Release Date: May 16, 2006
Ask any gamer worth his or her salt to recount the history of video games based on movies, and he or she may visibly shudder at the mere mention of the subject, and rightly so. E.T. and Total Recall on the Atari and NES, respectively, put the sour taste in our collective gaming mouths. Now, every once in a while, we'd catch a break thanks to titles such as Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay and Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. However, those and a few others seem to be the exceptions, not the rule. Unfortunately, X-Men: The Official Game is no exception.
X-Men for the DS takes place between the Bryan Singer-directed "X2" and the recently released "X-Men: The Last Stand." It seems that despite being pumped full of molten adamantium that upon contact hardened to turn her into a statue from the inside out, Lady Deathstrike is still alive and kicking. Unbelievable? Sure, but any fans of the X-Men comics should be used to this sort of thing, as Jean Grey has died and come back to life several times within the Marvel universe. With her new lease on life, Deathstrike teams up with the Silver Samurai with the intent of making the late Colonel Stryker's Project Master Mold a reality. Our only hope is for the Uncanny X-Men to stop them! Oh, and Magneto's tagging along, too.
Gameplay-wise, X-Men could be a distant cousin to, of all things, Metroid Prime: Hunters, as they have very similar control schemes. The stylus and touch-screen are used to target and attack enemies, while the directional-pad and face buttons both control movement, allowing people to use their favored hand for whichever task they choose. The similarities end there, though, as Hunters is an FPS and X-Men is a beat 'em up with an isometric view of the action.
Now, the DS is definitely the black sheep of the portable family when it comes to multi-platform titles. The PSP can (theoretically) handle a port of a PS2 version of the game, with a few minor cuts. The GBA is relegated to something in the 2D spectrum, but where does that leave the DS? It's not quite as powerful as the PSP, but you need something to differentiate it from the GBA, and that touch-screen business can be hit-or-miss. Unfortunately for X-Men, it missed.
You control a team of four mutants: Wolverine, Iceman, Nightcrawler, and Magneto. Now, Wolverine and Nightcrawler are melee fighters, with Wolverine of course using his adamantium claws and Nightcrawler's flurry of attacks being accompanied by that smoke that appeared whenever he bamfed in X2. Iceman chucks ice bolts at enemies, making him your go-to guy for ranged combat. Finally, Magneto can pick up objects in the environment and chuck them pretty much anywhere else. Only one mutant is onscreen and controlled at a time, but a quick press of one of the shoulder buttons will cycle through the entire team, which you'll be doing quite a bit, as many of your foes can only be defeated by a certain kind of attack. For instance, only Iceman can take out flying enemies, while there are certain enemies equipped with heat shields that can be dispatched by anyone but young Bobby Drake (Iceman's birth name, for the uninitiated).
The biggest problem with the game is how these talents are implemented. You tap on an enemy with the stylus to target him, and your mutant of choice just flails or shoots blindly until they drop. That's it. There's no other input necessary from the player, such as combos or being able to block – just moving and tapping. Magneto is the most innovative when it comes to combat and use of the touch-screen: When you touch an object with the stylus that Magneto can pick up, you can drag it across the screen, using it as a shield before hurling it at the enemy. The trick is, when hurling something explosive, make sure that Magneto's out of the blast radius when it reaches its target, or you'll be visiting the Game Over screen many a time.
This is not the DS' prettiest game. On the whole, everything is pretty pixelated and rough. Character models all look about the same – faceless pawns with similar physical builds – aside from Nightcrawler being blue and having that tail of his, of course. You'll be fighting a lot of the same soldiers over and over again, with the occasional boss fight sprinkled here and there. The low point is the cut scenes that come up every now and again. "Cut scenes" may be a bit generous, as they're really slideshows that are more grainy and washed out than the in-game engine.
The sound is perhaps the game's sole high point, with a soundtrack of mostly memorable tunes that won't have you pawing at the volume slider. Everything else is pretty run of the mill sound effects for an action game. It would've been nice to hear Wolverine's claws make their trademark snikt sound when he locked on to an enemy or hear it when Nightcrawler bamfs into the "demon zone."
Aside from the main story mode, a survival mode and boss rush mode can be unlocked as you progress further in the game's main campaign. Both are exactly what they sound like; survival throws you into the same levels as the story mode, but without the option to continue, and boss rush mode is the same deal, but with only the boss fights.
I wouldn't worry too much about those modes, though, as you'll never have the will to unlock them. X-Men: The Official Game just isn't fun at all. There is honestly nothing to be gained from playing it unless you count a newfound respect for the rest of the DS' library of games. There is little reason for you to spend money on X-Men: The Official Game when there are better choices on the DS right now.
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