Unlike the games reviewed so far, this one I selected from my collection randomly, using tarot cards (this game had the most positive card placed on top of it.) what’s more strange, unlike almost every other game in my collection, this one I do not remember how I got. I remember I had it at least when I was in 5th grade and I remember playing it with a friend of mine, late at night on a sleep over, but other than that I don’t remember where it was from. Did I buy it? Did I “borrow” it from my uncle? I don’t know. I do have the box with it.
The game play is a fairly standard sidescrolling platformer, however there are no lives. You are able to change at will between 4 different X-Men (Gambit, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, and Cyclops) each with their own life bar, special power bar, and their own special abilities. If the life bar of any one character drops to 0, then that character dies and cannot come back, however if you switch to another character before the life bar empties, he’ll still be available. Between each level you return to the danger room and you are able to collect little flying disks that partially replenish your heath and special meters. So the trick is to use a character until he’s almost dead, then switch to another, then when you get back to the danger room, replenish his health. This would have been nice to know when I started playing, but it took me about two hours before I figured out you could do this.
The best character by far is Cyclops, but you don’t want to use him right away, you’ll need him for the end. He’s got the highest jump (not counting Nightcrawler’s special) and a strong projectile that does not use very much of your special energy. Gambit is probably the second best in the game, with a nice special (throwing exploding cards that can go any direction, hitting an enemy below or behind you eventually) but it uses a fair amount of energy to do it, he also has a good jump attack, and his staff has a far reach. Wolverine would be a good character except in order to use his special you have to have his claws extended, and just having the claws out eats away at your special meter, and using the claws takes even more. Nightcrawler is the worst, with a special that uses a lot of energy, and a very shallow jump.
In addition to the four playable characters there are 4 side characters, that you can call in for aid, the same way that you switch between players (press start, then scroll over the character, press start again and use the “A” button). The 4 helpers are Rouge, Archangel, Iceman, and Storm. Iceman is useless in boss battles, but in certain heavy pitfall areas he makes an ice bridge that you can simply walk across. I usually save the other 3 for boss battles, because trying to hit a boss yourself is difficult. Jean Gray also makes an appearance, picking you up when you fall off screen, sometimes she takes your health, sometimes she takes your special, sometimes nothing so I’m not quite sure how that works.
I’ll give the game extra points for its fourth wall type stuff. The entire game technically takes place in the danger room, while the X-Men are training; however a computer virus causes the simulation to go overboard. Apparently you can access a level select screen by pressing A+C while turning the game on or something, but I haven’t gotten it to work, there is also some way to get extra health or infinite health by selecting a character then unplugging the controller and plugging it into the second port, but I’m not going to mess with that.
After playing the game for 8 hours I could (and did) beat it a few time on the armature setting, didn’t even come close on hero mode, and didn’t even try superhero. Once you beat Magneto at the end of stage 3 on amateur, his face pops up with a dialog box saying something like “No amateur can beat me, try again on hero.” Apparently in order to get to the 4th level you have to press the reset button, which, just like 6-Pak adds another question to the ongoing mystery of what exactly the reset button is. The game is very hard and evidently I am not the only one who thinks so, IGN put the game on its Fifteen Really Really Really Hard Games. I give it 3 out of 5 for its story and innovative game play, but no more because of its difficulty.