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X-Men Mutant Wars

Score: 100%
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Activision
Media: Cart/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action

Graphics & Sound:

X-Men Mutant Wars is a great example of how arcade games should look on Game Boy Color. The backgrounds are interesting, including one level where you go between cars on a speeding train by climbing onto the roof and another that takes place in the White House and has you hiding from the Secret Service agents. All characters have cool animations, not only for how they move around, but all the special powers and attack sequences. Mutant Wars gave me a distinctly old-school impression, and that's a good thing. All the pre-game presentation is cool, with playing-card looking stat sheets on all the X-Men and short briefings by Professor Xavier. After beating each level's boss, a few static screens show some dialog and then it's off to the next fight! Sound effects and music are good.


Been looking for a solid side-scrolling fighting game? Mutant Wars has all the action you could need, and doesn't gunk it up with weird gameplay elements. By this time, I'm guessing there's not a soul on this planet who hasn't seen the X-Men movie, so you probably could guess the story. Magneto and an army of bad guys is planning to take over the world, and it's up to Wolverine, Storm, Gambit, Cyclops and Iceman to save the day. Apart from battling Magneto and the underlings, you face off against Sabretooth, War-Axe, Mystique and other bosses at the end of each level. Much like the movie, Mutant Wars defaults to Wolverine as the main playable character. If for some reason he's not proving very effective against a boss or in some part of a level, you can switch to one of the other team members. As long as one of the team survives and beats the boss, the level is complete and you move on.

Although levels are side-scrolling first and foremost, you can move up and down if there are holes or ladders, giving you access to secret areas and power-ups. Every one of the X-Men has a hit-point gauge and a special attack meter. When one member's HP gauge is empty, they are automatically replaced by another member, and you can switch at any time by pressing Select and one of the D-Pad directions. Nice, easy system. As you knock out enemies, you get heart power-ups that build HP, and power-ups for attack power and increased HP-maximum. Other than Wolverine, the characters with projectile weapons use up XP (special attack) points quickly, and when XP is gone for a character like Storm or Cyclops, they are defenseless. I found this annoying, but switching characters solves the problem, and I spent most of my time with Wolverine or Storm. Projectile attacks can be directed up, down or diagonally from the ground or air, and enemies accordingly can attack from any direction. After you move through the main level, you get to a boss. Defeating the boss usually requires at least a couple different X-Men, and I used all five the first time I fought Magneto. Each level has a hidden key, and as long as you get it and beat the boss, you're in business.

Story Mode is the coolest, but Mutant Wars also has a Fight Mode that plays more like the standard fighting game interface. You go up against one character after another, without any exploration or side-scrolling.


The controls are tricky to learn at first, but mastering the jumping attack and double-jump is essential. Learning some of the boss' patterns can take time, but a password system means you won't have to replay everything if you fail. As I said, there's somewhat of a learning curve in how and when to use the different X-Men characters, but I wish there had been one more character like Wolverine (i.e. quick and good at hand-to-hand combat) instead of four others that could only use projectile weapons.

Game Mechanics:

Mutant Wars uses some smart controls, not the least of which is the character switching. Playing as Wolverine, you push Select and then a direction on the D-Pad to get a different character. Each of the other characters can be called, and if you change your mind, either push Select to get back to Wolverine or push Select and a direction to call another character. Knowing which character is strong against certain enemies is a learned skill, especially with bosses. All characters have some common controls. When moving with the D-Pad, you can push twice in a direction to move quickly or lay down an ice path as Iceman. An example of when this comes in handy is the level with holes in the floor that can drain HP and mess up attacks. Iceman can just cruise over these, but Wolverine has to jump and can end up exposed to enemies in the air.

The buttons control Attack and Jump; in combination with the D-Pad, they help you pull off special moves for each character. Most of these are unique and make replay fun. Fight Mode is a good place to practice special moves, since Story Mode levels are just too crowded and fast-playing. Each character has a double-jump skill that make the difference between winning and losing in some boss battles. Wolverine's air attacks are simple, since he just slices and dices, but learning to jump and aim shots with the other characters takes time. Especially with bosses, it's important to master shooting so you can keep your distance. The password system is easy, and even fills itself in if you decide to continue after failing a mission. You're ranked after each mission, and can easily replay by entering the password you received after completing the previous mission.

I thoroughly enjoyed Mutant Wars. You definitely don't have to be a fan of the X-Men to enjoy the game, and although it isn't incredibly long, there's plenty of replay value in having five playable characters and Fight Mode. If this game were ported directly over to a big console with no changes, it would still be fun.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

GameBoy Color/Pocket Walt Disney World Quest: Magical Racing Tour Sony PlayStation 2 Dragon's Lair II: Timewarp

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