Based on the second series of the cartoon, Avatar: The Burning Earth picks up right where the first game left off in following Aang in his quest to master the elements in order to unite the world in peace once more. That's the story in a nutshell, anyhow; we readily admit to not having ever seen the show on which it's based, so there were all sorts of weird goings on that went blowing right over our heads. Fans are sure to appreciate the story more. We hope. Some parts really didn't seem to make any sense...
What we have here is a fairly basic action game in which you take control of Aang, along with his merry band of chums, and battle your way through hordes of enemies, jump around a bit and solve simplistic puzzles. Two characters are with you at all times and you can either switch between them at a click of a button (necessary so that you can solve problems that can only be dealt with by certain characters), or you can have a friend play co-operatively with you to replace the AI character helping you out. Co-op is set up so that players can hop in and hop out at ease, so if one players gets bored they can quit and let the other person continue in single player mode without interruption.
The graphics aren't half bad. It's nothing to make you gasp, but it looks like a Playstation 2 title that's had some effort put into it. The style is quite nice and we particularly liked the smoke effects. It's a shame that Aang looks disturbingly baby-like, however, and it's similarly disappointing to see a mixed bag of quality for the cutscenes. The mouths move with the speech in some but not in others, which is a huge lack of consistency. We suspect half of them are done in video sequences, the other half in-engine, but to be honest they look about the same anyway. The sound is inoffensive and unmemorable for the most part, but the voice acting is reasonable.
Thankfully, you don't have to go waggling your wand whenever you want to attack enemies. Instead, you used the B button to swipe your staff, but there is still a fair amount of motion control involved. All ranged attacks are activated with a flick of the remote; a standard ranged attack by a quick motion, a charged one by lifting the remote at an angle, holding it to power up and then slamming down to unleash your attack. While the motions work without a hitch and integrate quite well, we do have some issues. Number one, it can be difficult to see exactly where you're aiming, leading to the attacks going wide more often than they should. Number two, the upward tilt for charged attacks is far too sensitive and thus activated too readily. If you so much as move the Wii remote few degrees upwards completely unintentionally as you're playing, your character will freeze to the spot and begin to charge up an attack that you don't want to use, leaving you open to a few smacks around the noggin. The sensitivity of the remote is impressive, but it could have done with being turned down a notch or three.
The game is overwhelmingly simple. Literally all you do is what we said earlier; you jump around a little and solve incredibly basic 'puzzles', such as hitting a bridge to knock it down to allow you to cross, blowing into pipes with your wind powers to raise platforms, or pushing blocks around to allow you to get to higher ground. The bulk of the game is the battling, however, which isn't the most varied system ever but does the job. As you fight you gain points that cumulate to allow you to activate a special move that rips loads of health from enemies, and of course there are a fair few things to collect like health upgrades. At the end of each level there are boss battles that inexplicably spike the difficulty level in comparison to the rest of the game. It's all very standard-fare that's been done for years. Being able to switch characters on the fly makes things a bit more interesting, and we liked the 'focus power' sections. In these parts, you have to stand on spot with specific characters to solve problems using your powers, such as creating an ice bridge to cross a gap between buildings, or using water to extinguish burning buildings.
Avatar: The Burning Earth is clearly aimed at children with its simplistic gameplay, and for that purpose it does well the aspects asked of it.