James Cameron’s Avatar has been a huge box office smash, breaking records and delighting movie goers everywhere. With the release of the Avatar game for the iPhone, Gameloft brings us back to the world of Pandora for yet another adventure.
The storyline in Gameloft’s Avatar actually takes place twenty years before the events in the film. You play as Corporal Ryan Lorenz, the first person to use an Avatar. Similar to the plot in the film, Ryan soon finds himself siding with the Na’vi. In this lengthy adventure (7-8 hours from start to finish) you’ll be fighting all sorts of native beasts and even your fellow marines as your alliances shift toward your new blue buddies. You start out with a machine gun but eventually get to use a bow and arrow as well as a staff. The combat system is really quite simple with an auto aim feature and combos that can be executed by just quickly tapping the attack button. Much of the game plays like a 3D platformer with you jumping from ledge to ledge, sliding down huge tree branches and swinging from vines like an big blue Tarzan. Other chapters will have you riding bareback on horse-like mounts and flying through the skies on “mountain banshees.” There are 15 chapters to complete and it’s the variety of gameplay throughout these chapters that really stands out in Avatar.
The controls in Avatar consist of a virtual joystick and on screen buttons for actions. I found the controls to be a little less-than responsive at times but, for the most part, they got the job done pretty well. My biggest gripe had to do with the camera. Instead of allowing you to control the camera angle, the camera remains in a fixed position that automatically follows you from a third-person perspective. This led to more than a few deaths since I often couldn’t see the next platform or ledge I was supposed to be jumping to. Luckily, there are plenty of checkpoints throughout the game—so you can get right back into the action without having to replay too much of a chapter. Though it doesn’t break the game, the issues with the fixed camera were really annoying at times.
Graphically, Avatar is quite pleasing to the eye with lush landscapes that really draw you into the world of Pandora. The musical scores are nice and the ambient sounds of the forest definitely add to the game’s level of immersion.
Unlike many movie tie-ins, Avatar isn’t a half-hearted attempt to cash in on a movie’s success. There’s a lot of depth, a good story-line and plenty of different things to do on your adventure through Pandora. But like the movie that inspired the game, there are still areas that could use a little more polish.
[Tim Mercer is a frequent contributor to Macworld.]