X-Men: Reign Of Apocalypse
Developer: Digital Eclipse Software | Publisher: Activision | Release Date: 2001 | Genre: Side Scrolling Beat ‘Em Up | Website: n/a | Purchase: Amazon
Side scrolling beat ’em up games were very popular in the 16-bit days as well as in the Arcades so it actually does not surprise me to see one popping up on the Gameboy Advance. The X-Men have already starred in a side scrolling beat ’em up or two, but I was curious to see how they would fare on the small screen. With Spiderman: Mysterio’s Menace showing what a comic license is capable of on the GBA I had high hopes for the X-Men.
After returning from the Mojoverse, four X-Men find themselves sucked into a parallel universe where Apocalypse reigns. With Professor Xavier’s mansion in ruins and former allies now hostile in this universe, the X-Men has to find a way back home. This is done of course by walking from left to right and beating the tar out of anything that moves. Four X-Men are available, Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm and Rogue but be careful whom you pick, as you will be stuck with them for all 12 of the game’s levels. If you have a friend with a GBA and a copy of the game, you can play together using the link cable feature.
You have a two attack buttons at your disposal, one for weak attacks, which is faster and can be chained into a combo or a strong attack, which is slower but does more damage. Pressing both buttons together delivers a multi-directional attack, which can clear some space around you. The “L” button actives a powerful special attack which drains your mutant power bar while the “R” button is used for jumping. The special attack is helpful against the bosses as it unleashes a barrage of attacks, but I found the jump button to less useful as most enemies will just swipe you out of the air. Speaking of enemies, you will be facing off against the usual generic robot enemies and masked freaks as well as sentinels. The bosses are a lot more impressive and you can expect to see The Blob, Magneto, Beast, Gambit, Nightcrawler and more. In this dimension even the former good guys are bad which explains why you will be battling some of the X-Men.
At the conclusion of each level, you are given two points with which you can upgrade your character’s strength, vitality or mutant powers. The game is not too hard and you can select a generous amount of continues from the options, but if you lose all your lives it is back to the start of the level. Fortunately, the levels are not too long either. The locations range from a ruined mansion to the wings of the Blackbird, Paris, an undersea base and even the moon. Each level has a time limit, but these are rather generous and while playing I never even came close to running out of time. The graphics are very colourful and some levels contain some nice background details. The enemies also look good but have very little animations. The X-Men themselves are animated rather nicely, although it does look like some of them were given more attention than others. There is no slowdown, but enemies attack in rather limited numbers so you will not be seeing many characters onscreen at once.
The controls felt a bit stiff and simply walking across the screen punching things can become a bit repetitive. Combat mostly involves hammering the A button until nothing around you is moving anymore and then continuing until you reach a boss. There are a few environmental traps like spikes and flames present on some levels, but these are easy to avoid. Enemies can be rather cheap with their attacks and often try to surround you, which make losing large chunks of health unavoidable. For the most part, you should not have too much trouble disposing of them. Some enemies have ranged projectiles that they shoot at you, but these are very easy to dodge.
While the music in the game is not too bad, the sound effects are rather repetitive. There is no speech and the dying screams of every single enemy in the game is exactly the same. There is some comic book style dialogue between the X-Men before each level but not much is done with the story and overall it is very cheesy.
As much as I wanted to like this game, it never rises above being average. For every good aspect there is something else that drags it back down again, which is a pity as this license really has the potential for some good games. While it is nice to see the genre making a comeback, hopefully future games will try to add a bit more depth to the formula.
*Review originally published December 2001.