Get ready to jack into the cerebral cortex of five boarding school kids in The Game Factory’s latest DS title, Code Lyoko. Based on the Cartoon Network series of the same name, Lyoko is an action/adventure game that follows the story of these five students who spend their free time jacking into a virtual world (think The Matrix for adolescents), which just happens to be the home of the evil entity, Xana.
Xana, like any good villain, wants to rule the Earth and strives to achieve this by possessing animals, objects and even people. However, in order to possess anyone or anything Xana must activate one of the Lyoko towers which is where you come in. Stopping him from activating these towers becomes your main goal, thus the backdrop for Code Lyoko for the Nintendo DS.
The world of Code Lyoko is split up into two completely different game types that represent each world within the game. For reality, you will be subjected to a series of point and click adventures reminiscent to older PC titles such as Discworld and Grim Fandango. These consist of two-dimensional backdrops with hints of interactivity scattered about. For the most part, this section of the game is the least entertaining as you will spend most of your time talking to characters and exploring the flat, sometimes desolate world.
This section of the game can be controlled via the stylus or the D-pad, with the face buttons being used to activate all context sensitive items on the screen. After playing through the game, I highly recommend using the D-pad as the stylus can tend to be a bit unresponsive in some areas. In this mode, the top screen is used solely for a map to display areas with objectives for you to complete. For the most part, this function works except for the odd times the camera angle obstructs your view.
The second half of the game is played through the 3D landscape known as Lyoko. This world is essentially a softer, more family-friendly version of The Matrix. Once inside, your characters have access to new abilities and power-ups such as levitation abilities and of course stronger attacks. In this mode, you have access to all four characters from the show; Ulrich, Yumi, Odd, and Aelita. Each character possesses different attributes and abilities that are crucial to progressing through the game.
In this world, you will travel through a series of varied landscapes battling monsters and solving the occasional puzzle. Puzzles, for the most part, will require you to utilize a specific character’s special ability such as Ulrich’s dash or Aelita’s levitation to progress. The combat itself is simple, but for those without patience it can become quite challenging. Each character has two basic attacks, a block move and a charged-up attack; try to wail your way through the game without blocking and you will meet your demise early and often.
At the end of each level, you will be forced to take control of Aelita, as she is the only one who can enter the tower and stop Xana from activating it. When in control of her you will quickly notice that her attacks are not nearly as powerful as the rest of the crew and your health is by far diminished. Once inside the tower you will begin a sort of jigsaw puzzle mini-game that you control with the stylus in order to stop Xana from activating the tower.
From a purely visual aspect, the game is a split personality. On one hand, you have the drab and uninspired 2D backdrops found in the reality world. The lack of color and depth really limit the appeal of this world, thus creating a lackluster palette for your point and click adventures. One the other hand you have the Virtual world known as Lyoko that sports some truly dynamic visuals and locales that can stand tall next to the system’s finest. The CGI cut-scenes are also worth noting as they really do capture some of the essence from the show.
Code Lyoko is a quirky title that will likely appeal to fans of the show. DS gamers looking for a fresh take on narrative and storytelling should definitely give this game a look, but be warned it is very text heavy. The blend of the two genres is a mixed bag; the point and click endeavors are limited and really slow down the pace of the game, however, the action portions more than make up for them with inventive gameplay and some truly lush visuals. While this game will probably be tossed aside as just another licensed game, I think everyone should give it a chance before simply giving up on it.