This article was originally published at Aussie-Nintendo.com
Code Lyoko is based on a French cartoon of the same name which is produced in both CGI and traditional animation. It concerns the lives of a group of children (with extremely large foreheads) who live on a school campus constantly rocked with attacks by an inter-dimensional entity known as X.A.N.A. Any problems on campus are caused by X.A.N.A. Rodent infestation? That’s X.A.N.A’s fault. Power blackout? Yeah, that was X.A.N.A too. The only way the kids can stop him is to “virtualize” in the mysterious world of 3D, fight monsters and shutdown different towers (all of which have exactly the same off code). One can understand why X.A.N.A would start an invasion of Earth in France but it is harder to work out why he chooses the same boarding school over and over again. Anyway this is all in pursuit of a decent cartoon and merchandising; now on to the game.
If you’re a fan of the show then the first thing you will notice is how well it captures the cartoon. The game includes the theme song (thankfully without lyrics), video from the show, scenes from the boarding school detailed thoroughly and some accurate renditions of the 3D world. It also bases the fifteen chapters of the game around actual episodes. This is quite impressive considering the hardware and it is obvious early on that the game card has had a lot put into it.
The game features several different game modes all of which are joined together in an episodic format. The first is the 2D adventure world of the school campus and surrounding city. This involves point-and-click or d-pad movement around the school to collect things, talk to people and basically tell the story leading to a journey into the 3D world of Lyoko. Inside Lyoko are the three additional game-modes. One is some simple 2D puzzles where you match blocks to shut-down towers or force fields; the next involves racing in Lyoko and finally the main action sections where the most enjoyable gameplay occurs.
Most of the games fifteen chapters begin the campus sections of the game where you navigate Ulrich, Odd, Yumi, Aelita or Jeremy around the campus to talk, collect various items and to set the scene for the chapter’s conflict. The presentation is excellent and fans of the cartoon will no doubt feel like part of the cartoon. It even features the animated transitions for advertisements from the show. While it all looks great this is without a doubt the most boring part of the game. At first these sections are helpful for getting a feel for the game but after the second chapter they feel unnecessary. All that is required is to collect an item or go see someone around campus before heading to the kid’s hidden lab to visit Lyoko. The map is very confusing and no matter how well you know the campus, navigating is hard. The characters move very slowly and you are often forced to walk across the entire empty map to progress in the game. There is absolutely nothing to do outside of the quests and the few people around the map don’t interact with your character. While the music is good it gets old fast and the Code Lyoko title track is played way too much. The most annoying thing apart from the confusing map and slow pace is the way the character inexplicably moves fast if you are travelling up or down on the map; why couldn’t it all be like that? These sections almost always end in the scanner room where the kids head to Lyoko and scenes from the show are played showing their transfer.
The main section of the game is inside Lyoko. This section is all 3D with locations, enemies and objectives directly from the show. You play here as Ulrich, Odd, Yumi or Aelita. Jeremy is the stereotypical nerd character and therefore stays behind to work on the computers. The characters naturally have different strengths and weaknesses and their abilities can be enhanced through a limited though very welcome upgrade system. Ulrich has a sword and is the powerful short-range character with the ability to run fast at certain sections. Odd is the ranged character with a laser, grenades and he also has the ability to climb walls. Yumi has a mix of ranged and close-quarter weapons with fans and she can even lift rocks. Finally Aelita is the “mysterious girl” who must be used to shut down the towers and she can even fly on certain levels.
Except where the plot restricts it you can choose from all characters and they can be selected and upgraded at various blue spots that also save your progress. The levels typically require you to run through fighting bad guys and traversing various platforms with the character’s abilities. Combat usually takes place in a closed circle where you have to defeat a certain number of baddies before progressing. The bad guys quickly become tougher and before halfway through the game you will have seen most of what is on offer making the later part of the game monotonous. Some of the bad guys are downright cheap and most combat areas are best traversed by repeatedly slashing or lobbing grenades until nothing remains. This continues throughout the game and the combo system feels of little use and leaves little incentive to search for upgrades. If your character dies you merely start at the last blue spot and lose a short amount of the abundant blue tokens used for upgrades. At the end of almost every stage you take Aelita into a tower, solve a simple puzzle before seeing the same movie of her entering ‘Lyoko’ as the code and ending the level: again just like the cartoon.
The other two gameplay elements involve the puzzle sections featured throughout the game which require you to fit blocks into various shapes and the 3D racing sections. The racing sections feature very little and merely involve navigating your character (with no great hurry) on a hover board to the big blue goal. The puzzle sections are very simple and after completing the game you unlock more of them in the options menu.
Code Lyoko is a lot of fun at first and certainly intrigued me enough to warrant a rental of the cartoon. While the graphics, sound and overall presentation are all very good, the game falls flat through repetitive or just boring gameplay. It isn’t like this at first but quickly becomes this way through a sheer lack of variety and some really unnecessary sections that probably won’t even appeal to the fans they were no doubt included for. If you are a fan of the show you can safely add one or two points to the overall score and I encourage you to try the game. For everyone else it is probably best avoided, even for fans of action/adventure.