Videogame-movie tie-ins usually suck, but you knew that. Well trusted sources and statistics have shown that approximately 10/473.95 tie-in products show promise, while the rest fail to be nothing more than Regis Philbin’s babies, or as Nick insists, cousins of the infamous cottage cheese. Of the ten that show promise, maybe only half realize its nipple-nipping potential.
Avatar’s currently killing silver screen numbers, which means that there’s probably a product that ties in with it somewhere in this desolate, desperate planet. Alas, they have indeed inevitably made an iPhone game if you didn’t know by now. It is, after all, the trendy thing to do these days. What you may or may not know is that this Avatar game for the iDevice actually doesn’t suck like, well … basically every videogame-movie game out there.
While the prospect isn’t half as exciting as a decent Uwe Boll film (ie. anything better than excrement), there was a part of me that wanted to be blue-ish, in love with an indigenous alien and half-naked ’n’ ready once I realised how un-Regis Philbin this Gameloft effort actually was.
Back from the depths of touch screen hell, I’m glad to report that there is indeed some value to be found in this cash-in project. I mean, who knew?
Stepping out as the first, full-fledged Avatar, you assume the role of Ryan Lorenz, a character that predates the events of the film by ten years. While he’s no Sam “Aussie (oi oi oi)” Worthington, he bodes a well-preserved Jake Sullivan-esque character for the game. Throughout his pocket-sized adventure, you’ll meet Na’vi natives, weird creatures you may (or may not) have seen from the film, and more Na’vi natives.
The plot doesn’t try hard to limit itself to clichéd boundaries, as you’ll soon realize that there’s really not much to Lorenz’s story if you’ve watched James Cameron’s film. Nonetheless, for an iPhone game, it’s basically a Hideo Kojima revelation.
One of the main fortes the console version had over its tie-in competitors was the fact that the environments looked top notch, while everything else seemed like a flop. Ironically, Avatar’s iPhone iteration flips this concept around. The graphics are subpar, contrasting to how it actually plays as a videogame.
Compared to other games in Gameloft’s catalogue such as Halo-copycat N.O.V.A. and Burnout-imitator Asphalt 5, Avatar unfortunately doesn’t stand equally amongst its peers. Sure there’s depth, and Pandora actually looks recognizable, but blocky characters and questionable textures echo a visual premise that ‘could’ve been’ rather than evoking a ‘man, I told you iPhones are the shiz!’ type of reaction.
The bright, vivid Pandora-like colours are there, but one can’t simply ignore the eyebrow-raising squareness of the environment. The frame rate also tends to chug along during the hack’n’slash sequences. Given the infrequency of these kill-all-dog-looking-alien moments, the slowdowns seem unwarranted. Despite the fact that the game is indeed in full-fledged 3D and looks better than most of what the App Store has in (iTunes’) store (see what I did?), it simply doesn’t raise the bar for anything graphics-wise.
Apart from that, the game more or less is pound-for-pound better than its console counterpart. Avatar is a hybrid; it blends action, platforming and pseudo-free roaming together to create an iPhone game that controls surprisingly well for its genre. How will I get to control my naked Na’vi intuitively without a controller you ask? Well, easy.
The controller-less device solves this pressing matter (get it?) by a virtual d-pad and minimal A-B buttons, that’s it. The camera angles will do the rest, placing you in both 2D and 3D planes to seamlessly interact with the cliffs, animals, beasts and other thingy-majiggies.
Drawing a generalised line on proverbial sands, Avatar’s platforming mechanics can be said to liken Uncharted 2’s on the PlayStation 3. Lorenz’s animations show that the man has weight, evident as he swings from edge-to-vine then back to a steep cliff. As mentioned before, the camera also does most of the work for you, as automated angles give you the ‘best views’ on how to tackle its platforming sections.
And that’s what Avatar does so well. For a game that doesn’t look as pretty as advertised, it plays exceptionally well on the iDevice. The sense of speed, anti-gravitational leaps, and being on a foreign and esoteric planet are all intact. For a game based on being one of the Na’vi, Gameloft has brought the goods. When the frame rate’s stable, the combat isn’t too shabby either. You’ll get upgrades to your usual bow and arrow, other-worldly magical abilities and the likes for your efforts too. Take that, ugly console versions.
There are no red herrings in this review, and Avatar is no Regis Philbin. For the price pitched, this not-so-essential prequel to the mega-movie is deserving of its seven bucks. I personally haven’t played 473.95 tie-in titles enough to know whether 10 of them are worthy or not, but I guess you can add this one to the shortlisted section. It passes the test: it certainly is better than Regis Philbin babies. Next!
Gamer Limit gives Avatar for the iPhone an 8.5/10