Avatar: The Last Airbender
Reviewed by Michelle Brenner
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2007-02-03 Wii Action E (Everyone) THQ

If you have ever wanted to hop into a cartoon and play along, Avatar: The Last Airbender is your chance! The game, based on the Nickelodeon cartoon, is built around just that concept. It gives you the chance to hop into the action of the Avatar universe and play as the four main characters: Aang, Katara, Sokka and Haru.

As a whole, Avatar, falls short of my expectations. It is an enjoyable game, but it isn't really for kids and isn't really for adults. The developers seem to have designed it somewhere in the middle hoping to reach both audiences while not really exploring the elements that could have made the game enjoyable for a specific demographic. The game is not simplistic with fun and silly elements for kids, but it doesn't explore the RPG or action elements well enough for adults.

The beginning levels of the game are slow and simple and would be ideal for little kids to play and get the experience of being in the Avatar universe. But, even at that, the first few levels of Avatar are fairly redundant. Although the designs of the levels are each different the quests are the same. Each level requires you to complete a side quest of collecting some item using Momo. You are also required to complete a few side quests from members of each town which are almost always collecting quests as well. Then there is the main quest which can be completed by following green arrows to specific locations in the world. You don't even have to read what the quest is if you just follow the arrow.

The unique and very enjoyable component to the game is called bending. This is the game's magic ability based in the elements of air, water, fire and earth. Bending is the entire preface of the universe and the thing that drives the plot for the game and the TV show. Aang is the last of the airbenders (hence the title) and he is called the Avatar because he is supposed to be the one person who will be able to combine all four bending powers. The combination of the four elements and the four types of benders is supposed to bring some sort of harmony and equality to the universe, but it has currently created discourse and many of the sides are warring. The Fire Nation especially is attempting to defeat the other three to become dominant in the universe. Each character earns special elemental bending-style moves as they level up throughout the game. These are very helpful at defeating enemies as the game goes on and are controlled by holding in the B button and swinging the Wii remote in a direction. This aspect was fairly enjoyable to play. It made the game slightly more interactive for the Wii compared to other consoles.

Bending is also used at specific places on the map to manipulate the earth. This can be done to either unveil a treasure chest or to open up the path before you. For example, Katara will use water to harden lava so that the characters could pass over it while Haru will create earth where there is none to reach the next destination beyond a vast expanse of nothingness. Bending is done by going into a screen where you use the Wii remote as a paintbrush to repeat the drawing of a symbol. Other systems do not use drawing for bending, so this is unique to the Wii. This aspect, while very cute and well executed, is also simplistic for the first three or four levels of the game. After about ten times bending you start to feel that it is a little boring and pointless. Later on in the game it becomes once again enjoyable and often a little difficult to repeat.

As the game goes on it gets much more intricate. The bending becomes more intricate, as do the caricatures that you must replicate. The enemies become more difficult and the levels become more beautiful. It is definitely worth playing through the 6-10 hours of the game to see some of the latter levels and rendered scenes. The trouble is that even at these more advanced and enjoyable levels, it is not really a game for adults while it is not really a game for kids. It continues to be repetitive and seems too intricate for most kids who would be playing because they enjoy the show. The RPG elements and the action elements are too simple to be really fun for an adult or experienced gamer. For example, each boss is started with a save spot. Then, no matter how creative and interesting the boss might be it always uses the pattern of run around until the boss stops and its weak spot is revealed. Then you must attack the weak spot until the boss starts attacking again. Run. Attack. Run. Attack. Then the boss is dead. Once Katara is in your party you don't even have to worry about dieing because she heals the party.

Another enjoyable aspect of the game is the art. The design is beautiful and the cel-shading is a great way to step the player into the cartoon world. Some of the scenes are so beautiful that you stop running toward the green arrow for just a minute just to enjoy the scenery. For example, one level has you traveling up and down a spiral walkway and in the background is this detailed and grandiose cityscape. There are also beautiful flora and fauna throughout plus many waterfalls and statues that add to the visual enjoyment. It is very peaceful visually. However, even these beautiful aspects are often paired with boring walkways and paths that just seem to go on too long with too many creatures that just keep spawning. The cut scenes are rendered and are also beautiful to watch. These often include Appa who is far and away my favorite of the characters!

Avatar: The Last Airbender is definitely enjoyable to play, especially in the latter levels of the game. It does fall short in a few areas, but if your main goal is to play the game to immerse yourself in the Avatar universe and see the characters that you love from the television show, than you will be satisfied.

Special thanks to Karen Fujimoto and THQ for providing a copy of this title.