Code Lyoko: Quest for Infinity Review
The PS2 is still going strong, but it’s not due to the teen-oriented titles based on Japanese anime. Or in this case, French animation. Code Lyoko: Quest for Infinity is yet another in a long line of futuristic cartoons designed to appeal to a certain age group, and while Neko Entertainment wanted to embrace a few good ideas, they fell far short in execution. We perfectly understand that budgets for such games aren’t very high, but if you can’t make something better than this, there’s little point to entering the production phase. The action/adventure genre is the largest and therefore the most extraordinarily competitive category in the industry, and Code Lyoko isn’t able to compete with any solid PS2 action/adventure game that already sits on store shelves for a budget price. It’s too bad. As we just said, the theory and concept is sound and could’ve made for a highly entertaining and even unique experience. But with several crippling drawbacks, the final result is ultimately disappointing.
The graphics aren’t atrocious, but they’re certainly not much better than mediocre. There is a stark contrast between the cut-scenes and the gameplay, as the former’s presentation is actually quite good for a last-gen title, but the latter is almost entirely bland and boring. Fans of the television show will appreciate the level of detail in those relatively well-designed cut-scenes, which is a definite bonus. However, as you do spend the vast majority of your time playing (usually a good thing, but not this time), you will notice a lot of…well, nothing. We understand we’re running about a virtual landscape – yes, it’s a virtual reality world within the world of the game itself – but this is the best they could do? A bunch of colored blocks and generic enemies and puzzles? Despite traveling to a variety of different locales, the only difference revolves around the color of those blocks; sometimes they’re brown, sometimes they’re blue. There are some cool bosses, but that’s about it. It’s just not an appetizing combination, here.
The sound is slightly better thanks to a few decent voice actors, but even that’s hit-or-miss. There are many voiceovers for the different characters, and they can range from downright irritating to pleasant and authentic. The sound effects and soundtrack gel nicely with the backdrops, which means just about everything is bland and uninspired. The music is almost entirely forgettable right from the start, and as far as we can tell, it doesn’t even kick up a notch when things turn perilous. The effects should’ve ranged widely due to the character-specific movement and attack options – Ulrich’s sword, Odd’s plasma blaster, etc. – but they certainly didn’t stand out. Above all else, though, we had really hoped for a better soundtrack; given this futuristic world full of computerized wonders, we just figured we’d have a kickin’ set of tracks. Instead, Neko doesn’t even come close, and only certain voice actors and relatively consistent yet unimpressive effects keep the score above average.
Before we get all critical, here’s the concept: for whatever reason, developers are utilizing a school or university setting for many action and RPG titles lately, and we don’t really have a problem with that. It’s getting overplayed, but that’s okay. Here, several distinctive students are involved in the apparent creation and protection of a virtual world called Lyoko, and they are charged with stopping a sinister computer virus of epic proportions. In fact, when you first begin, it seems that one of the students has been captured by the evil electronic presence (known as X.A.N.A.) and now, that student is an enemy. You must work to free him and eventually, free Lyoko from X.A.N.A.’s clutches; the virtual world you must conquer is loaded with different sectors and you’ll even need to pilot a ship through dangerous skies when moving from one sector to another. Each student involved has a specific skill that will help you navigate the tricky environments, and you’ll need to adopt a cooperative mentality to succeed.
There, now doesn’t that sound intriguing? It does, doesn’t it? Well, it would be if the developer had actually implemented the ideas correctly, but sadly, most of the gameplay mechanics are seriously flawed. While running around and jumping with any given character is relatively easy, as is locking on with long-range weapons, the entire package is bogged down by unresponsive controls and the lack of camera control. You can dodge and block with the Circle button, but deciding to map both the dodge and block to one button was a bad idea, and the difficulty when facing certain enemies spikes erratically. You might cruise through a certain level until the boss, which is surprisingly tough, and then the challenge falls right back down to the floor at the start of the next area. Furthermore, the game doesn’t pause when you go to switch characters with the R1 button, meaning you don’t really have time to think or strategize. Oh, and we can’t figure out why we always worked off a type of universal health system.
One might think that part of the game’s strategy would revolve around bringing in other characters when one fighter’s health begins to wane. Unfortunately, the health bar is the same for everyone; if you’re getting nailed with Odd, switching to Yumi, even if she hasn’t been used yet, will mean you still have the same amount of health. Why? What’s the point of that? Then you factor in the sometimes strange checkpoint system, which could leave you a good distance behind depending on the level, and you have a gameplay structure that just doesn’t work very well. We never figured out if there was any consequence after falling from a ledge (which can happen quite often), and the block and dodge system just got annoying. Now, as the camera is completely fixed, this causes all sorts of new problems when running around. You will often miss items and when involved in battle, it’s super easy to sprint directly off a previously invisible ledge. This made the adventuring more tedious than anything else, and that’s not a positive trait in any game.
The only real bright spot does center on the use of multiple characters to conquer the virtual obstacles a player faces, despite being forced to switch in real-time on the fly. At the very least, it adds some much-needed diversity to those very bland worlds, and the puzzles do get intricate enough to force you to switch between more than a few characters. And thankfully, there’s also a distinct difference between each character’s attack. On the surface, two characters may have a ranged weapon that appears similar, but Yumi’s fans aren’t the same as Odd’s phazer thingie. So again, there’s plenty of reason to experiment with the characters that are along for the ride, and there are enough of them to keep things relatively fresh. But this doesn’t erase the extremely mediocre control, the storyline that really doesn’t deliver at all, and the virtual backgrounds that are rarely appealing even in the slightest. There’s just so much that could’ve been done with this concept, and everything is so barebones, even fans of the show aren’t likely to be satisfied.
Code Lyoko: Quest for Infinity features a variety of interesting ideas, but none of them blossom into entertaining aspects. The game suffers from a decided lack of control, the fixed camera should’ve been completely reformatted, the environments are unappealing, the story isn’t worth following, and the gameplay as a whole falters big time. Some good voice acting and decent cut-scenes aren’t enough to save this one from obscurity, so don’t waste your time. There are plenty of other action/adventure titles for the PS2 – especially by now – that are more deserving of your money.
8/28/2008 Ben Dutka