previews\ Aug 25, 2008 at 8:00 pm

Avatar - The Last Airbender: Into the Inferno - PS2 - Preview

Not too long ago, Avatar: The Last Airbender made its way onto PlayStation 2. The interesting characters and gameplay turned this kid-targeted TV series into a game franchise that gained attention from multiple crowds. Avatar will receive its first movie within the coming years, one that isn’t expected to go straight-to-video. And this fall Aang and the gang will land on PS2 once more in Avatar: The Last Airbender – Into the Inferno, a sequel with better air-bending tactics and environmental puzzles.

Breaking Wind

Into the Inferno’s gameplay revolves around the formation and manipulation of airballs. They’re formed pretty easily: hold the R1 button to create one and release the button to throw it. You can guide the ball around using the right analog stick, creating a 3D space for it to move around in. The ball’s movement is limited by an unofficial barrier. This was likely designed to prevent the ball from getting away from the player, which could have happened in some of the game’s larger areas.

Airballs are just the beginning. Whenever you’re near a water source (ex: a puddle on the ground), players can use the right stick – referred to the game as the “pointer” and designated on screen with a bubble, cursor-type device – to point at the source. Hold the R1 button to grab some water, which will be formed into a handy sphere that can be carried around with you (and thrown) like an airball. This technique is called waterbending and should be familiar to fans of the TV show as well as the previous Avatar games.

Waterbending is not limited to balls of water – it can also be used to cut through weak parts of the environment. Once the water source has been obtained, quickly move the right stick back and forth to create a waterbend cut.

If water isn’t good enough in its liquid form, Aang or Katara, two of the playable characters, may freeze it into a ball of ice. These airball manipulations have more than a combative purpose: they’ll aid players in the solving of new puzzles. In this preview, the first batch was pretty simple. Fire didn’t stand a chance up against a fresh water ball. But others were not without their clever moments. When a large crate needs to be pushed away from an air duct, man-power alone was not enough. Thus, you find another air duct and fire an airball through it. When the airball comes out on the other side, it will push the crate forward, allowing Aang to prop himself up and reach the next area.

Avatar - The Last Airbender: Into the Inferno PS2 screenshots

Into the Inferno’s combat falls in line with other licensed action games, using attack combos (successive kicks and punches) and a general dose of hack-n-slash gameplay. Enemies don’t lurk around every corner, but when they appear, you’ll fight through hordes of them before the area is clear. The controls are quick and responsive, though the double-jump could use some work. Rather than give players an extra boost in the air, it merely allows you to extend the distance that you travel. This is helpful in some circumstances but would have been even better as a height extender.

Pulling inspiration from Devil May Cry, Aang can leap into the air and slam down an airball to knock over nearby enemies. He can also use his powers to stun and damage potential attackers.

In this stage of development (which appears to be close to completion), Into the Inferno’s graphics are on par with its predecessors. Currently there are no camera controls, as the right analog stick – often used for camera adjustments – has been assigned to more magical tasks. The AI controls the perspective, which automatically changes the view as you enter new areas. This isn’t the preferred camera type, but with levels that tend to follow a linear path, it could be the most effective route.

Bending its way into retailers this October, Avatar: The Last Airbender – Into the Inferno is nearly ready to become the next hit in this long-running series. It’ll be interesting to see where puzzles are taken in the final version. Stay with GameZone for more in the coming weeks.

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