A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this online fighting game is set within the Avatar universe. At the time of launch, it doesn't seem to have worked out all the kinks, so be prepared to wait for others to fight with. Players use the elements of water, fire, and air to fight others. Anyone can play this game -- meaning adults can be avatars as well as kids. Some Avatar forums feature adults who write they can't wait to beat eight year olds in this fighting game with some RPG elements. However, since there is no chat in the game, adults on the site cannot communicate with kids.
- Parents say
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What's it about?
AVATAR: LEGENDS OF THE ARENA is an online multiplayer game that's a spinoff of Nickelodeon's Asian-influenced cartoon, Avatar The Last Airbender. While the cable series features Aang and his pals as they fight to save the world from the evil Fire Nation, this game is primarily about fighting others online in an arena and leveling up your character by winning fights and by training in single player mode. Gone are the complexities and minutia of the series, including the fact that Aang lives in a 12 year old's body even though he's a 112-year-old who's been in suspended animation.
You play the game by using your keyboard buttons and your mouse. After downloading and installing a 45 meg file, you'll create a character using a limited amount of options for hairstyles, clothing and the like. You choose which kind of fighter you wish to be: one who uses water, air, fire or earth. You'll be able to level up as you train and earn gold through playing online to use to purchase equipment and powers in a shop. Once you go online and find four people to play with (it's a long wait right now), the fighting is fast and furious, full of colorful, fireworks-like magic used to kill your opponent. Online play is a little sluggish but the graphics are quite detailed. Unfortunately, you'll even have to wait a good while for the single player, offline mode to load.
Is it any good?
There certainly have been some misconceptions about this game. It's not an MMO; it's a four-person multiplayer game. At time of launch, there still were problems with getting online and playing: you may just wait and wait and nothing will happen. There are no parental controls regarding limiting the length of time you can play. Nor are the matches ranked by level; a newbie can easily be killed by an old hand at the game, some of whom have millions of leveling up points. Plus, in Avatar forums, you'll see snide posts from adults waiting to defeat newbie eight year olds. Thankfully, there's no chat function to allow these older folks to browbeat kids, or worse.
You can see that there's potential in the game, but it's not there yet. Leveling up and buying new powerups with your gold looks like fun. And the fighting, when it's not slow, looks like something you'll want to play over and over again. Still, there's no way to minimize the game aside from closing it all together. Worse, there's no way to call up the instructions during play or to print them. They're fairly complex. You're supposed to be able to find super rare, super powerful powerups called Relics. But the instructions don't indicated how. Ultimately, the game has a lot of problems that need to be worked out.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the Asian myths that have inspired the Avatar series, now in its fourth season on TV. Which element would you rather use to fight with: fire, water, air or earth, and why? Would you like to live in the adventurous world of Aang or is it too dangerous? What would you do to help your family if you could manipulate the elements in real life?
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