Monday, December 11, 2006
Good: Enthralling story, interesting characters, phenomenal graphics, ear-catching soundtrack, fun, addictive minigames, sublime side-scrolling shooter gameplay
Bad: The Good list only holds true if you're a pre-pubescent girl that has suffered massive damage to the brain at some point in your life
Requirements to play: Deep knowledge of middle-school girl internet chat, high levels of self-loathing
I don't even know where to start with this one. Winx Club: Quest for the Codex is the kind of game that makes gaming journalists question their choice of profession. It's the kind of game that results in children being put up for adoption after they ask for it for Christmas. It's the kind of game that results in broken DS's, not because of frustration, but because of sheer embarrassment that one would ever allow such a heinous title to enter their system. It's that bad.
The game is based off the animated television show, which I'd imagine is every bit as mind-numbing. It follows the exploits of six teenage girl fairies. I could probably stop there and you would understand how I gave it a 2.5, but I'm going to keep going. This is too good. These six fairies have to defeat the evil Lord Darkar and his group of witches. It's a not-so-compelling narrative with the complexity and emotional depth of a stapler.
Then we have our main characters, and boy, are they doozies. We have Bloom, the main character who enjoys, well, uh, being the main character. There's the developing hippy Flora, who enjoys plants, flowers, and peace. There's the closeted lesbian Layla, who in regards to boyfriends, "doesn't have one, doesn't need one." There's also Musa, an Asian girl who completely un-stereotypically loves nothing but music-based rhythm games, and Stella, the vapid fashion lover of the group ("Style is like so always in style!").
Perhaps my favorite is the sixth and final fairy Tecna, who absolutely loves technology. She debugs computer systems by literally killing insects crawling into them. After four years of attending KU for Computer Science, I somehow never realized it was that easy. She also dates a guy over the internet, and apparently "PVPs" with him all the time. I actually think there's another television show about these kinds of relationships. It's called Dateline's To Catch A Predator.
Now that we have all the important narrative out the way, let's move on to the core gameplay. As far as I could tell, the main focus of the game is a side-scrolling shooter, but there was so little of it, it's hard to say. Not that it's a huge problem, considering how half-assed the shooting sections are. While classic arcade-style shooters like this would throw dozens of enemies at you at a time, this has you flying for long stretches of time with nary an enemy on screen. Then when enemies do come, it's usually one single-colored bat at a time. There are a few other types of enemies, but none of them are particularly challenging. You also have a few environmental objects to dodge, but hitting them doesn't seem to do anything, so their inclusion is questionable.
Unfortunately, those shooting sections are about as good as the game gets. The rest of the story mode is comprised of brainless middle school boyfriend drama and a handful of poorly designed minigames. Two of them require you to keep insects out of your garden and computer systems. Two others are rhythm based games that utilize the touch screen for some dull DDR-style rhythm gaming. The songs aren't particularly interesting, and the patterns aren't exactly difficult to follow.
One of the worst offenders is Stella's solar power minigame. In this one, you're supposed to bounce a very slow-moving ball around in order to hit a bunch of pixies. This is done by drawing lines using the stylus, but the game is so utterly unresponsive, it borderlines on broken. It also seems that even when you draw a line, the ball is almost as likely to just go through it as bounce off it. In a game full of bad minigames, this is easily the worst.
Graphically and aurally, the game doesn't exactly do anything to impress. The characters models are extremely basic and uncolorful, the environments are drab and repetitive, and the minigames don't do anything to really utilize the DS's capabilities. Sound effects are very minimal, and I don't think anyone will be rushing out to purchase the soundtrack either.
Now I know what you're saying: "But Andrew, you're not a 12-year-old girl. Maybe they'll like this." No. If you have a daughter that wants this game, buy her Grand Theft Auto, a bottle of Jack, and a hunting knife instead. It will ruin her childhood a lot less.
First Play: 2.0
Replay Value: 2.0