By RayCarter 15 Comments
Update: With the realization that no one was following my work for the past month, I am writing about a show that not too many people watch. If you have to know, it's about 5 kids fighting a malevolent computer program. by digitizing into a virtual world. For more, information, here's a blogpost I wrote earlier to hash out more details.
Code Lyoko: Get Ready to Virtualize (DS)
Code Lyoko: Quest For Infinity (PSP)
Code Lyoko: Fall of XANA (DS, incomplete*)
Here's the lowdown and general trend I found when embarking on the Code Lyoko-thon: The gameplay is simplistic and the games only partially take advantage of the source material. All in all this happy trilogy is not entirely a train wreck, but is not worth writing home about either.
I'll start with the positives from the series. Neko and DC Studios, the companies responsible for creating the games (DC for the first one, Neko for the last two) have clearly watched the show and studied it somewhat. The result is a very strong presentation that both looks great but also retains a Code Lyoko art-style. Whether you are talking about the 2D sprites or the 3D CGI on Lyoko, fans would feel like they are watching and interacting with the show on their platforms. Just as importantly, the music is recreated into the games to good effect. The instrumental Noam Kamiel's A World Without Danger is certainly a highlight, but the subtler scores like the XANA theme and the electronic beats in Lyoko scenes are also great to hear. Finally, when there was voice acting (Quest For Infinity), the voices are dead on. I personally don't know if the voice actors in that game are the ones on the show, but QFI could've really fooled me into thinking that it was the same guys from the show. About the only game that failed in that department is the last game, Fall of XANA, since it used a surreal 2D setting for the main portion of the game. However, the other bits, like exploring Kadic and the actual battle scenes, have faithfully rendered 2D and 3D graphics.
Unfortunately, that's the only definitive strength of the game. Everything else I'll look at is either mixed or outright terrible, like the gameplay. It's safe to say that all three games incorporate the bare basics of their respective genres. First the first game and Quest For Infinity, it's a three headed monster of platforming, action and racing, the first two the most emphasized. Fall of XANA has a very bare-bones RPG skeleton. The amount of fun I've had with these games certainly fluctuate, depending on the product, but I found myself to enjoy Quest For Infinity the most because the platform and boss sequences are the best in the trilogy (even though that is kind of expected, given how QFI is on the PSP, PS2 and Wii compared to the DS). The first Code Lyoko game was certainly a step down from QFI, but the combat was fast enough and avoids absolute simplicity. Their racing levels, while not complicated, actual gives players a sense of speed, making that part the best racing portion of the entire trilogy. Fall of XANA, however, has little redeeming quality, since unlike the other two games, players have to slough through boring, I hit you and you hit me battles that has almost zero strategy for double digit hours, assuming that players won't get lost because of a lack of a map or guidance.
There's a reason why my evaluation of Fall of XANA is considered incomplete, dear reader(s).
What is probably even more egregious and unforgivable, however, is an abject ignorance of the story and its characters. Let me say this: Code Lyoko's narrative depth and character development aren't the best, but it is good enough to carry the show from decidedly average action schlock to slightly above it. Its commentary on kids balancing hero work and normal life is neither entirely original nor well crafted, but viewers can relate to their problems and struggles. The romance between Yumi and Ulrich is not phenomenal and has some strange consistency issues, but again the up and down relationship draws people in and make them. In short, viewers see their protagonists not just as defenders of Lyoko, but everyday, vulnerable human beings who have a great responsibility to uphold, and so viewers stay and remain intrigued, rather than turn bored.
The games, however, do none of that. They make the main cast to be what I've described: Bland heroes who you don't know about and don't entirely care about anyhow. The best game that takes advantage of the narrative depth is the first game, but that's not saying much. Sadly QFI cannot break the blandness with its pretty good voice acting, and Fall of XANA has no voice acting or story, so the quality of the game suffered as a result. The reason why I think the inability to craft a good story despite the source material is more unforgivable than average gameplay is because the material to make the story great fell right into the laps of the developers. And they didn't even use one iota of it.
There might be more Code Lyoko games in the future, but as of right now I am unimpressed. The trilogy may have managed to carve the superficial look of the show, but not its spirit and depth. That, and middling gameplay at best, are the trilogy's biggest hurdles to overcome.
Game I recommend: Quest For Infinity
Game I would stay away from: Fall of XANA
Extra notes: First game has the best storyline
-RayCarter aka Ciahlo
This is originally posted on Chronicles of Ciahlo, my blog. It is a decision I made and is not a case of plagiarism.