The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 49.0°F | Partly Cloudy and Windy

COMPUTER GAME REVIEW

Atlantis: Trial by Fire

Yes, Even Disney Can Do Better Than This

By Chad Serrant

Staff Writer

Atlantis: The Lost Empire -- Trial by Fire

Published by Disney Interactive

Minimum Requirements: Pentium II, 266 Mhz, 64 MB RAM, 350 MB hard drive space

8X Speed CD-ROM drive, and Direct X 8.0a

$29.99

Rated E for everyone

Disney Interactive’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire -- Trial by Fire is a first-person shooter computer game, and yes, the target audience is children. Is it possible to make a first-person shooter that is fun for kids? Definitely -- too bad this game doesn’t prove it.

The videos in the game are meant to remind players of the part of the movie the following area is from. People who haven’t seen the movie (like me) will feel lost. Why is the sub sinking? What is a “Leviathan spawn”? Why is a mysterious woman helping me? If you need the plot, go watch the movie.

First-person shooters have a variety of gameplay styles. Doom emphasized survival, Goldeneye was geared toward stealth, and Counter-Strike went for multi-player mayhem. Atlantis: The Lost Empire -- Trial by Fire, unfortunately, misses the mark. The maps are very straightforward. There aren’t any multiple paths; every stage is a one-way street. Enemies have simplified A.I., so they just walk up to your character and start firing. There isn’t anything to hide behind, and they only attack one at a time, so there is no need for stealth. Stages are painfully short (two minutes at the most), so survival tactics are unnecessary.

To mix things up, some stages use vehicles such as submarines and airplanes to float through caverns and other rocky terrain. It would have been a nice distraction from the tedious walk-and-shoot routine had they played well. But because there is bad depth perception, there is bad gameplay. You can’t see how close you are to a wall, so you will bump into it. Your vehicle won’t recoil either. It will keep trying to go through the wall, and you’ll keep taking damage until your vehicle collapses. Because you can’t save your game in the middle of the stage, this spells trouble.

Your selection of weapons -- actually they’re called “tools,” since little kids shouldn’t play with weapons -- is limited to eight. Then again, most of the “tools” are useless. The Goozer, Froster, and Squincher are basically the default weapon with a bonus effect on the target (slow weapon fire, slow character movement, and reduced character size, respectively). The Spinner is analogous to the homing missile, and the Zoomer is the standard issue sniper rifle (but in “tool” format). Because the single-player missions require no skill, there is no need for anything besides the default “tool,” which is as strong as the other weapons.

Well, there’s always the multi-player mode. Unless no one is playing. You can find people online using the GameSpy engine, but I only managed to find one other person logged in -- clearly, a bad thing. If no one’s willing to play, what’s the point of multi-player mode?

The graphics won’t hold your attention either. Half-Life can beat Trial by Fire’s graphics, which even had a two-year head start. You can’t even see the main character’s hand or the “tool” he is holding. The models have a very low polygon count, and are very blocky.

The sound is almost non-existent, and when there is sound, it’s a mixed bag. The voice acting is right on par with Disney voices, but the “tool” sounds are terribly poor in quality and don’t convey a feeling of power. Disney should get credit, however, for trying to make a kids’ version of a fast-paced and sometimes gory genre of games. However, just because you can’t show blood doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. With poor level design, there is no strategy. With poor “tool” design, there is no balance. With poor gameplay, there is no fun.