" Pack your lunch for summer school, boys and girls. This game didn’t come anywhere near passing Fun 101. "
Title: X-Men: Mutant Academy by Activision
Format: PlayStation 2D Fighter
Reviewing Monkey: The Goodyear Chimp
The Hype: "Train with fellow mutants and fight your way up the ranks, learning amazing moves and using your special powers to dominate super-villains. It’s boot camp for fighters…and only the strongest will survive. Professor X wants you!" Hurry, wannabe mutants, Activision needs your money while movie-fueled X-mania still reigns!
What This Monkey Thought...
Graphics: Whatever the artists got paid, they earned their money. Each slick 3-D fighter is a well-shaded, properly attired version of his or her comic book self. Every background is expansive, animated, and occasionally marked with an inside joke (look for The Daily Bugle in Toad’s level). Even the cinemas are well done, retaining a cartoon feel despite eye-catching CG textures. Had they been working with just any set of characters, Mutant Academy could be marked a success. Sadly, there are expectations to live up to when you’re doing double duty as a tie-in for a movie and a video game version of one of the most popular comic books of all time. The game fails to capture the right look of the characters or their movements in a way that will satisfy fans of either comic or film. You will laugh at Cyclops’ hair in every cinematic, cry that Jean Grey doesn’t look a bit like Famke Janssen, and scratch your head when you see the way Beast hobbles around screen. 3 out of 5
Sound: The characters don’t sound at all like their movie counterparts but that’s just fine because of how close the voices are to the misguided but enjoyable cartoon series. With the possible exception of Toad—so terrible I cry every time I hear him—you aren’t tempted to skip the pre-fight taunts or victory boasts. Level music is another thing, however. The phrase "based on an underlying theme" should never be interpreted as "same song, different instrumentation." 3 out of 5
Game Play: Pack your lunch for summer school, boys and girls. This game didn’t come anywhere near passing Fun 101. The teacher has made it stay after class for a mediocre super-move system. Its parents have been called in to discuss the worthless Academy Mode that the name boasts. In order to see the nifty extras (like cinemas with Cyclops’ stupid hair) you must complete the mutant academy with each character. Personally, I don’t relish learning standing, crouching, and jumping punches and kicks with all ten fighters. One petty note is that while you and I both know that the designers mean Jean Gray when they say Phoenix, this is a movie tie-in game. Can we have a little naming consistency? Since we’re speaking of name changes, how about amending Storm to Cheap-Ass Bitch? What a joke the balance of power is. Anything with thumbs could whup ass fourteen hours straight with Mystique and not break a sweat. This shortcoming is especially apparent in Arcade Mode where the order you face enemies is preset rather than generated by difficulty of the match up. Though Sabretooth can rip through Magneto like a five-year-old through Christmas wrap, it’ll take you twelve days to beat Toad a few rounds earlier, just plain sad. 2 out of 5
Level and Environment Designs: While pretty, there’s nothing to interact with. The level designers went for conveniently empty fighting arenas a la Street Fighter 2. You’ll long to whack someone into the water of Gambit’s bayou or blast somebody off Toad’s office building but that’s not going to happen. They’re pretty though. 3 out of 5
Multiplayer: Hindered entirely by the lackluster gameplay, the promise of kicking a little genetically enhanced ass with a friend is not what it could be. Perhaps you can enjoy the challenge of a human opponent as long as you agree beforehand not to pick Storm or Mystique. Sigh. 2 out of 5
Replayability: I’ll say this, there’s plenty to keep playing for. Snazzy extras from comic covers to CG animation, even the costumes from the film, are all yours to win. The trouble is, you just won’t care after playing through it once. Unless you’re gung-ho, die hard, brain-dead, and ready to slip into a coma of repetitive gameplay, those cinemas will remain unseen. 2 out of 5
Story/Dramatics: There was a chance to weave a cool story into this but it all comes off as a war between bitter enemies. Pre-fight taunts get you in the mood for the fight but there’s really no driving purpose behind the battle (except winning goodies). Still, it’s just a fighting game. 3 out of 5
Instructions and Learning Curve: You’d think that an Academy Mode would earn a perfect score here. In the right game perhaps but here it’s like the classes are all six hours long and taught by non-native speakers. I’ve already griped about the need to play through the academy in full with every character but I didn’t get to my favourite part. Let’s just suppose that you set up your controller in a manner other than the standard configuration. The game gives lessons as if the buttons had never changed. "Push triangle," suddenly means, "push circle" and being graded on time means you’ve got seconds to decode the message all because of your personal preference. Additionally, if you can’t remember a super move, there’s no list in the booklet or on the pause screen. You know what that means. 2 out of 5
Installation and Real System Requirements: Were I a mutant, I might forgo waging war on Magneto for a quest to end abominable load times. (1 or 2 players, Vibration, 1 Memory Card Block) 3 out of 5
It's enough to make you drive your own claws straight through your skull. End of story.
The Good: Getting to see what Beast and Gambit might have looked like in "costumes from the movie"
The Bad: Game play is a big sticking point along with the arduous Academy Mode
The Overall Ugly: Cyclops badly needs a barber
What it's Worth: $40. Oh, wait, I was thinking of Marvel vs. Capcom. $15 for fans.