Based on the animated show of the same name, Code Lyoko is an action adventure game in which you'll assume the roles of five boarding school students who spend their free time jacking into the virtual world of Lyoko. This world is the home of an evil digital entity named Xana who wants to rule Earth and goes about achieving his goal by possessing people, animals, or objects. To possess anything on Earth, Xana needs to activate towers on Lyoko, and anytime he does that, the students must try to get one of their numbers, Aelita, to the tower so that she can shut it down. We recently had an opportunity to play through the first few hours of the upcoming Nintendo DS game, which incorporates exploration and puzzle-solving, as well as 3D action sequences.
There are two very different types of levels in Code Lyoko, and the first level is a lot like an old-school point-and-click adventure. Which character you play as will vary depending on the level. To date, we've played as Ulrich, Jeremie, and Yumi. The locales that we've explored have all been in and around either the Kadic Junior High School or the nearby abandoned factory that houses the supercomputer containing Lyoko. You can explore these environments by either using the stylus to touch the screen where you want to move or by using the D pad. We've found the latter to be far more pleasing, and face buttons can also be used to activate all of the context-sensitive icons that appear on the touch screen. The top screen is used to display maps that highlight areas where you have objectives to complete, but they're not always useful because the camera angle changes every time you move from one irregularly shaped 2D location to another. The entry and exit points for locations aren't always easy to find either, which is presumably why it was deemed necessary to include an option that highlights them with arrows when you press both shoulder buttons simultaneously.
If it weren't for the fact that negotiating areas and figuring out the maps in Code Lyoko is tricky business, most of the objectives that we completed in the adventure levels wouldn't have taken nearly as long. Completing the adventure levels typically involves walking around a lot, talking to people, and interacting with items by using such commands as "look," "pick up," or "give." It's every bit as unexciting as it sounds, and it wasn't long before the adventure sequences started to feel like chores that we had to complete before being allowed to play in the action areas.
In keeping with the varied visual styles employed in the animated show, Code Lyoko's action levels look very different from the adventure sequences. Also, the gameplay could hardly be more different because it's largely combat-oriented. Playing as Ulrich, Yumi, Odd, or Aelita you'll wander around sizable 3D environments, battling monsters that stand between you and the tower that you need to deactivate, as well as solving the occasional puzzle. Most of the puzzles that we've been confronted by thus far have revolved around selecting the right character for the right task and knowing when to switch between them, which is only possible at checkpoints. The melee or ranged attacks in your arsenal vary among the characters, but it's their special abilities that really differentiate them from one another. Odd can climb, Aelita can levitate, Yumi can use telekinesis to move objects, and Ulrich can dash, which is useful for crossing collapsing bridges and the like.
Combat in Code Lyoko is uncomplicated, but it can still be quite challenging. Each character has two basic attacks, a charged-up attack and a block move. We've found that making good use of the latter is often the only way to defeat groups of enemies (who aren't shy about attacking you simultaneously) without losing big chunks of your own health. At the end of each action level, you'll need to be in control of Aelita, who isn't quite as effective in combat as her colleagues but is the only character capable of entering and deactivating the aforementioned towers (one of several events that will trigger a CGI cutscene from the show), which is achieved via a stylus-driven, jigsaw-like puzzle on the touch screen.
Code Lyoko is currently scheduled for release in North America in May and in Europe later this year. We'll bring you more information on the game as soon as it becomes available.