Code Lyoko (DS) Re-Evaluation

Originally submitted in Chronicles of Ciahlo

The Lyoko--game-thon begins with the simply named "Code Lyoko", a product released in late 2007 by little-known Game Factory, the same European publisher that will issue the other two Code Lyoko games. It is a game that takes no risk, and while there are flashes of good fun to be had, the game ultimately leaves a relatively mediocre impression.

As an adaptation from the French cartoon, a fable about a couple of kids digitizing into a virtual world to stop a computer program, the game sticks faithfully to the source material. Graphics are pulled straight out of the silver screen and onto the DS screen with respectable respects. While the real-life 2D portions really look like what you see in the show, it's the 3D bits in the virtual world known as Lyoko that look eye-catching, from the various mountain/forest/desert/ice sectors. The monsters, both made up or found in canon with the work, look the best, while character models are not far behind in terms of quality. From the sound department, the game really borrows a lot of the soundtrack from the show, so fans will recognize some if not all of the beats. Sadly there is no voice acting, as sparse use of minor grunts and gasps don't count.

The 3D Lyoko world is a sight to behold...

The game follows a very scripted formula. Usually there is a problem to be solved in the 2D/real life world. You guide a character from Point A to Point B, maybe picking important items along the way, then using those same items to save the day temporarily. The main protagonists then virtualize into Lyoko, and once again the formula is pretty straightforward; go through some platforming parts, arrive at a huge open field to start battle, rinse and repeat until you reach your destination. There are some variations to the journey. There puzzles to solve, some spots where the characters need to use context-sensitive abilities, a couple of boss fights, upgrades/fighting moves to purchase and even some levels where you ride a vehicle in Lyoko through a narrow track of land, but for 95% of the time you are following the aforementioned script.

There are some good moments in the game. Fighting is more of a case of using one specific move to defeat a certain enemy type. It doesn't resonate with the player, but combat can get players into a groove, killing wave after wave of enemies effortlessly. There are also moments when you're going at breakneck speed, like how Ulrich uses Super Sprint to traverse difficult obstacles or how a character floors a vehicle to reach maximum speed. I also like the parts when one character levitates through a grand chasm backed by a subtle and soothing sound effect. There are also great moments of platforming; the problem is that those moments are too few and far between.

Counterbalacing these flashes of goodness is the realization that this game is way too easy for its own good. Even when a character gets kicked out of Lyoko by taking too much damage from monsters, the price to re-admit them to Lyoko (data points that are abundant in Lyoko) is incredibly cheap. The only legit way you lose is when one protagonist, Aelita, loses all her hit points, or when you fail a vehicle section. Even with those issues, there are numerous checkpoints and players have so many opportunities to complete the stage, despite the fact that enemies and bosses actually put up a good fight.

A grander issue from this game is in only following the story in a superficial level. I admit the presentation really seems like it's originating from the TV show, but the use of the show's plot is a different story. It does indeed follow the first two seasons of Code Lyoko, where the protagonist tries to free Aelita from Lyoko and shut down the computer program XANA for good, but that's where all the similarities end. The characters have the same amount of emotional punch to that of cardboard boxes; from the dialogue you don't really get the vibe that two characters are both fighting and romancing simultaneously, for instance. You also don't really know what's going on in the real world and in the lives of these main characters. I'm not trying to say that the show has great story, though the story unfolds well, but the game could do a lot better when it comes to establishing who the characters are, their likes and dislikes, and other bits of information to allow players to warm to the protagonists. Should this happen, people would care more about the plot itself.

...but you soon find that the adaption of the source material only goes skin-deep

In the end, Code Lyoko, the inaugural game on the DS, does little wrong but also little well. A lot of what you see in the game is of average quality especially when compared to other action games in the same DS port. The game also squanders a chance to craft an intriguing narrative, especially in the characterization department. Given that you can complete the game in under two days with very little replay value in return, and it's conclusive that this game is really suited for younger fans.

But of course, we're only in phase 1 of the Code Lyoko-thon. The game ends with the cliffhanger, when Aelita is free of the computer at the expense of XANA gaining more power, setting the stage for more conflicts ahead, as seen in the show. We'll see how the crusade against this malicious computer program progresses when I next review Code Lyoko: Quest for Infinity.

9 Comments
10 Comments
Posted by RayCarter

Originally submitted in Chronicles of Ciahlo

The Lyoko--game-thon begins with the simply named "Code Lyoko", a product released in late 2007 by little-known Game Factory, the same European publisher that will issue the other two Code Lyoko games. It is a game that takes no risk, and while there are flashes of good fun to be had, the game ultimately leaves a relatively mediocre impression.

As an adaptation from the French cartoon, a fable about a couple of kids digitizing into a virtual world to stop a computer program, the game sticks faithfully to the source material. Graphics are pulled straight out of the silver screen and onto the DS screen with respectable respects. While the real-life 2D portions really look like what you see in the show, it's the 3D bits in the virtual world known as Lyoko that look eye-catching, from the various mountain/forest/desert/ice sectors. The monsters, both made up or found in canon with the work, look the best, while character models are not far behind in terms of quality. From the sound department, the game really borrows a lot of the soundtrack from the show, so fans will recognize some if not all of the beats. Sadly there is no voice acting, as sparse use of minor grunts and gasps don't count.

The 3D Lyoko world is a sight to behold...

The game follows a very scripted formula. Usually there is a problem to be solved in the 2D/real life world. You guide a character from Point A to Point B, maybe picking important items along the way, then using those same items to save the day temporarily. The main protagonists then virtualize into Lyoko, and once again the formula is pretty straightforward; go through some platforming parts, arrive at a huge open field to start battle, rinse and repeat until you reach your destination. There are some variations to the journey. There puzzles to solve, some spots where the characters need to use context-sensitive abilities, a couple of boss fights, upgrades/fighting moves to purchase and even some levels where you ride a vehicle in Lyoko through a narrow track of land, but for 95% of the time you are following the aforementioned script.

There are some good moments in the game. Fighting is more of a case of using one specific move to defeat a certain enemy type. It doesn't resonate with the player, but combat can get players into a groove, killing wave after wave of enemies effortlessly. There are also moments when you're going at breakneck speed, like how Ulrich uses Super Sprint to traverse difficult obstacles or how a character floors a vehicle to reach maximum speed. I also like the parts when one character levitates through a grand chasm backed by a subtle and soothing sound effect. There are also great moments of platforming; the problem is that those moments are too few and far between.

Counterbalacing these flashes of goodness is the realization that this game is way too easy for its own good. Even when a character gets kicked out of Lyoko by taking too much damage from monsters, the price to re-admit them to Lyoko (data points that are abundant in Lyoko) is incredibly cheap. The only legit way you lose is when one protagonist, Aelita, loses all her hit points, or when you fail a vehicle section. Even with those issues, there are numerous checkpoints and players have so many opportunities to complete the stage, despite the fact that enemies and bosses actually put up a good fight.

A grander issue from this game is in only following the story in a superficial level. I admit the presentation really seems like it's originating from the TV show, but the use of the show's plot is a different story. It does indeed follow the first two seasons of Code Lyoko, where the protagonist tries to free Aelita from Lyoko and shut down the computer program XANA for good, but that's where all the similarities end. The characters have the same amount of emotional punch to that of cardboard boxes; from the dialogue you don't really get the vibe that two characters are both fighting and romancing simultaneously, for instance. You also don't really know what's going on in the real world and in the lives of these main characters. I'm not trying to say that the show has great story, though the story unfolds well, but the game could do a lot better when it comes to establishing who the characters are, their likes and dislikes, and other bits of information to allow players to warm to the protagonists. Should this happen, people would care more about the plot itself.

...but you soon find that the adaption of the source material only goes skin-deep

In the end, Code Lyoko, the inaugural game on the DS, does little wrong but also little well. A lot of what you see in the game is of average quality especially when compared to other action games in the same DS port. The game also squanders a chance to craft an intriguing narrative, especially in the characterization department. Given that you can complete the game in under two days with very little replay value in return, and it's conclusive that this game is really suited for younger fans.

But of course, we're only in phase 1 of the Code Lyoko-thon. The game ends with the cliffhanger, when Aelita is free of the computer at the expense of XANA gaining more power, setting the stage for more conflicts ahead, as seen in the show. We'll see how the crusade against this malicious computer program progresses when I next review Code Lyoko: Quest for Infinity.

Edited by DeF

shouldn't this be posted as a user-review?! ... or at least attach it to the game's forum.

Posted by Bollard

Nice blog, I really was into the TV show for quite some time when I was younger. Doesn't sound like an amazing *game* per se, but for some reason I still wanna try it now...

Posted by Contrarian

@Chavtheworld said:

Nice blog, I really was into the TV show for quite some time when I was younger. Doesn't sound like an amazing *game* per se, but for some reason I still wanna try it now...

I quite like the show myself, but the games always seemed "by the numbers" average to me. So I bypassed them.

Posted by RayCarter

I did write a review already, but I can only run 1 review or score at a time. So this is the next best thing. Moreover, it's cool to have some feedback from users such as yourself

A rental is probably the best option if you want to try it; you should be able to finish it or see what the game has to offer in 2 days

At least for this game, you're right on.

Posted by DeF

@RayCarter said:

I did write a review already, but I can only run 1 review or score at a time. So this is the next best thing. Moreover, it's cool to have some feedback from users such as yourself

wait so you're reviewing it twice basically? just curious :)

Posted by RayCarter

@DeF: I think that's a fair assessment, like a re-write. I am a much different reviewer today than when I am 2-3 years ago, so I wanted to make a better piece about the game. I felt like the first review, as much as I am proud of it, was like my other reviews: Way too clunky, average and by the numbers. I also have 2-3 years of hindsight and so I can look at it with a more objective, less personal eye. And from thinking about it I felt like I gave the game a bit too much credit, and should've docked more marks off because of its superficial adaptation to the source material.

I could've written it again, but I don't want to scrap the entire first review; i want it to keep it there, so the result is this companion piece.

BTW, thanks again for the feedback; I am really enjoying the correspondence between me and commenters like yourself : )

Posted by DeF

@RayCarter: okay that makes sense now. that's actually something I'd like the professional sites to do from time to time. some games who are maybe broken at launch but get significant patches later on (or something similar) could use a re-evaluation at a later date. feel free to erase my initial comment from your memory ;)

Posted by believer258

I used to watch this show a little bit. It was *almost* before I stopped watching cartoons altogether (I didn't watch anime for a long time, and still don't watch much). Did anyone else know that it was originally French?

I never even knew that games existed for it, though.

Posted by RayCarter

No offense taken. It is a legit concern

Yes, I knew beforehand that it was a french production. And yes there are three games published for the franchise. Which is why I am in a Code Lyoko-game-thon for the month of May.

Keep rolling in comments. This is great!