Avatar: Into the Inferno Review - January 15

Poorly received as a series, early impressions of Into the Inferno suggested better things for the DS version. Does this hold true in reality?

Known by most gamers as the game where you can get 1000 gamer score in 5 minutes, Avatar: The Burning Earth was not a critical success. The series has never achieved its potential in the action adventure genre, and so why should the latest entry in the series be any different? After doubts on whether the developers could utilise the DS effectively, the game is in fact a fairly good example of how to makes titles on the touch screen handheld. Could this be one of the best DS games of the year? Surely not.

Any game set in the Avatar universe is sure to feature a load of fan service throughout, but in comparison to the popular TV series, the story in Into the Inferno is pretty forgettable. You are Aang, a young warrior who always seems to get the world's troubles thrust on his shoulders. Aang and his friends have been on a search for the 4 elements of the world, with which they will be able to control whatever substance they want, and in turn defeat the oppressive force of Fire that has took over their land. The only problem is that the enemy holds the final element, the aforementioned fire, a problem that ends up being the focus of the game's plot. The characters don't have a personality, and any twists that happen are so small that they don't go towards making the game's story even mildly enjoyable. Fans will be able to relate to the characters, but as videogame stories go, it's a bad representation of the show. Luckily, the game is well made, and plays surprisingly well.

This is certainly the best Avatar game yet.

The game is split up into a small number of chapters, with each consisting of 2 or 3 levels. You are always moving to different places though, with levels taking place in caves, castles and great temples to name but a few. This helps keep the game moving forward, and feel fresh throughout. You may be doing the same sort of things throughout, but even a small change in the environment can keep Into the Inferno from feeling too repetitive. As is the case with most Nicktoons games, this is pretty short, even if it's marginally longer than the recent SpongeBob game on the system. The incentive that the developers have given to go back and complete the game again is the Volleyball mini-game available from the home screen. While playing the game, you can find special objects that you can use to unlock extra content for the terrible version of volleyball here. 5 items can be found in each level, with the ones you have remaining shown on the top screen. As an incentive, it's perfect for people with OCD when it comes to collecting everything, but for those who want to avoid the god-awful volleyball mode, there's little point to going back.

Where Avatar on DS sets itself apart from prior Nickelodeon games though, is the excellent gameplay. While it can be said to be a complete rip off of the amazing Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, it still does a good job at capitalising on the Touch screen functionality of the DS. The controls are identical to the ones found in Zelda, THQ aren't hiding their inspiration that well, but as such it works extremely well. You touch where you want to run, and the attacks and abilities you use are done in the same way. Each character has their own ability-you control two at a time, making for some character swapping sections-ranging from moving blocks up and down, and a boomerang that is identical to the one in Zelda. You must use each of these abilities to solve each of the puzzles you come across, which boils down to remembering which visual cue relates to which ability. The gameplay is surprisingly fun, retaining everything that was good with Zelda, and incorporating interesting mechanics, such as the ability to turn water to ice and use it as a makeshift bridge. The combat in Zelda was excellent, but here it's more of an inconvenience than an enjoyable part of the game. You have to tap the enemy to attack them with the once combo you have, making for frustrating battles when they appear. Luckily, these are never the focus, but they still impact the game somewhat.

It's not bad looking either.

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