graphics are like this, probably to make way for all the full-motion video (in suspiciously high resolution) that was crammed onto this cart, from pieces of the opening sequence, to the transformation videos for the girls.
All of that great video edged out the sound as well as the visuals. There’s no music in here to write home about—heck, most of it is an affront to the ears of all but the most avid preteen Winx Club fans, whom this game is pitched to. Voice acting? What voice acting?
In the end, I unfortunately cannot categorize Quest for the Codex as anything but a failure. At the risk of total self-embarassment (or are we past that by now?), the official Winx Club site, once upon a time, had a collection of cheap point-and-click Flash games that proved to be more fun than this mess. You might want to see if those are still around, and just play those instead. Between the up-and-down production values, the nonexistent storytelling, the strange shooting, and touch-screen funkiness, this game comes off as a cheap cash-in to make money off of the show’s second broadcast season. It’s an okay buy for your six-year-old kid sister, but absolutely nobody else.
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