reviews\ Oct 22, 2006 at 8:00 pm

Avatar: The Last Airbender - PSP - Review

If you have ever seen the Avatar TV show on Nickelodeon, the folks over there got it right when it came to walking the line between cheap children action cartoon and annoying adult cartoon. Rather, the premise involving a young Avatar (reincarnated soul who needs to master the four elements prior to a prophetic comet's return), who was born in the Air clan and must travel the world in order to master each of the elemental powers (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) before the evil Fire nation asserts its stranglehold on the rest of the world. There is of course, the cliché wisecracking friend and his kid sister who happens to be a water bender, but the writing is sharp, the action is breathtaking and most kids who see it, want to see it again.

"Stop drop and roll!"

So, here we have the PSPs version of the hugely popular cartoon, and with such a popular license I approached this game with some reservations and recruited my nephew to help out with a 12 year olds perspective (the target audience). The first thing you should know is that the game is played from a top down perspective and our main hero Aang and his buddy Sokka are trying to rescue Katara (kid sister waterbender) from the Fire nation who has kidnapped her in a possible attempt to force Aang's hand and use his powers to take over the world. As it is, the Fire nation is locked in a war with the other elemental nations, and controlling the Avatar would bring about the wars conclusion, and not in a good way. 
Aang has a set of basic attacks that he uses with his magic that of course is based on air. Sokka uses traditional weapons like a boomerang and staff and maybe some bombs, once you rescue Katara, she provides the much needed water attacks/magic which in turn brings the healer to the group. Now when you move around you can easily switch from the characters by toggling the left trigger button as the other two will always follow the character you are controlling, they also will automatically attack anyone who stands in your way should you choose to fight. the whole game is controlled rather easily and even switching from one attack to another is simple. Characters move with a deliberate fluidity using the control nub as the D-pad is used to toggle attacks and navigating the inventory. Action buttons are for primary and special attacks. It really works well and will feel very familiar to those gamers who have played the Untold Legends series.   
Graphically the game does do a sweet job of translating the license, there is no monsters or giant critters to speak of, rather the bad guys are solely member of the fire nation and maybe a giant flaming mechanical thing or two, but there is going to be some head scratching from your little fan of the show should you get them this title. Most notably, the attacks that I described earlier, are nothing compared to what this kid does in the show, leaping into the air, doing all sorts of Jackie Chan style moves, they aren't there, and while the game looks decent, it's what the fans of the show are looking for, is where the disappointment lies. Sure the wind effects and backgrounds are above par, I have seen the PSP produce better lighting effects and for a game where the bad guys are all members of the Fire Nation, the fires seen in the game aren't as cool as the ones from Untold Legends. The level design is however pulled straight from the show, from the towns to the fortresses, at least they got that down correctly, for what good that does.

"I'll huff and I'll puff!

The games' audio seems to be a continuous loop of one form of far Eastern music depending on where you are in the game. The tempo picks up when you are in levels big on action, but when you are in the city, it slows down as there is no combat to be found. It's kind of tied in with how any action flick works. The voice work when in combat is primarily grunts and quick noises, I thought there would be some voice work while playing, especially during cutscenes, but instead I found myself reading the dialogue, disappointing.
I also thought the game would be prime for ad-hoc or even online play, instead, the game features neither and I was quite surprised since it really seems like a natural fit.

Review Scoring Details for Avatar: The Last Airbender - PSP

A smooth free flowing experience that is viewed from the top, action comes quickly but your attacks can come quicker. Too bad you can't pull off those same attacks from the TV show.
Graphics: 7.0
They are not horrible by any means, but the spit and polish is simply not as spit-y or polish-y as I would have liked. Level designs are adequate and the character menu is a direct pull from the game, but lighting and shadows aren't quite up to snuff. Even some of the water effects are disappointing.
Sound: 6.5
The music is nice, and fortunately does change, but does get old after a while, I missed the voice work from the folks over at the TV station and was surprised they didn't make it on here.
Difficulty: Easy
The game is pretty short and easy for anyone who has saved the world as many times as I have, but it did provide a hearty challenge for my nephew.
Concept: 7.0
It's a direct pull from a popular cartoon, so I can't give props to the folks at THQ for thinking up the idea, but they do a decent job of trying to make it a viable title.
Multiplayer: Missing
Again, this could have been a great multiplayer game, there are three heroes in this title, hello?
Overall: 6.9
It's an average title that could have been a bit better with a multiplayer option and longer storyline, still, any fan of the show will probably enjoy it once they have gotten over the fact that Aang can't leap around and kick butt like he does on the cartoon.  

Above Average

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