One of things in my opinion that made the original Nintendo DS the gigantic success it turned out to be was the unique touch screen interface. Before the advent of the mobile smart phone gaming renaissance, it truly was a unique handheld gaming device for it’s time with its touch screen and button combination. When a game managed to tap into this play scheme, it manage to elevate itself above other games that would’ve perhaps been better off using buttons to avoid the gimmick. I bring this up because when I booted up X-Men: The Official Game on the DS, I didn’t expect it to be quite the unique experience it was, and that’s meant to be taken in a good way.
The DS version of X-Men: The Official Game follows a similar story to its cousin on the consoles: the X-Men are dealing with the looming threat of the sentinels, but moves the masterminds of the plot almost exclusively to the Silver Samurai and Lady Deathstrike. Deathstrike I thought was also handled better here than all the other versions of the game, as the game explains her resurrection from being pumped full of adamantium in her battle with Wolverine in X2 as a result of cybernetic enhancements, thus creating a motivation for hating Wolverine that’s more in line with her character in the comics.
The game is played from an overhead perspective and can best be described as a non-button mashing hack and slash action game. The same three characters from the console game (Wolverine, Iceman and Nightcrawler) are all playable here, but Nightcrawler is only used in timed levels where he’ll have to defeat so many enemies or diffuse a set number of bombs and never even meets up with his fellow X-Men. His “BAMF” powers only serve to slow down the clock a little here so he’s not the break out star like on the console, that would go to DS exclusive playable character Magneto.
Wolverine, Iceman and Magneto more or less all play together as a team, only to be broken up at certain points when the plot dictates, and can be swapped by tapping the “L” and “R” buttons to quickly change between them. Each mutant controls very similarly: you move with the d-pad (or might I add, quite nimbly on the 3DS circle pad which is what I played on) and you tap once on an enemy to lock your attack and you’ll keep attacking until you die. It sounds simple, but it’s quite effective however it makes Wolverine look pretty silly, as he’s more or less pulling a “I’m going to keep punching and if you get in the way it’s your own fault” animation.
The trio each have their own special ability that can be activated by tapping on them on screen, and this drains a mutant energy bar that can be filled up by collecting green items in the environments. I couldn’t tell you what Iceman’s is, as I don’t think the game explains it and I never used it, but Wolverine is used to heal the collective health bar (very useful) and Magneto can move metal obstructions out of the way.
It’s in using the three characters abilities together where the fun really comes through in The Official game. Iceman is the projectile character, and can reach aerial enemies that a melee character like Wolverine cannot. Where Iceman’s powers are, well, ice based, his powers cannot penetrate heat shields (enemies hued with a red aura). Magneto has no attack power unless there’s a projectile in the environment, but can unleash devastating damage when throwing mines, which he can also clear away if they’re obstructing forward progression.
Despite being overly simplistic in its controls, The Official Game on the DS can pose quite a challenge on occasion, especially in some of the boss encounters later on where the amount of projectiles on screen transform the game from a hack and slash to pure bullet hell. It’s in these situations, where your balancing twitch movement, attack and quickly healing with Wolverine that the game really shines. Your performance, measured by how quickly you can beat a level, how many enemies you take kill and icons you gather also determine if you get an upgrade to your health and mutant energy.
While I did enjoy my time with the DS version of The Official Game, the enjoyment comes with a caveat. The action can become repetitive as you’re more or less doing the same thing level after level. Some puzzles possibly using the mutant abilities would’ve helped to alleviate this as outside of throwing some blocks out of the way as Magneto, you won’t be using your thinking cap that much. As mentioned above the character of Nightcrawler is also criminally under used, making you wonder why they didn’t sub in the character for another member of the X-Men like Colossus. A power up system like the console game would’ve been much appreciated, or maybe even some additional costumes, for once you beat the game the only other replay modes are score attack, a survival mode and boss rush.
If you’re looking for an X-Men game to play on either the original DS or even the 3DS, your options are limited to just a few. If there was an abundance of games starring the mutants on the portable, I still wouldn’t look over X-Men: The Official Game. It’s by far a perfect game, but it’s interesting controls and diversive cast make up for some repetitive gameplay.