X-Men Legends II Rise of Apocalypse
Lots of action? Check! Solid RPG stuff? Check! Must buy? Absolutely!
Between the extremely dangerous bull fights and the salsa world championships (and I deny all reports that I partake in underground cock fighting), Senor Cha Cha is one busy guy. I'm so busy that I just don't have the time to play lots of console games, but that's why the PSP is such a marvelous machine. Since it's basically a mini PS2, developers can port those games onto Sony's hand held and I can check them out on the plane, boat, and hot air balloon, the most recent being Activision and Vicarious Vision's fantastic beat-em-up, X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse. Unlike the horrid Untold Legends, this game provides non stop action that's actually enjoyable, providing you like the X-Men, killing things, and/or quality products.
Just like in the console versions, this PSP edition features a plethora of popular characters from the Marvel series but with a unique twist. Since Apocalypse, who just so happens to be the most powerful mutant in the universe, is planning to transform Earth into my closet (AKA hell hole), the Brotherhood (made up of Magneto's crew) and the X-Men must work together to beat his ass. Thus, you'll get to play as more than 15 different characters, and much like in the original X-Men Legends, mix and match them together. So you can actually fight alongside Magneto or walk up to Sabertooth (as Wolverine) and get advice. Plus, characters will react differently to others depending on who they're talking to, so expect Sabertooth to give Wolverine/Cyclops/Storm a hard time as opposed to Toad or Magneto.
If you've played any of the X-Men Legends games you already know the drill, and if you haven't it's real easy. Rise of Apocalypse is a pretty straight forward brawler where you, along with three other mutants (that can be either AI or human controlled) travel to a host of exotic and fabulously detailed locales punching the crap out of anything that looks at your crooked. This includes, but is certainly not limited to, soldiers, bugs, and enemies from the X-Men mythos. There are also lots of things to destroy, so another fun part of the game is breaking boxes, pipes, and canisters and hoarding all of the goodies that are left behind. But there's more to this game than just mindless mashing. A strong, solid RPG component has been injected into the gameplay, and it allows characters to level up as well as learn new abilities. For your convenience, the developers allow you to make the computer take care of this stuff, but if you'd prefer, you can manually distribute points.
To sweeten the deal, you can switch characters on the fly, and at certain points during the game, sub out the old for the new. This also means you'll need to be aware of their health bars and other meters of importance. If an X-Men dies you won't automatically lose, but since the AI can put up quite a fight, it's better to always have a healthy four mutant team than not, especially since their unique abilities will come in handy if you need to put out fires (Storm) or create a make shift bridge (Magneto), among other things. However, just because you don't have one of the aforementioned characters in your party doesn't mean you won't be able to get past an obstacle. Magneto, for example, isn't the only one capable of forming bridges.
By and large, Activision and the developers involved did an excellent job cramming this game onto the UMD. It features the same cut scenes as the other version, is actually longer because of the nine exclusive levels, has tons of unlockable items to collect, and it even includes online multiplayer and ad hoc mode for up to four people. Plus, there are four additional characters, so for content alone, the PSP version of X-Men Legends II is actually superior to its console counterpart.
Unfortunately, there was a price to pay for this smorgasbord of content beginning with the visuals. Everything looks almost as good as the other version, but things are much blurrier and the colors get washed out. It's not a huge deal, yet it's bothersome enough that it strains my eyes after just fifteen to twenty minutes of play.
Then there's the loading. The PSP game just loves to load for every little thing, the most annoying being the inventory screens. That's actually the primary reason why I allow the computer to do all of the leveling up for me, because it sucks having to go from gameplay to options menu and back again.
Lastly, the frame rate stutter steps whenever the game is saved, and it's so bad that the first time it happened I thought it had crashed. Everything just deteriorates into this soup, and I can't tell if I'm getting attacked or not, but thankfully, it's not crippling enough that it costs me.
Much to my delight, Activision's PSP hot streak continues with X-Men Legends II. It's just a well developed and deep adventure game that does its genre as well as the legendary series justice. Some very small annoyances keep it from perfection, but that shouldn't stop you from experiencing one of the system's best games. A must buy for mutants of all shapes, sizes, colors, and creeds, Rise of Apocalypse is a fine addition to anyone's videogame library.
What's Hot: A pint-sized port of the great console game but with nine new missions and four extra characters.
What's Not: Way too much loading, and the frame rate takes a nose dive after the game is saved.