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

By Shane Jury 30.01.2010

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

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

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 5 out of 10


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.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

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

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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