Avatar Trials: Ninja Uprising

Avatar Trials: Ninja Uprising is another University of Utah student game.  It’s really hard to believe it comes from the same pool of classmates that ultimately gave us Magnetic By Nature, one of the year’s best and most refreshing games.  Avatar Trials is one of this year’s worst XBLIGs, and one of those rare games where my biggest challenge with it is trying to find anything positive to say about it.  After having a few days to think about it, I couldn’t come up with a single nice thing to comment on.  Avatar Trials is without merit in every way possible.

Starting with the graphics.  Not only are they ugly, but they get in the way of gameplay.  Because of the colors selected for backgrounds, it causes severe problems in judging distance between platforms.  As a result, Avatar Trials comes across like an evil eye exam developed by an unscrupulous optometrist who wants to pad his wallet by making every patient he sees think they’re going blind.  Combine this with one of the most spastic, uncooperative cameras I’ve encountered in years.  At the most inappropriate times, it will swing around and zoom in on a wall.   Not even a pretty wall, either.  I mean, if it was a close-up of the Great Wall of China or the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, I could understand why the camera would focus on it.  It would be pretty fucking cool to see.  These walls?  They look like someone threw a box of crayons and a blank piece of paper into a cement mixer and scanned the results into the game.

None of the screen shots from Avatar Trials selected from the market seem to show actual gameplay.  Just shots of the map.

None of the screen shots from Avatar Trials selected for the market seem to show actual gameplay. Just shots of the map.

These problems might be worth looking past if the controls were well done.  However, movement is extremely loose and jumping is too floaty.  In a game where judging distance is already an issue, having anything less than pin-point precision in movement would be a fatal blow.  That’s the case here.  Platforms will be overshot even when you feel you’re being conservative in jumping.  Or sometimes you’ll get right up to a ledge and leap for it, only to completely short what looked like a small distance.  Plus, the that damn camera never stops being a bastard, so sometimes you’ll make a straight across jump only for the camera to swing wildly to the side, throwing off your angles and causing you to fall to the ground, or sometimes to your death.  And, if you manage to somehow get past all these issues without swearing off games in disgust, Avatar Trials will throw some nifty glitches at you.  The most common one seems to getting stuck hanging on walls that aren’t there.  It happened to me several times, and apparently it happened to Timothy H. Hurley Esq. as well.  But, I have Hurlmeister topped, because sometimes when I was hanging on the invisible wall, I would let go and get stuck, or outright fall through the world geometry.  I’ve played some truly inept 3D games on XBLIG, but I can’t think of one that is this bad on this many levels.

Look, it’s a student project.  I get it.  And believe me, I get no pleasure pulling this thing apart like a vulture does with carrion.  But, Avatar Trials: Ninja Uprising was dead on arrival and my job is to explain why.  Also, regardless of whether this is a student project or not, it’s also a commercial game that costs real money for people to own.  Maybe I expected too much from this, on the grounds that it comes from students who apparently took the same courses as the team behind the increasingly better looking Magnetic By Nature.  I’m not sure why the quality is so low that it can only be reached by submarine.  I would think maybe the team behind this partied too hard and studied too little, but we’re talking about the University of Utah here.  I think their idea of a party is sneaking a caffeinated beverage into the dorms.  Perhaps I’m completely wrong about the intentions though.  Maybe the assignment was to create the most broken, unplayable game possible, and then after it was released, fix it.  If so, A+ on the effort for part one.  Having said that, I would sooner believe the Titanic could be seaworthy again before anything could be salvaged from Avatar Trials.

xboxboxartAvatar Trials was developed by Stunt Bear Games

80 Microsoft Points noted that all the students and educators involved in the University of Utah’s Entertainment Arts and Engineering program have been class acts and are deserving of encouragement and support in the making of this review.  Just don’t buy this fucking game.

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