keskiviikko 13. elokuuta 2014

REVIEW - X2: Wolverine's Revenge | GBA | 2003

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: April 15, 2003
DEVELOPER(S): Vicarious Visions
PUBLISHER(S): Activision

A few weeks before the world premiere of X2, an accompanying video game was released on the three major consoles of the era, as well as the PC and Mac, entitled X2: Wolverine's Revenge. Once again, while this game seemed like official film merchandise with the X2 brand on it, and even Hugh Jackman on the cover, it was yet another comic book license that storywise had more to do with X-Men Origins: Wolverine - which was still six years away! - than the X2 film. The characters were modelled after their comic book counterparts, and Hugh Jackman didn't even lend his voice to his signature character, instead it was Mark Hamill who starred in the game. So, it's just another X-Men game, leeching the film makers' bankrolls. It was received fairly good, though. Oh, but to be completely precise, that's not the game on the plate here... what we have here is the Game Boy Advance game of the same name, released a day after the big boy. Which, against all expectations, got the best reviews. Shocked as I am to find it true, X2: Wolverine's Revenge is quite entertaining.


Outta the way, bub!
In 1968, a mutant calling himself Logan was used as a guinea pig for a secret government experiment conducted at an isolated location in Canada, codenamed Weapon X. He manages to escape the Weapon X facility, but won't leave before confronting the scientist in charge, who tells Logan that all Weapon X subjects are injected with a deadly virus that works as a failsafe, and kills a human subject within a year - its effects on a mutant are yet unknown. Over 30 years later, Logan has joined the X-Men and goes by the name of Wolverine. Beast examines his blood and tells him that the virus has bypassed his healing factor and will kill Logan within two days. Wolverine travels back to Edmonton to infiltrate the Weapon X facility, look for the one and only cure for his condition as well as clues to his vague past.

The X-Men game I'm most familiar with through time is, without question, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, released in 2009 on the tail of the movie (but which once again is only loosely based on it). Minutes into X2: Wolverine's Revenge on the Game Boy Advance, I could almost swear this was a portable conversion of THAT game. The plot is so similar, the level design is so similar - although progress is made in a mashed up order - and in this unrefined "version" of the game, you can't really tell whether they used the comic book version of Wolverine or Hugh Jackman's film version as reference for character design. Except for the splash screens and cutscenes which show the truth. Maybe being so familiar for the most part put off a good vibe right from the start, I don't know, but the truth is all the same; basically the worst thing about this game is its name. Despite some really frustrating moments from the very beginning, X2 is good, reasonably advanced handheld entertainment. Finally!

That's not Hugh Jackman.
The game looks good - no, let me rephrase that: it looks VERY good. Long before the introduction of the Nintendo DS, the camera zooms in and out smoothly depending on the situation, perhaps roughing up the pixels a bit, but fucking nothing explicitly up for the player. Character animation works, it's only the enemy design which could've used some more work, as well as the unintentional slowdown occurring whenever the camera zooms in the same time as Wolverine's in Rage mode. The music is quite good, obvious stock for any GBA action game from Shin'en Multimedia, but it works nonetheless.

Basically, the game plays out like any Wolverine game you might imagine, but good solutions to age-old problems reveal themselves right off the bat. Let's see now: I always had a beef with Wolverine's claws being confined to limited use. Well, in this game the use of the claws is basically unlimited, but if you go on a crazy Edward Scissorhands killing spree, Wolverine very quickly goes into his unstoppable Rage mode, and after he's done acting like a maniac, he cools off for a couple of seconds which leaves him completely prone to enemy attacks. Climbing walls is impossible while in Rage, and for the duration of the cool-off period, and as the entirety of the third level so irritatingly proves, climbing walls is very essential in this game, one of its most frustrating elements in fact. I'll return to it in a bit. Sheathing the claws enables Wolverine to sneak up on stationary enemies and knock 'em out with a single blow to the neck (Canadian death grip?) in a bit o' poor man's stealth action, and it also activates his healing factor - which brings into question, how closely are the plotlines between this game and the game on the big boys related? Not very. This here's a much simpler plot, which is even closer to the Origins game.

Wolverine vs. The Joker in Taco's Revenge!
The level design is fun for a change, (cue "although") ALTHOUGH the levels could be just a tiny bit shorter and we would still have a game of reasonable length at our hands. Permanent power-ups, such as dash and slide, are hidden across the levels; of course, you need these power-ups to be able to proceed, I don't really get why most of them are hidden like rare collectibles, behind frustratingly hard stretches of wankery usually related to the wall climb. Time to reveal the evils.

I said that the game had flaws from the beginning, so let's start from the beginning. There are these bridges in the first level that collapse immediately when you step on them, which means you need to dash over 'em. Now there's no problem in getting the dash power-up, it's right there in plain sight and Professor X even guides you to it if you're still having problems seeing it (which means you're blind, so sorry man, I guess your gaming days are over), but a huge problem occurs whenever you're beating down an enemy soldier in the vicinity. He might dive straight through the bridge and leave a permanent gap on it, which makes it impossible for you to cross it without risking a life. A similar splinter pops out in the next level where you're chasing Sabretooth. He makes gaps on the bridges as part of the scripted challenge, but you're in a huge hurry throughout this luckily short level. Just one second of hesitation is enough to lose track of that hairy bastard and cost you a life.

Now it's starting to look like the most recent
Wolverine flick.
Well, then the wall climb comes along and all sorts of trouble will hit you like a ton of bricks. Drones come from above without warning, hitting you on the head while you're on a wall - there's nothing you can do about 'em, and there's also nothing you can do about Wolverine letting go of the wall and falling straight down, in the worst case on a mat of spikes and dropping dead. Climbing up a straight wall is not difficult, but jumping to an adjacent one is much harder. Double that if there's an enemy on the top of that adjacent wall. One bullet is once again all it takes to send you all the way down to the start of that already frustrating vertical chute; it's like the game was designed not to have "checkpoints" along the way of those, or "checkblocks" which you could fall onto, not having to start the whole thing over. What's most annoying about the wall climb is, non-surprisingly, the fact that you cannot climb without your claws. One of the boss fights at a surprisingly early stage practically requires you to punch the hell out of your opponent with your claws - which means you'll go into Rage, and once Rage ends, there's the cool-off period - and climb both sides of the field, in rapid succession. ...Well, at least there's some strategy involved. Not what I thought after the first couple of boss fights.

Overall, even with that annoying wall-climbing madness convincing me otherwise, plus a few miscellaneous, accursed flaws, X2: Wolverine's Revenge is honestly one of the most entertaining and even innovative games I've played during the whole Marvel marathon thus far, and will very likely turn out the best X-Men game out of 'em all, as surprising as it is.

+ Wolverine's exceptionally fun to play as for a change
+ Good story, though simplified from the one of the console version
+ Good graphics
+ Notably better level design than in most licensed handhelds (and Marvel games in general)

- The wall-climbing ability - and its importance
- Level-specific frustrations throughout the game
- The title; it's just an X-Men game, pure and simple

< 8.1 >

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