Super Avatar World

Super Avatar World is a single and multiplayer platformer adventure in which you and up to 3 different friends take full control of your Avatars through multiple worlds collecting stars and powerups while killing and avoiding enemies. Also, play the trial and you could win FREE Microsoft Points!

Avatar games are a dime a dozen on the 360, games which are far too often simple shovelware with avatars tacked on to appeal to those looking to enjoy their avatars beyond just having them hang around the dashboard. I suppose developers don't care when their crummy avatar game sells far more than the legitimate efforts, and I've a feeling Super Avatar World will do just fine among that easily entertained crowd. However, while Super Avatar World is definitely a step in the right direction, it struggles to meet basic gameplay expectations of the genre and misses the mark on a number of points.

Super Mario World remains one of the most beloved platformers of all time, so when a game makes allusions to such a classic both in title and graphics, it carries with it certain expectations. Super Avatar World initially excites with its title and the bright, cheery worlds paying hommage to its obvious inspiration. The Mario games have always be designed around simple shapes and clean levels, and Super Avatar World is no different with its rotating blocks, oval trees, and puffy clouds. The level graphics are well done, and having a high definition Mario game more or less available on the 360 certainly has its appeal. While the enemies are animated well enough, they cannot match the sharpness of the level design nor the style, as the enemies themselves are rather ugly albeit well intended. Players will encounter green mutants (Koopa Troopas), spiked pufferfish-esque blobs (Spiny mixed with Podoboo), moving gray clouds (a lame Lakitu), giant buzzsaws (horizontal Thwomps of sorts), and large green fire-spitting lizards (a lame Bowser). The enemy variety could definitely stand some improvement, but at least they all serve some function in the game.

The main problems with Super Avatar World are that it just doesn't play well and the level design is dull and uninspired. I can accept a certain level of loose control here -- after all, I would hardly expect an indie developer to deliver the same level of polish as Nintendo's own -- but Super Avatar World is just a poor playing game. I can try to tolerate the sloppy jumping, but the crapshoot collision detection and awkward ground "divots" make for a bumpy ride. Platforms composed of straight blocks sometimes do not react as a single integrated platform as they should, and it's much worse when traversing the curved surfaces which make up much of the game. While not what I'd call game-breaking, it's extremely jarring to be moving along otherwise flat ground but have the joining rounded corners of the blocks which form said ground actually impact the avatar's movements. The game is easy and simple enough where these play control gaffs will not stop a player from completing the title, but it does greatly diminish the enjoyment of running and jumping through the game.

Further tainting the game is the terrible level design. Super Avatar World offers 16 levels across four worlds, but it soon becomes obvious just how little thought has gone into designing the game. The goal of each and every level is to find and collect three giant yellow stars. Acquiring these stars is never challenging nor interesting to reach, and it makes for an unsatisfying goal thanks to the weak level construction. In the multi-player mode, the goal becomes to score the most points by collecting all of the smaller blue stars scattered throughout the level. Unfortunately, the avatars are all positioned such that the furthest right person will always have the advantage of being the first to nab any and all stars seeing as this is a typical left-to-right scrolling game. An available power-up will switch players when activated, but that makes for a poor substitution for a well seeing as the furthest right person will always have first crack at those as well.

If the poor gameplay and lousy level design weren't enough, players have to endure two long loading screens totalling to over a minute of waiting before even getting to play Super Avatar World. The level select screen is too unweirldly for its own good, and adding to the disappointment is the final surprise hinted at on the last level being little more than a stage composed of the game's credits, replacing the blocks with the creators' names. That's not a bonus that would excite anyone, and it just feels as if the game is further gypping the player by taking one of the 16 levels and using it for a pat on the back. The only person here deserving any kudos is Josh Woodward, the Creative Commons musician behind the game's ill fitting acoustic rock soundtrack. The songs are fine, but they just do not match the whole Mario vibe which envelopes this release.

It's been a while since I've felt this disappointed by a game. Sure, it's technically playable, but is that enough? I know Arrogancy Games is capable of better, and it's sad to see the developer appearing to hop onto the avatar bandwagon, throwing chum out into the water knowing it'll get more guaranteed bites with avatar support than it would have with a halfway decent game. It's a real shame we can't have both, because Super Avatar World held so much promise while I waited for the download to finish, all washed away once I finally got to play the game.

July 20, 2010
July 19, 2010 | 80 points
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