James Cameron's Avatar: The Game
In a surprise twist, iPhone Avatar beats not only the DS/PSP versions, but also Xbox 360/PS3.
You may have seen other games based on James Cameron's sci-fi blockbuster, Avatar, for DS and PSP. However, if you want the version that complements the movie best, head right to the App Store and download this bad boy. Avatar: The Game for the iPhone/iPod Touch not only hits the film's adventurous tone, but it's also one of the better movie-licensed games we've played.
Instead of following the movie's storyline, the game takes place several years prior. You control Ryan Lorenz, one of the test subjects for the military's Na'vi adaptation program. They convert you into an alien to find "unobtainium" on the planet Pandora, taking it by force if necessary. At first you don't mind, but as you learn more about the Na'vi, you see that they're the underdogs in this fight, and choose to take their side.
Avatar on the iPhone/iPod Touch succeeds where others fail because the gameplay's enjoyable, whether you're on-foot, exploring the Na'vi village mission hub (where several hours' worth of side tasks are available) or riding around on a horse creature or a butterfly/dragonfly-like beast. You use an on-screen control set-up, with a virtual d-pad and a pair of action buttons, and everything clicks.
It's good, but far from perfect. First, there are times when the camera and controls work against you. It's annoying when it happens, not seeing your character behind something or missing a ledge you swore was within reach. Fortunately, this seldom happens, so it's not a big deal. Then there's the basic combat, where you repeatedly beat up enemies. Gameloft tried to spice this up with a combo system, but it's just there for show. There's nothing stronger than punch-punch-punching your way to victory. Finally, you can't go back into a stage you completed. You have to start from scratch.
One bright spot you'll notice right off the bat are the impressive visuals, as Gameloft recreated the film's atmosphere. The jungle environments look good, and when you take to the skies, they're even better, as you swoop by mountains and across riverbanks. The frame rate stays smooth and steady throughout, and the Na'vi animations are impressive. Just make sure you've updated to the latest iPhone/iPod Touch firmware to get the most of it.
Likewise, the audio is excellent. The in-game music works well, matching the adventurous tone of what happens on-screen. The narration is good, as a helpful voice guides you through each mission.
Ten bucks is a huge asking price for an iPhone/iPod Touch game, especially considering the cheaper stuff. However, if you're a fan of the film, Avatar: The Game is the next app you should download. Gameloft pulled out all the stops to match the look and feel of James Cameron's film, and the result is one of 2009's best mobile games.
What's Hot: One of the iPhone's best looking games, gameplay consists of shooting, platforming and animal riding, takes a few hours to get through, lots to do in the Na'vi village.
What's Not: Hand-to-hand combat is a little too straightforward, small platforming and camera issues, costs $9.99