Code Lyoko (DS) review
"Code Lyoko is the game adaptation of of a French children's cartoon. The back of the box outlines the game's sales gimmick in one succinct, entirely capitalized phrase. "4 UNIQUE WAYS TO PLAY!""
Code Lyoko is the game adaptation of of a French children's cartoon. The back of the box outlines the game's sales gimmick in one succinct, entirely capitalized phrase. "4 UNIQUE WAYS TO PLAY!"
Ok, so it's a little misleading. There are four ways to play, but you don't get to pick which one you're doing at any time. And two of the four are minigames that don't ever last very long. Other than that, though, the claim's a solid one.
Anyway, load up the game, and the first place you'll be is in the real world, Code Lyoko's very own point-and click adventure.
Given the platform's unique hardware, a point-and-click game goes with the DS like chocolate goes with strawberries. Mechanically, the point and click interface works exactly like you'd expect it to. Tap the ground and your character walks there. The action icon at the top right of the screen changes based on the context of the situation. Need to open a door? Click the button. Need to talk to someone? Pick something up? The button has your back. The interface is very functional. There's only one problem.
It has no soul.
In general, what makes or breaks point-and-click games is the atmosphere, and the way they're written. NPCs appear on the map as you walk around, but you can't talk to them. There's no witty dialogue and not a quirky character to be found. What's more, the map is relatively small, and exploring it gets you nothing. The places you go are empty and dead, and the handful of people you can talk to (almost always quest NPCs) offer only pointed directions on what you need to do next, with minimal personality.
Even better, the point-and-click segments are needlessly drawn out, often forcing you to backtrack through the same dead zones three or four times before completing the chapter's final objective.
So then, what awaits the gamer that makes it through the point-and click segments? A completely different game, that's what. Code Lyoko frequently drops you matrix-style into the world of Lyoko.
Unlike the 'real' world's hand-drawn sprites and still backgrounds, Lyoko is done in full 3d. I guess nothing says "Virtual World" quite like graphics that are slightly more realistic than those in the real one. Unlike the 'real' world, Lyoko's all about hack and slash action. Just like the 'real' world, Lyoko is lifeless, empty, and half finished.
For the most part, the same characters are present in both worlds, but whereas they simply serve as an on-screen avatar in the real world, in Lyoko, Ulrich, Yumi, and Odd (yes, his name is Odd) are all different in combat. In addition, they each possess a unique ability to help you navigate Lyoko's bizarre floating landscapes. Odd can climb, for example, and Yumi can lift large objects with her mind. Unfortunately, it's a mechanic that doesn't come up very often, and the very obvious puzzle segments that could result don't really happen.
Instead, navigating Lyoko consists mostly of fighting the same handful of monsters every few steps. You can't progress past them, because they control 'firewalls' (remember, Lyoko exists inside a computer) that block your path until defeated. So defeat them you must, generally by standing in one place and tapping one button repeatedly until they all die. That's right, any character with a ranged weapon can win basically any fight without even moving. Melee characters might have to move a little. The other two attack buttons rarely even see use, and the shield button would be handy, except most enemies miss you most of the time, even if you're standing still.
And what of the other two play styles? Well, the first is the hacking minigame. It basically consists of fitting tetris pieces into an empty space, so that the whole space is filled. There's nothing wrong with it, it works flawlessly, but any given outing lasts maybe fifteen seconds. It barely even qualifies as a diversion from the rest of the gameplay. Finally, there's a racing minigame. In the end, it takes up about as much time as the hacking one. Each session is longer, but it rarely ever shows up, and when it does, it's just like every other controlled section of the game. It lacks polish.
Lyoko's is ultimately done in by its "4 UNIQUE WAYS TO PLAY". In the end, if the team wasn't split in an attempt to make several games with one game's budget, they probably could have made a competent brawler, or a good point-and-click, either of which could have stood on their own. Instead we got two half-games that can't even stand together. The smattering of minigames help a little, even if they only direct your frustration elsewhere, but it's really a chasing after the wind at that point.
Freelance review by Josh Higley (June 20, 2007)
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