The movie version of The Last Airbender (which is now playing in cinemas across the country) appears to have split everyone who has seen it right down the middle. Many film critics didn’t think much of the film (which is based on the very popular American cartoon) but many of the hardcore fans of the franchise have piped up to jump to its defence. For every person that hates the film, there is at least one other person who loves it, and at the very least you have to admit that it has done a pretty good job of pleasing some of the really devoted fans.
But regardless of whether you are a fan of the film or not (and even if you’ve never heard of the cartoon that it is based on) the videogame version – which is available now for the Nintendo Wii – makes for an extremely entertaining adventure indeed. The game allows you to take control of three different characters who are all blessed with three different sets of ‘bending’ powers, and using these magical attacks against your enemies never becomes stale or boring.
You are able to do all sorts of different attack combos regardless of which character you are playing as, and these make very good use of the motion controls on the Wii. Some of them ask you to whip the remote upwards before slashing across the screen horizontally, and these moves are all very satisfying to pull off. Although the game contains plenty of ‘fantasy violence’ the overall tone of the game is never aggressive and it is perfect fodder for over 10’s and young teenagers especially.
There is quite a bit of variety in the gameplay as well. Each character has a special move that can assist in solving puzzles, and Zuko (for example) can trigger a ‘firebomb’ attack that can clear blocked entrances and even help you to discover some secret paths through some levels. There are also some first-person sequences included, in which you use the Wii remote as a light gun, to zap enemies as they appear onscreen, and these make up some of the most enjoyable parts of the game.
The game looks pretty good for a Wii title too, and the developers have had to be very clever in some areas. The opening cut-scene movie is a beautifully animated piece of work that comes in the form of an ageing tapestry, and it perfectly explains the backstory of the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. If the game had’ve been made for the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3, you get the feeling that they would have just inserted a few movie clips instead, which would not have been anywhere near as interesting to watch.
Needless to say, kids who are smitten with the movie (and the animated serial that inspired it) will be equally smitten with the game, which is fast-paced, exciting and very cleverly designed. Like last month’s excellent Toy Story 3 game, there appears to be no reason to be afraid of movie tie-in games any longer. Based on the evidence of these two, that particular videogame genre is currently in very rude health.