With an almost inexhaustible supply of mutant superheroes to chose from, the X-Men comics make a truly promising premise for a video game. However, with a number of other promising versions of home console titles disappointing on N-Gage, will this iteration turn out to be more beast than beauty?
Early indications are promising. Very little has been cut back from the game that appeared on Xbox and PS2; obviously the 3D graphics have been replaced with flatter 2D versions but the angled viewpoint, compelling storyline and team-based action are all present and correct. The essential gameplay remains exciting too, as you select your team of 4 heroes from a roster of chracters that will appease most fans, train them up to hone their skills inthe special 'danger room' and then pit their powers against an increasingly tough progression of evil-doers.
Controls are comparatively simple to grasp as you direct one hero at a time using the N-Gage's excellent joypad, with the others following in a formation and offering supporting attacks. However there's plenty of variety available in terms of tactics as you can swap between characters to chose the hero you feel is most suited to take on a particular puzzle or foe.
There's further depth on offer in the form of upgrading abilities, learning new moves and even combining the different heroes attacking abilities to create super-attacks crushing all in their path. Whilst this is a little more fiddly and complex that it might have been it can be mastered and is probably the only bad seed in an otherwise enjoyable experience.
There's a good back-story revolving around a teenaged girl who’s outed as a mutant at the beginning of the game and the arch-super villain Magneto who's hatching yet another diabolical plan to take over the world (where do they get these ideas?). And while the elements of the story involving Magneto are among the weakest, the development of his character adds rare depth and humanity to the game. It’s also what keeps you going, though the ability to tackle the levels again with different heroes and the presence of a slick 4-player co-operative mode (using wireless bluetooth), ensures that there's plenty of replay value here.
Ultimately, this is probably the most polished game out on the N-Gage at present (the voice actors list is impressive indeed – Patrick Stewart lends his considerable talent as Prof. X) and presents one of the consoles most rounded challenges. With various styles of play involved, from solving puzzles to beating up on evil mutants, it’s a satisfying and entertaining entry in the X-Men canon that will satsify fans, intrigue newcomers and show everyone else just how super N-Gage titles can be.