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James Cameron's Avatar: The Game (Nintendo DS) Review

Review for James Cameron

Few could doubt that James Cameron has that magic touch when it comes to movie-making. His prime creation, Titanic, would be hard to top, given that it received multiple awards, ludicrously high recognition, and shattered many box office records - yet it looks like he has managed it with the CGI-heavy spectacular film Avatar. Why the movie lecture on a gaming website, you may ask? Well, the inevitable game tie-in rears its head to complement the flick. How does a visual-heavy production manage to represent itself on the graphically-weakest handheld in the gaming market?

Avatar on DS doesn't follow the plot of the movie; it takes place shortly before the war between humanity and the residents of alien world Pandora, the Na'vi, begins. You take control of Nok, a young Na'vi warrior chosen by the goddess Eywa to be her eyes of the people, as he takes up arms to repel hostile creatures and investigate the sudden appearance of the 'Sky People'. As the game progresses, you'll run into the first instance of a human-Na'vi Avatar switch in Molly, the daughter of the game's main antagonist Dr. Ossman. As those who have seen the movie will be able to attest, the plot in this game has relatively little bearing on the film's script. There are no recurring characters and only the world, species and mind-swapping concepts carrying over. As such, in regards to story and possible spoilers alone, Avatar DS is suitable for not only those wanting to see more of Pandora after the movie, but also those yet to see it. Whether you'll want to see where the game goes is another question.

The lush forest world of Pandora is portrayed in DS-specialised isometric 3D. The touch screen takes care of Nok's movement, weapon selection and attacks, and the top screen provides a handy map. Buttons are scarcely used here, so touching where you wish to move to is the basis for exploring the world, or what there is of it. Avatar's setting obviously limits it for locale variation, as all you ever really see is some kind of forest, whether you are exploring its darkest depths or man-made constructions within. Even bearing this in mind, the levels quickly become same-y and boring, owing in part to how they are layered. All too often, you'll have to leap across platforms of near-insufficient stature to find a keycard for a locked door, or jump onto moving stands to bypass walls that block your way. It's all standard fare in any movie-tie in you can care to name, but here, because of the trial and error jumps, it is ever more apparent.

Screenshot for James Cameron's Avatar: The Game on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Your main task, aside from getting to wherever is designated on the map, is to fight off the enemies in your way. Thankfully the combat fares better; the touch screen is used to activate your offense, with three staff-based attacks available. To add to your arsenal, five tools can be found over the course of the game to aid your progression over obstacles. A couple are fairly imaginative, such as the Prolemuris, a small native creature you can take control of, and the stone-shattering Maul item. Zelda veterans will get to grips with these items in no time, and they provide some welcome variation.

Eagle-eyed shoppers may spot the small disclaimer on the box that mentions the DSi Camera, and yes, this is one of the first DS retail games in the UK to make use of the third DS' abilities, albeit in a limited form. The extras become apparent when you visit a certain hut located at the entrance of each area. Inside you will find a Na'vi that lets you upgrade your health and abilities dependant on how many Lore Coins and how much Essence you have collected. If you're playing on a DSi, another Na'vi with a multicoloured bagpipes-like creature is also present. As you progress you can interact with this creature, and provided you take pictures - in the real world - of requested colours, it will unlock part of a song. Completing this song nets a visual and defence upgrade. Although not wholly original or exciting, the boosts make it worth going for. It is encouraging to see developers make use of DSi exclusive features, even in minor titles such as this.

There are many items to collect in Avatar DS. The Lore Coins, obtainable through combat of certain enemies or by searching the branches of special trees, unlock viewable info on Pandora and its inhabitants. Small blue particles of Essence act as currency, used to upgrade Nok and gain new abilities. These, in a nutshell, are what keep the game going after the last necessary swipe of Nok's staff, even though the main adventure is no slouch in the longevity department; it's just repetitive and holds few surprises.

Screenshot for James Cameron's Avatar: The Game on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review


Plays to the DS' strengths of basic 3D and touch navigation, but stuffs in the usual clichés of repetitive combat and platform-hopping. DSi Camera support is welcome, if ultimately unneeded.


Pandora is given respectable representation here, if far too limited in design and variation. You'll quickly grow tired of seeing yet another door with a keycard slot or switch nearby.


Forest sounds and bongo music, with a few foe shrieks here and there. No voice work, but text bubbles manage okay.


Usual collectathons extend an already timely package a fair bit, but all you have here is a single player offering that will last two playthroughs at best.

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 5 out of 10


About this score

A decent example of how DS games can be enhanced with DSi extras, even in the shape of a movie tie-in that barely elevates itself above usual offerings. Worth considering for young Avatar fans, and obsessed cinema-goers, but everyone else can safely leave this one for nature to envelop. Or the bargain bins, whichever works.

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C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (47 Votes)

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Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?

Thats a real shame as I quite enjoyed the demo on the Nintendo channel.
Came across as a bit of a zelda rip-off, but enjoyable.
Pitty it doesn't hold out.

Please give our little random review show a try;
We have special effects and umm...stuff...
darnell (guest) 30.01.2010 21:12#2

hey yall i need help finding pandora's air anyway to help meSmilieSmilie

Leemer101 (guest) 04.02.2010 00:52#3

I cant get out of part of end of the game. I beat the boss and it takes me back to before fighting him... cant go back much because door in blightground is closed.... Is this just happening to me????plz reply, kind of in a rush.

spike (guest) 12.02.2010 23:22#4

im at the last level killed the tiger once came back to life wheni went through the gates how do you kill it for good tried everything

JJJJ (guest) 18.02.2010 11:56#5

i would fly up

hometree (guest) 21.02.2010 05:32#6

how to you wake up the hamerhead ?

Mitani (guest) 07.03.2010 17:30#7

lol you dont wake it up, it stays resting till you call on it at the call points.

Im on the final level, collecting all the lore before i can beat the Thanator~ Need to upgrade health etc. Shame to know that the DSi offers further upgrades. I need to pilfer a friends.

I tried the thanator once... i got so close, damn things too fast for me xD only beat it once in a row before it slaughtered me.

And yes.. it is repetitive... but aren't most DS games after a while?

confuzed (guest) 07.04.2010 20:24#8

where r the lores?!

cheyenne (guest) 21.05.2010 04:45#9

ummm, with the tiger thing, after you kill it and comes back to life, shoot at it with the bow until it goes to the trees, keep shooting then when he comes out, lure to the middle and hurry call the hamerhead by hitting the thing with the club and he'll trample the tiger thing. after that im stuck. hope that helped

The Guy Who Knows (guest) 14.06.2010 00:23#10

Dodge the Thanator till it goes to the trees then shoot at it with the bow or sling and lure it to the middle then get the maul and call the hammer head and it'll be TRAMPLED!!!Smilie

Ana (guest) 28.06.2010 12:32#11

I can't get the very first door open in blightground, it opens for a little but by the time I get across the floating squares it is already closed. Help?!

bob (guest) 06.07.2010 22:34#12

is it a good game?

Sal (guest) 30.08.2010 23:56#13

I think the review is accurate. Good game, probably play at max twice.
Thenator End game. Lke everyone said, Use arrows until it runs into the trees. Have Hammerhead path in between you and Thenator, shoot arrows. Have Thenator down on Hammerhead path. Call him with the maullet(?).
Repeat 3 times and he's dead for good.
Watch end credits :-Smilie

john (guest) 28.09.2010 02:42#14

how fo you get all the lores

Maddi (guest) 01.10.2010 12:32#15

Im the kind of person who just likes relaxed games. Not really all that into action. But i love avatar and want more. Do u think i should try this game?

CAT (guest) 24.11.2010 05:58#16

I have shurched every where for all the lore's.SmilieCAN'T FIND THE LAST TWO!:-x

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