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X-Men: Mutant Academy (Game Boy Color) artwork

X-Men: Mutant Academy (Game Boy Color) review

"Button mashing will see you through every battle, even at the highest difficulty. There’s no real system of commands that demand mastering. Just back your enemy to the end of the screen and wail away. They’ll be caught in a trap of constant abuse in which they can scarcely land a hit, one in which escape is impossible save for jumping. But they’re often too stupid for that."

Fighting action games are supposed to entertain the player by presenting them with a unique challenge: master a wide range of techniques through a series of repetitive one-on-one battles, and do so with each of ten or so available characters. Learning these skills, and acquiring the knowledge to perform them effectively, takes time, practice and a lot of patience. But it’s also one of the only reasons the genre is fun.

X-Men: Mutant Academy is the epitome of boring

With a whopping selection of nine mutants, your whole purpose is to defeat all other X-Men, including your doppelganger. But doing so takes very little effort. Button mashing will see you through every battle, even at the highest difficulty. There’s no real system of commands that demand mastering. Just back your enemy to the end of the screen and wail away. They’ll be caught in a trap of constant abuse in which they can scarcely land a hit, one in which escape is impossible save for jumping. But they’re often too stupid for that.

There’s no real need to change your avatar, either. Most X-Men come in two varieties: those with long-ranged attacks and those without. But they all have something in common: performing their techniques – the few that they have – is easy. Because it’s the same for everybody. Whether summoning Storm’s lightning or blasting powerful bursts of energy from Cyclops’ eyes, the button press is the same. Throwing your enemy… the same. Unleashing a series of kicks or punches… the same. Even each warrior’s rage attack functions under the same mechanism as everyone else’s. So the only noticeable difference is an aesthetic one.

If you somehow find yourself in trouble, though, that rage might come in handy. Score enough hits and the bar at the bottom will gradually fill. Once topped off, you can execute a fierce attack that will severely damage your opponent. If it strikes. Every “finishing” technique can be avoided by crouching or blocking. Every one. And your adversary takes full advantage of this. You’ll marvel at your foe’s uncanny ability to thwart your attempts at ending the confrontation quickly. And you’ll give up on the move altogether when you discover the precision essential to pulling it off. All you have to do is press a few buttons simultaneously, but if you’re even slightly off with one, or if you’re in the middle of an attack, the technique won’t execute. You’ll smash the necessary buttons multiple times, but the ability still fails. Frustrated, you realize that all this effort is causing far too much damage to your character. Throwing in the possibility of it actually succeeding, you see that bothering at all is quite pointless.

To try and prolong Mutant Academy’s stagnant life, the developers decided to toss in a pair of unlockable characters. But in order to receive the required passwords, you have to play through story mode on the highest two difficulties. Here you’ll learn one vitally important fact:

Magneto is the cheapest regular in the game.

With him, you’ll be indestructible. Against him, and you’ll have to fight for your life (for a change). As one of about two mutants who actually have skills outside the norm, he has an enormous advantage in battle. His kick effectively knocks any combatant off his feet. His throws are more numerous than many of his fellows. And, most importantly, he can fire his magnetic energy pulses through the ground. The tactic merely involves crouching and firing your ranged attack at the ground. Doing so causes the bursts to travel vertically a few inches in front of your avatar. Anyone caught in them will be damaged and hurled to the floor, and blocking them is difficult. It’s the easiest trick out there. Fortunately for you, your double never uses it.

But that’s no reason to underestimate your opposition. Enemy Magneto may not use everything available to him, but he can still kick your ass. He’s not only more durable than most other X-Men, but he also does significantly more damage. Factoring in his remarkable talent for sending you soaring, you’ll have to behave rather dishonorably to beat him.

Perhaps to add to the nonexistent challenge, there is one stipulation that might lessen the dullness: you must defeat everybody without losing a match. If you fail, you must start over from the beginning. Yep. You’ll have to suffer through every monotonous battle again. And you’ll only be frustrated with yourself for succumbing to such mediocrity. So the one feature built in to actually contest you actually becomes a catalyst for annoyance when juxtaposed with overwhelmingly mundane combat.

If you absolutely insist on playing, however, there are a few things you can do to test yourself. You can set the number of rounds to just one, so that you absolutely must win the first time in order to progress. You can also play on survival mode, which pits you against unusually formidable foes while limiting your recovery at the end of each clash to a minimal amount of health. Or you can try finding another sucker to multi with so you can determine who’s the better cheat.

Playing with another person is about the only other interesting aspect about fighting action titles, but even that’s flawed here. If only because anyone who bought this game no longer has it. Perhaps they sold it on e-Bay after becoming bored within an hour of play. With no real challenge, a noticeably absent combo system, and inane, simplistic tactics, who wouldn’t?

wolfqueen001's avatar
Community review by wolfqueen001 (July 12, 2008)

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EmP posted January 15, 2011:

I’ve little to complain about on this review. It’s well written, shows an understanding of the genre and clearly explains why this game falls flat.

The game sounds awful’ especially considering a loss sends you right back to gamestart. Good review.
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wolfqueen001 posted January 15, 2011:

Thanks! =D

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