The last thing you’d expect to see from a kids’ cartoon spinoff series that already has several videogame incarnations under its belt is something new. But that’s what you get from Code Lyoko: Fall of XANA. This DS adventure has gone all-out on the game design, making for a more interesting Code Lyoko game than your average TV show spinoff.
The bulk of the game is a turn-based RPG model with the main cast of the show - Ulrich, Odd Della, Aelita, and Yumi - as your party. Combat takes place in Lyoko (the digital world) where the computer virus XANA and her minions lurk. Outside the digital world, Fall of XANA plays like a point-and-click adventure game - players move through the school grounds and tap the stylus on people to talk to or things to activate. This is the “story” part of the game where there’s a lot of talking and tons of plot exposition. The developers decided to factor that out of primary gameplay by separating it from the plot (what you do in the game), so you can choose to go get the details on what you’re doing - or just go on into Lyoko and do it.
The plot is pretty straightforward: one of your buddies gets kidnapped and XANA won’t let him go without a fight. Unlike other kids’ games that have no impact on the plot of the cartoon, Fall of XANA actually allows you to, well, make XANA fall. To that end, Ulrich and company have to throw down in Lyoko and this is where the game gets fun. Players customize their party by choosing a leader, allocating skill points and doling out items. Then they set out in 3D sprite form on a world map that’s designed like a maze and fraught with bad guys to encounter. These encounters aren’t random - but to get through the maze, you have to pick a few fights with XANA’s thugs.
Combat pits your party in a line against a line of enemies. Each of your four party members has actions that they can take - Attack, Object (items), Function (special moves), or Power (magic). Each action costs you time, so once you’ve chosen an action, that character becomes inactive until the action is complete. Meanwhile, your enemy is doing the same thing; so while it sounds like a rapid-tapping free-for-all, it’s a lot more strategic than that. Blow all your character actions on Functions and you could be sitting there for precious long seconds while the enemy trashes you with attacks. Worse, if you leader bites it in the battle, it’s an automatic loss, so it pays off to pay attention to who is doing what and how many heal items you have left. Every action you take increases the chances of activating Tension Mode - which is a stylus-savvy minigame, where the better you do, the more oomph an attack has.
The last thing we saw with our hands-on that we don’t see much of in DS games is a hearty versus multiplayer. Two friends with the game can go online and throw down in their own turn-based match to see whose party is more buff. Combined with the part where we don’t have to do a lot of RPG-reading (unless we absolutely want to) and the fact that we don’t have to know a butt-load of stuff about the series, and we’d say Fall of XANA has wide-range appeal beyond fans of the series.
Code Lyoko: Fall of XANA hits shelves in June. Even if the game flops by sheer virtue of association with a kids’ show, it’s worth keeping an eye on these developers - their gameplay has definitely got it going on.
Apr 7, 2008