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X Men | Mutant Academy | review | game | Lollipop
X-Men: Mutant Academy
Activision for the PlayStation
by Eric Johnson
X-Men: Mutant Academy is a disappointing two-dimensional fighting game that does no justice to the thirty-year-old comic property it represents or the surprisingly good film the game was released to coincide with. It would've been a fine game had it been released some five years ago, back when side-scrolling fisticuffs were the order of the day; when Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat III would have been the only competition. The thing is, X-Men: Mutant Academy claims to be three-dimensional, and although it has certainly been rendered in 3-D, the characters exchange blows along a static line, moving back and forth in much the same way fencing opponents face off. I'd be lying if I said that this formula is not enjoyable, indeed it is. In fact, Mutant Academy has a similar blend of lightening-fast, easily-improvised action as the classic title Killer Instinct. The controls are simple but work well - all eight buttons are delegated for blows of varying intensity, including counter attacks and throws. The good news is these attacks do not require a PhD to pull off, the controls are nicely balanced and a beginner may outclass a veteran opponent at any time. It's a difficult thing to develop, and the designers deserve credit for pulling it off.
There are ten characters to choose from, and although most are classic X-Men good guys (Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm) and their notable enemies (Magneto, Sabretooth), the selection is terribly small and substantially reduces the potential play time. In order to make up for the poor selection of opponents and its overall dated presentation, Mutant Academy has been stuffed full of extra features and game modes in a misguided attempt to keep things fresh. Extra features include an arcade mode for pure action, survival mode for challenge, alternative character appearances, introduction films, and archived artwork from the comic itself. In my opinion, these extra features do not adequately make the game worth purchasing or even renting.
The real problem is, Mutant Academy is a dated attempt to exploit the release of a recent film. With thirty years of resource material, back storylines and character development to refer to, one would expect that the X-Men license would one day generate an ambitious and entertaining video game. An exceptional three-dimensional adventure would be a long-awaited hit, it would be a huge seller and a worthwhile expenditure of the developers' time. This may be the twelfth forgettable time the X-Men have appeared on a console system, and it'll certainly not be the last. As someone who once read the X-Men and knows how much depth and personality has been invested in the comic, I'd really like to see a genuine attempt to produce a fully realized title from this property. If they could do it with the movie, they sure as hell could do it with a video game. The material is there, it just takes someone ambitious enough to make the effort and realize the potential of the franchise.