For someone who has never seen the show I have played more Code Lyoko games in the past year than I care to recap. This series has become one of the Game Factory’s stable titles and it seems almost every six months or so we are reviewing yet another take on this lesser-known franchise. Thankfully the games have actually been pretty good quality, which we have come to expect from the Game Factory, but this latest interpretations feels like the developers have finally run out of steam. Code Lyoko: Fall of XANA is certainly not a terrible game; far from it, but it does lack anything to help it stand out among the flood of quality DS titles currently on the market.
The story of XANA will be utterly confusing to anyone who has not followed the show from the outset. The game takes place during the fourth and final season of the show (which has still yet to air here in America) and does little to inform the player of what is going on. According to Lyoko lore XANA is an evil computer virus that has been tormenting the team for quite some time (yes the show is basically The Matrix for kids) and this game follows the events leading up to the final showdown. If you are a fan of the show then you will likely be thrilled to play through it to collect the story bits before the show continues on Cartoon Network, but for anyone else who has never seen it, Fall of XANA will make little to no sense whatsoever.
Unlike the previous iteration Fall of XANA is a straight up RPG. Linear levels and methodical combat create a recipe for clichéd activities. Instead of turn-based combat though, the developers have opted to utilize a time-based approach that does iron out some of the slow pacing of the game. When a battle begins characters can choose from an array of attacks and depending on which ones are used a timer begins that dictates when you can make your next move. This method works to the benefit of the game, but fans of menu-sifting will likely be surprised the first few battles when they are forced to make quick decisions on when to strike.
While the battle system may not be traditional, pretty much everything else is. As you stroll around bland dungeons you will come across random monsters and battles ensue. Once in a battle you can also equip what are called plug-ins that give your character enhanced abilities. You have a traditional hit point guage as well as a function meter that essentially acts as your mana guage.
There is also a tension guage that slowly fills up with each attack you endure. Fill it all the way up and you can unleash a special move that does massive damage. The cool part about tension techniques – and one of the few things that separates Lyoko from the rest of the herd – is that when you unleash them it activates a touch-screen mini-game. The rest of the combat is derivative, but it gets the job done. Much like the rest of the game it simply suffers just from being average at best.
One of the biggest concerns anyone would have with a handheld RPG is length. With only five levels and an effortless learning curve Fall of XANA simply falls short. Veterans will likely blast through the campaign in a day and with the repetitive level design there is little reason to come back for seconds. Another strike is the fact that there is no mini-map at all, making navigation of these monotonous levels even more painful. Controls are mostly handled by the touch screen and while they are passable, I couldn’t help but feel they were added simply to adopt the feature of the system. The game could have easily been on any other system without having to use the touch screen.
There is also a multi-player mode that consists of three different types of matches all revolving around adversarial combat. If you have a friend who also has the game you can link up and even use your saved items and weapons from the single player game against your friends. One of the modes even allows you to wager some of your in-game items on the outcome of the battle, which is a cool addition in and of itself. Truth be told the battles found in the multi-player are much more tactical and fun than anything found in the main quest. If you purchase this game it would be wise to find someone else to play with as it truly is the highlight of this title.
Visually Fall of XANA comes in two flavors: decent and bland. Characters look good and animate nicely, especially during super attacks. The 2D cutouts and cut-scenes really give a great sense of the show and the color palette is exactly what you would expect with extreme amounts of blue and green. Now for the downside, the environments are downright awful. Mixing bland textures with a ton of repeating patterns makes for a dull journey. Levels feel copy-and-pasted throughout the whole game and their design is extremely linear. This is a shame as it makes an already mediocre game feel more so due to a lack of variety in the environments.
The latest Code Lyoko game lacks the polish and heart put into previous efforts from the company. While the game is significantly long – for a handheld RPG that is – at a whopping 9-10 hours of game play, you will likely derive more enjoyment watching the show for that length of time. With a combination of linear levels and uninspired level design Fall of XANA does little to entice players into the wonderful world of the show. If you are a die-hard fan this may be worth checking out to get a glimpse at where the series has come, but for everyone else it simply comes across as quick and dirty.