Review: Ut-oh! My team contains Cyclops and Wolverine, two rivals with unpredictable attitudes. I smell sitcom!
X-Men Legends made a big impact on consoles last year, yet its teleportation to one of the smallest gaming systems, the N-Gage, results in an even bigger impact for many reasons. The first is that the portable makes the isometric perspective seem more natural. While some console regulars might have been turned-off by this foreign viewpoint, it's a perspective that many handheld games have embraced. The second reason is that X-Men Legends takes advantage of the N-Gage's multiplayer capabilities via Bluetooth, allowing four people to participate in the game. Sure, it's possible to plug in four controllers in the home console versions, but we've seen such multiplayer action before. For N-Gage owners, the wireless experience is finally taken to the max given the game's formula, which consists of four superheroes onscreen brawling simultaneously.
The story of X-Men Legends begins by introducing us to Alison Crestmere, a teenage mutant recruit that goes by the name Magma. She and other well-known members of the X-Men must complete various objectives and upgrade their powers to thwart the always-sinister plans of Magneto and The Brotherhood. Although the game is split into objectives and contains several RPG elements, it's still all about fast and furious gameplay. So like its console counterparts, X-Men Legends for N-Gage is labeled as an Action RPG. It gives players control of a squad of four X-Men that battle it out with enemies in real-time, but menu selection is also a part of the process. The mix of the two genres proves to be positive one, and although it's not quite as fast as other Action RPG games out there, it's definitely thrilling enough to meet and beat the gameplay standards of most N-Gage titles on the market.
In addition to a standard attack move performed by pressing the ?5' key, each X-Men character comes with a set of four unique special abilities. As you'd expect, this means that a character like Cyclops comes with an optic beam attack, while Wolverine corners the market on slashing moves. Pressing the ?4' key brings up a quick-access menu that freezes the action and allows players to set one of these moves without getting hacked to death in the process. The ?7' key then executes the selected move, so long as the character has enough energy.
The use of limited energy invokes a little bit of strategy into the game since special abilities should be saved for encounters with large groups of enemies. A little more strategy comes in the way of items that stun and suppress intense enemy attacks. It's the character upgrades, however, that provide the greatest amount of strategy, as players use RPG tactics to advance their mutant team while progressing through the game. As points are earned by means of experience, they can be applied to various attributes such as strength, speed, body and intelligence. Of course, if you're more like Wolverine, who likes to rip right in to things and ask questions later, it's possible to auto-assign these upgrades.
Besides taking care of your team's experience points, applying health and energy restoration items is also essential to winning. It's a shame that the game can't display all of their stats due to confined screen space because the only way to chart a team member's failing health to actually switch to that character. Other than that, though, computer-controlled teammates take care of themselves on the offensive front. This is because they use a good mix of special and standard attacks and it's usually enough to drive back the moderately difficult AI.
In the beginning, it's somewhat easier for computer-controlled teammates to target their foes because of the game's tricky collision detection. Sure, there are five training tutorials, but none really prepare you for the isometric angle, which causes it to be difficult to properly line up and execute moves on enemies. This is trying when special abilities are wasted, and while a more precise targeting system would've been appreciated, it's not so frustrating that it'll stop you from playing. Also, it doesn't mean the fewer the computer-controlled characters, the worse the game. It's quite the contrary, as the co-op mode in is one of the best multiplayer experiences on the N-Gage. The game remains relatively the same, but the overall experience is more fun with four comic book cronies instead of one. I only wish the same was done online through N-Gage Arena as it was done for the limited-range Bluetooth.