Developer: Razorback Developments
Release Date: November 28, 2006
The television show "Xiaolin Showdown" is a textbook example of Americanized anime. It's a children's show that focuses on four monks in training, with a mystical dragon that can sense ancient powerful items. There is, naturally, a character who decides to be a villain because he has too much time and money on his hands. The two groups fight for supremacy over the ancient items, and the story wages on ….
Since the show is basically a beat 'em up, it comes as no surprise that the accompanying game, Xiaolin Showdown, would fall into the same genre. Controlling one of the four characters, you use your martial arts, shen gong wu, and elemental attacks to beat down the hordes of baddies. Once you find another shen gong wu, you initiate a Xiaolin Showdown, where you fight in a mini-game for your prize. The formula is simple and repetitive. You fight, fight, and fight some more, get into a shen gong wu battle, and then fight again.
The character "leveling" system is flawed and unnecessary. Collecting coins will net you points, which can be used to level up your various attacks. The coins are all over the place; they can be found under pots, in treasure chests, or gained from enemies. You don't gain any experience by defeating your enemies, though — only coins.
If you spend points on leveling up, they are assigned to all of your characters, not just the one you're current playing. This sort of defeats the purpose of using the other characters. The leveled-up attacks don't make much of a difference, either; the upgraded elemental attack is only marginally better. If you opt to not level up at all, playing through the game with your basic attacks isn't too difficult.
The vibrant, cel-shaded graphics in Xiaolin Showdown are good, but there are flaws. Sometimes, character models will collide with objects in the environment, as well as other monsters. It's sort of difficult to beat them up when you can't hit them. The areas look nice, but very few parts of it can be interacted with, making it just something pretty to look at and nothing more.
One thing the game does do well is the dual-screen system on the DS. The top screen has the character's stats (life, energy, and shen gong wu), and the bottom screen has the action. The system is slick and simple, which is perfect for frenetic action, but this is perhaps the only good thing about the interface.
There is little to no stylus use in the main game because it's reserved for use in showdowns and mini-games. You're restricted to the d-pad and face buttons for a majority of the time, but the controls are horrendous and don't always register your commands. Additionally, when poor collision detection rears its ugly head, you will literally bump into an enemy but not be able to hit them; it's frustrating to play a beat-'em-up game in which the basic "beating up" mechanics are so flawed.
You can only use a top-down, third-person view in Xiaolin Showdown, which wouldn't normally be a problem, but the game contains many off-angle jumps and attacking enemies. The jumps can't be judged, so you've got to leap before you look, falling into pits of stomach acid or whatnot. The enemies are the same way; if they're at an angle, you can barely hit them, or not even be able to touch them at all. When you add in the wonky controls into this mixture, some portions of the game simply become unbearable. One map, set inside a dragon's stomach, was particularly tedious because of the unnecessary amount of jumps that need to be made.
There is very little variation in the enemy character models, so regardless of whether you're playing on the first level or the last, you feel like you're fighting the exact same monsters again and again. Enemies don't increase in difficulty either, and once you figure that out, it makes the game way too easy.
I completed Xiaolin Showdown in about four hours. The show has been on for a long time, so there must be a plethora of source material from which to borrow. I think there could have been a lot more content added — more levels and bosses, more difficult monsters, and more interesting puzzles. Aside from using the main characters, the game actually doesn't tie in too much with the television show, which seems rather counterintuitive. Surely there are tons of existing show scripts that could be quickly adapted for a video game.
The unlockable mini-games are the only redeeming quality of the gameplay. These mini-games are rather fun and, in most cases, are even better than the rest of the game. In Fire Bowling, you use the stylus to bowl, throw, or hit others. You roll the stylus across the touch-screen and toward the pins; it's a deceptively simple system that turns out to be great fun. Air Hockey functions a lot like the arcade game; you control your paddle with the stylus, and you try to slap the puck into your opponent's goal.
Boulder Basho is your standard Break Out-esque game, in which you control the pad on the bottom of the screen with the stylus. Finally, Water Warriors is an odd game. The four main characters are in an arena, and you drag your selected character and try to hit them out of the arena. These mini-games use the stylus more than the main game does, which is a little disheartening.
For some fun between friends, the mini-games can be played via multiplayer. Since the game only supports local wireless multiplayer, you'll have to find someone with whom to play this title. If you're looking for a game to play via online wi-fi, you should look elsewhere.
All in all, Xiaolin Showdown has a very nice, glossy presentation, but it leaves a lot to be desired. The developers could have mined the television series for a lot more content, and the enemies could have been more varied in appearance and difficulty. If your kids are looking for a game based on a familiar television show, I'd recommend Avatar: The Last Airbender on any of its available platforms. There are bigger, better, and far more entertaining games out there than this.