When a game appears on a handheld format that is part of a larger multi-platform franchise release there is often a sneaking sense of trepidation attached to receiving, playing and reviewing said game. The worry being that there has been one basic game shoe-horned into the various formats without much care taken to adjust the gameplay to the limitations of the hardware.
That’s Wolverine there, in the middle.
This tends to be most obvious with handheld incarnations of games released onto console platforms. These tend to feel like cash-in jobs done to milk the brand name for all its worth with no care being taken to overhaul the graphics, user interface and controls so that they work properly in their new miniature form.
This is, alas, what appears to have happened with X-Men Legends for the N-Gage. As a top down “isometric” scrolling rpg beat ‘em up in 3D, it works fine when you have a big screen and controller to interface with. Reduced to a 3x4cm screen and cramped mobile phone keys it becomes difficult to see and horrifically complex to try and play.
Which is a pity as the seeds of a decent game are assuredly there. The action kicks off with a colourful and exciting “film” sequence which introduces us to the world of the X-Men mutants. General William Kincaid is planning to use the Brotherhood of Evil mutants to turn humanity against the good X-Men. Uprisings are occurring by mutants against the authorities who are rounding up any new mutants they can find. The opening sequence shows us a new mutant (Magma) revealing her hot flamey powers and the evil mutants try and muscle in and claim her. Wolverine then chases them off and the game begins.
It is here the problems begin as well. The 3D graphics are not detailed enough, either on the characters or the backgrounds. It is difficult to assess which walls can be broken and which items interacted it without simply stabbing the action/attack button everywhere. The top down viewpoint which sees you needing to move in diagonals to walk forward, coupled with the N-Gages fiddly buttons can make accurate walking and running harder than it needs to be.
Wolverine doesn’t stand up much in this game, does he?
You also control not one, but four mutants at a time. You directly control one member and the AI takes care of the other three. The idea is that you switch in whichever of the mutants has the best abilities or skills for the fight you are undertaking. In practice it means that the game play becomes a stop/start affair rather than the smooth scrolling combat it really wants to be. The pop up menu for switching menus, using items, healing members etc are also hard to control accurately as they unpop when you make a choice, but if that choice was the wrong one or a mis-press then you have to enter the menu again. This all acts to sap a lot of enjoyment from the game as you spend more time farting about with menus than you do actually smacking things up.
It is also a pity that the X-men in the game don’t look more remarkable or do more remarkable things. Shrunk down to N-Gage size they lack detail and the rather feeble graphics supplementing attacks like Cyclops’ beam or Jean Grey’s telekinesis add to the general slipshod nature of the game. Add in the fact the gameplay in the grown-up console version amounted to little more than pressing one button, zapping or slashing a few things, heal-up rinse and repeat until you get to the end of a level and fight a boss, and you have a recipe for mediocrity not solved in the down-sized version.
Wolverine’s not in this one.
You are given the opportunity to customise the characters you use the most with points you can assign to different attributes such as strike, agility, focus and body. The improved stats don’t really make enough of a difference to warrant choosing one character over another; they just add another layer of fiddly complexity to what is underneath a fairly simple game.
In fact X-Men Legends could have been much better if they had embraced that simplicity and had the courage to drop the 3D of the console version and gone fully 2D. A colourful 2D side scrolling X-Men beat ‘em up with big chunky sprites and screen filling over-the-top attacks would have been about a zillion times more enjoyable and truer to the characters’ comic book origins.
Oh dear, looks like Cyclops has broken superhuman wind.
As it stands, this is just another dreary, little game trying to cover up its essential simplicity with layers of needless and frustrating complexity. Fiddly and repetitive, it lacks any heart or soul and one is left with a lingering sense of disappointment that a better game tailored to the technical limitations of the host machine was not produced. Just another lazy port of an average game. Boo.