Disclaimer One: I am not an Avatar fan, know nothing about the series, or the film adaptation. I donâ€™t even like M. Night all that much. Although Signs was sort of cool...
Disclaimer Two: This is a game, so Disclaimer One shouldnâ€™t matter.
Available not only for the Wii, but for the DS also, THQ seem to be hedging bets with The Last Airbender. If it doesnâ€™t stick on the Wii, maybe the DS version will be okay; I am guessing at their thinking. Perhaps they should have made it for every other platform, too. Regardless, the Wii version will surely fall way short of the mark for gamers who want anything more than a bit of dodgy-looking action-adventure button-mashing.
Chapters in the game alternate between Aang; an Airbender and the Avatar of the TV series, and Zuko; member of the royal family of the Fire Nation. The story goes that the Avatar - the only one able to â€śbendâ€ť (wield) all four elements - was killed years earlier, plunging the world into war under a Fire Nation uprising. 100 years went by and the Avatar was not reborn. One day, rumour broke of a boy found trapped in a sphere of ice, and Zuko travelled with his Uncle to track him down, much to the consternation of Zukoâ€™s father; an influential war-leader in the Fire Nation.
In addition to Aang and Zuko, youâ€™ll also get a chance to play as the Blue Spirit; a stealthy, scary character who gets freaky with his swords. Spreading the gameplay across three unique characters and allowing you to play them at different points is actually pretty cool, but it really wouldnâ€™t matter how many others the developers packed in. Unfortunately.
Combat - the core of any action-adventure game - is a bit messy. Be it air or fire, you can do a basic bend by hitting Z. You can shoot fireballs as Zuko, or lift objects (and smash people/other objects) as Aang. Zukoâ€™s not real long on motion control, but thereâ€™s some creative use of it with Aang - throwing objects with the flick of a wrist, or dropping them thorugh weak areas of floor to drop into lower levels. Both characters have a Z+A+B move which will blast several enemies all clustering around you at once.
Basic attacks can be linked for max damage, with each fist or foot not looking anything like connecting with your opponent. This is one of the major problems, because there is nothing wrong with the battle mechanic itself (except for being too easy - any numbskull can smash the A button until prompted to flick the Remote for a finisher) but the inability to believe a real fight is going on is a major barrier. There are also some slow-mo effects thrown in, which only serve to draw attention to just how poorly put together the whole thing is.
Each character has a special attack unique to them, also. Zuko enters Shooting Gallery mode at certain points, in which he takes out enemies with fireballs, Time Crisis style. This is actually quite a fun element of the gameplay, and a natural fit for the Wii controls. Aang is able to slip into Avatar Mode, which is good for taking out loads of bad guys.
The environments, characters... yeah. Just about everything looks rubbish. I know itâ€™s the Wii, blah, blah, but I am losing count of how many times I have used that as an excuse. Not only that, I am losing count of how many times I have used that as an excuse and then called the graphics N64-like. Itâ€™s just poor; there are games that look good on the Wii. This isnâ€™t one of them.
The sound in The Last Airbender isnâ€™t so bad, although the voice acting is pretty weak. The enemies, especially, are laughable in their hammy evilness. The music is mostly unobtrusive and the sound effects are serviceable - you can see the fireball, and you can hear it too. But this seems a success only in that itâ€™s not a failure, if you feel me. Dawg.
The Last Airbender includes challenges, collectibles and other unlockables in each chapter, and allows you to unlock movie concepts which can be viewed in the gallery. You can access all of this stuff from Zukoâ€™s Desk - an interactive menu screen, with almost as much Wii Remote interactivity as the game itself. I tend to think of that completionist value being attached to gamers of older generations, and being that this game is better suited to kids and the inexperienced (i.e. those who donâ€™t expect a hell of a lot) I donâ€™t know that these tack-ons will add much in the way of value. Similarly, the multiplayer is a token surface scratch, in which you and your friend can go head to head in arena battles.
All in all, a very average sort of an action-adventure game. Referring to Disclaimer One, I may be missing something germane here; but... no. I donâ€™t think I am. I would actually caution Avatar fans to steer clear of this one. It might seem pretty no-brainer to say â€śfor Avatar fans only...â€ť but my fear would be that people who actually GAF might just be disappointed.
Disclaimer Three: I am from Wellington, where the air ought to be bendy enough for anyone.