Code Lyoko Review
It can be difficult to base a game around a television series. Developers have to decide if they want to use stories completely ripped from the series, pleasing fans but potentially leaving out those that may not watch the series and get the small intricacies that you will miss in the game. Or, you can totally rewrite parts of the story and come up with a whole new adventures – something that's positive for one group since they're not necessarily missing out on anything, but may annoy fans of the series if the characters don't do things the right way or act as they should.
Then you have the whole aspect of capturing the flavor of the show. Each cartoon or television series has something about it that makes it unique. Be it the animation style, witty dialogue between characters or awesome fight scenes, something makes the show stand out to fans. All of these things have to be taken into account when making a game based off of any form of popular media. Sadly, this normally leads to a subpar title – either the game doesn't feel like the show, the graphical style doesn't work well or there is another problem from a long list that plagues the game.
The most recent cartoon-based game I've picked up, Code Lyoko, manages to be like most video games based on television shows. It has some really fun elements, but slips up in a few key areas. The graphics are one area that were done exceptionally well – See, the television show, from what I've told (I've never gotten to watch any episodes) is actually a hybrid of 2D and 3D styles of animation – characters are 2D when they are in the “real” world and in 3D when in the “virtual” world. Well, the game manages to faithfully capture that with a surprisingly detailed main world (although it isn't very animated, it is pretty) – the school and classrooms you are in look really nice, as do the characters.
However, moving around this pretty main world presents the first problem with the game – while you have a map that tells you exactly where you need to go and looks pretty logical when showing you how to get there, you'll find that there are often issues with the map. The biggest one is that you'll go in what seems to be one direction but end up on a totally unexpected part of the map. Also, another problem involves knowing exactly where the key points are on the map that will take you to the next area. Instead of being logically laid out, you'll have to run around the border of the screen to find the passages to another area. This game would have really done better had the main world view been tilted at a slight angle from above, making it easier to see the exits to a new area.
The main draw of the game and the TV show, though, is the 2D world to 3D world transition that the characters go through when “virtualizing”. The game actually handles that pretty well – you see what I assume to be a clip from the show then pick one of the characters in the virtual world. Each of them has a special power you can use at pre-determined points (which I actually like, no guessing as to which character you need) and fights in a different way. Take one character, Ulrich – he is exclusively a melee combatant and uses a katana. His special power allows him to run really fast – typically used to get across bridges that have flipping portions on them. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have Aelita. Aelita has no actual attacks save for a sort of energy burst from her shield. Essentially, she is purely defensive. You can switch between any of these characters at scattered points throughout the level and you'll need to – some characters are better at certain things than others.
You'll also have to switch before you get to the end of these entirely too linear levels. Aelita is the only character that can take down the tower at the end of any given level. This is a pretty simple task, really – you walk up to the tower and get a cutscene on the top DS screen, then you have a puzzle on the bottom. I actually found these puzzles pretty enjoyable, and they progressed in difficulty as the game went on. It seems simple at first – you fit various shaped blocks into a bigger block. However, only one combination of shapes placed in just the right area will complete the level. You aren't penalized for not getting it right, though, and can move the shapes around as you wish. What I liked most about it was that it got you thinking (if you didn't just randomly throw shapes in) and would be a great challenge for children playing the game.
These 3D areas have one major problem, though, and that's a camera that you have no control over. See, as you move around the map, the camera will follow the landscape to a degree. While this often doesn't lead to any sort of problem, there are times when it does. Take one fight I had – the camera was pointing upwards at a 45 degree angle and I could barely make out the enemies on the screen, much less shoot at them. The camera is also pretty unfriendly if you have to backtrack. See, it doesn't rotate around or anything, so you have to go at it using only your map on the bottom screen. While this is pretty doable, it can be hard if you had to run past a narrow ledge or some such to get to where you were.
Overall, Code Lyoko is one of the better cartoon-based games I've played lately. The world is very good looking and feels like it fits the cartoon it is based on well. While the story wasn't superb or anything, it does present something that fans of the series it can relate to. The only real problems with the game involve a pretty bad map system in the 2D world and a bad camera in the 3D world. Otherwise, the game is enjoyable and, despite these flaws, I'd still recommend you pick it up for your kid if they've seen the show. Heck, you might even get a kick out of the game too.