Sunday, December 27, 2009

Game Review: Avalon Code

Avalon Code
Great Premise, Slightly Flawed Execution

Avalon Code is a new Action RPG made by the same company that made the DS Final Fantasy remakes, which were extremely well done.
The game takes the traditional “Save the World” RPG story and gives it a fresh new twist. Yes, the world is about to end in this game as well, the difference is that your task isn’t to save it, no one can, its been decided the world is too far gone. No, your task is to record anything of interest in a book, but not just any book, the magical Book of Prophecy. After the current world is destroyed the entries you made in the Book of Prophecy will be used to create the new world.

How will you accomplish this task?

 Quite simply really; When you come across anything or anyone of note you press the B button to thump them overhead with the book (don’t worry they won’t feel it at all.) The scan only works the first time but its always amusing to repeatedly thump people over the head. Of course repeated thumpings do serve a practical purpose as well, as your book gets more and more pages sometimes the fastest way to get to the page you want is to thump that person or object again.

The game play takes place on the top DS screen while the bottom screen holds the Book of Prophecy. You use the d-pad and buttons to control your character and the stylus to flip through the book and rearrange things. Get comfortable with the book because you’ll be flipping through it a lot.

The Book of Prophecy and Codes

The book is both the game’s main strength and its most frustrating weakness. You see, everything you scan has a code. The code is made up of Tetris-like pieces on a small grid called a mental map. Each piece is a specific trait, for example, fruit juice is made up of five parts Forest and two parts Freedom. For the most part you are free to rearrange these codes at will to help you through the game. You might scan a flower and find that its attribute is Fire; you can then take that Fire code from the flower and drop it into your sword’s mental map and turn your regular sword into a flaming sword for extra damage.

But that isn’t all you can do with codes.  As you scan people you’ll be able to read about their likes, their dislikes, and their ‘aspirations’.  At first most people’s aspirations will show question marks but as you befriend them by talking to them, doing tasks for them and giving them gifts based on their likes, the question marks will start getting replaced by code attributes and or the person’s ideal title (aspiration).  Your job is to find out this information and then give them the right combination of codes.

 As you fill up the book and move the codes around, the book, will level up giving you more mystic points (what you use to move codes around, perform magic and equip items) and health.  Playing around with codes is fun for a while and with a few little tweaks, it could have been better.
Though you do have a table of contents that helps you, the book could really have used some sort of index or search function.  If you are looking for, let’s say a hammer, you can use the table of contents to turn to weapons and then hammers.  However, if you want to find say, a two block code of hope, well you better have a good memory because if not, you’ll have to flip through the entire book to find it.

Another problem that arises when you are wheelin’ and dealin’ codes is space limitations.  In order to move codes from place to place you need somewhere to put them between spot A and spot B.  When you tap on a mental map, a little bar will pop up for you to place the code to be moved.  Unfortunately it will only hold 4 pieces of code at a time, which can be a real hassle when dealing with a lot of code or a lengthy recipe.

Ah yes, recipes, any weapons your hero wields, accessories they wear, or items they consume are created in the book out of recipes called “metalize”.  You will receive metalize from other characters, in certain locations after defeating all enemies or from finding all the “exploration points’ in certain areas.

Exploration Points

Exploration points tend to be a study in frustration and tedium. Don’t get me wrong, as a huge fan of RPGs and adventure games I love to explore, but Avalon Code has gone a little overboard.  Each area you go into has a corresponding number of points, some also have hidden tablets that will increase health or magic or provide new metalize recipes.  In order to get the points and unlock the hidden items, you basically have to walk every single inch of each section and mash the A button and hope you stumble on these “places of note” (Once you get “Judgement Link”, explained below, you’ll also have to put up with your character saying HA!, HEEYA! And doing a little jig every time you press the A button to explore). Dungeons work a little differently from regular areas. When you enter a room in a dungeon, it is closed off and you’ll be given a list of objectives.  Based on how many you complete and how quickly, you’ll be awarded points for the page/room and medals.

Judgement Link

You’ll have an assortment of weapons to choose from, everything from swords to dynamite and at one point, only your fists.  Eventually you will unlock a special fighting move that also happens to be the country’s national sport.  This is the “Judgement Link”.  Basically, it’s a juggling mechanic. by timing your button presses, you’ll bounce an enemy higher and higher until they explode. When an enemy explodes you’ll be able to pick up Mystic jewels (the game’s currency) and replenish your health and Mystic Points. Once you unlock “Judgement Link” you’ll be able to enter tournaments.  If you win, you’ll receive new recipes.  If you lose, well, you can keep trying until you win without penalty.


In this game, you’ll be given the opportunity not only to befriend characters, but to form romantic attachments.  You do this in the same way that you upgrade their pages, by giving them gifts that they like and playing “Judgement Link” battles with them.  When they like you enough, you will be treated to a confession scene the next time your character goes to sleep. You can accept or deny the character or leave them for another character later on with no negative repercussions except a slight drop in points on their page. You’ll also be treated to a little guessing game where every time you go to bed a character with high affection for you will ask “guess who” and you’ll be given a list of names to choose from.

During game play you’ll be assisted by four elemental spirits that are shackled to the Book of Prophecy.  You can romance them as well, though it works a little differently for them. Instead of giving them gifts and such to up their points, you merely have to use their special attacks or talk to them repeatedly until their points get high enough (around 3800). When you reach the right level of affection for the Spirits it will trigger a confession scene which will lead to the removal of their shackles.  But be warned, once you accept one of the spirits any time you complete a quest for an NPC of the opposite sex, the spirit’s points will drop dramatically.

There are so many elements in this game that this review could go on for a long while but I think I’ll call it a day and let you explore for yourself.  As I’ve pointed out, the game does have its flaws but they aren’t game breaking and once you get a feel for it, the game will easily keep you engaged and entertained.  If you’re looking for an action RPG, you could do a lot worse than Avalon Code.

And a final note
Ur looks MUCH better with the blindfold. (you’ll see what I mean)

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