All Features


  PlayStation 3
  PlayStation 4
  Wii U
  Xbox 360
  Xbox One


Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Burning Earth

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: THQ
Developer: THQ Studios Australia
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Platformer (2D)/ Themed

Graphics & Sound:

Playing Game Boy Advance feels like retro gaming these days. The DS isn't exactly the Mona Lisa of graphic sophistication, but you sure do notice the difference playing a GBA game after spending months on DS titles alone. Then there's also the fact that you're down to one screen if you happen to be playing a GBA title on your DS. Not that is makes a big difference from a visual standpoint, but I've always felt that the original GBA provides a superior experience for GBA titles compared to the DS.

Not that you'll see me trading in my DS anytime soon... The olden days of gaming on a Nintendo handheld produced some classic titles and some licensed crap. Luckily, you'll find that Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Burning Earth falls much closer to the former category. Classic it is not, but fun to play and solidly programmed it is. The graphics are pretty static across individual areas and there aren't a lot of places to explore, but the environments you play around in and the characters featured are nicely made. The characters especially will please fans of the show that are excited about a chance to control Aang, Iroh, Katara, Toph, and Zuko. Appa is thrown in for good measure, but not to the extent that it matters much to whether the game rules or blows.

There's no spoken dialogue, but cut-scenes are subtitled and there are segments between the major levels to explain the story. The sounds during battle and in the exploration of each level are central to gameplay. There are some visual cues when you power-up your abilities, but the distinctive sounds of each character's ability help to gauge the correct time to attack. Enemies also have similar cues as to their big attacks. The work done on design in all aspects of The Burning Earth is solid stuff. It's more than enough to please fans and almost enough to justify a purchase by anyone that likes a relatively challenging 2D Platformer.


One of the better things about following a series is that there are reference points for story development. Games with otherwise good qualities have lost their way over a complete lack of plot. Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Burning Earth follows the narrative from the second season of the show, otherwise known as Book 2 - Earth. There isn't nearly enough material in the game, regardless of its adherence to the show. Several secret levels are available to make up for the skimpy main mode, and several tutorials provide a subtle way to extend your playing experience. Unlocking everything is not going to be for the casual player, so the good news is that you won't spend more than a weekend with The Burning Earth unless you're a devoted fan, in which case you might spend a holiday weekend.

The Burning Earth represents a great genre that appeared frequently on GBA and not so much on DS. The co-op gameplay here makes for a nice experience with plenty of flexibility. Two characters at a time, mostly, are what you'll find from level to level. The puzzles in the levels and the enemies you'll battle are only half the equation since you can choose to play differently according to how you handle each character combination. Boss battles and certain special levels force you to play a single character and some puzzles require a certain character's abilities. Most puzzles require both characters working together as the game progresses. Optional tutorials help you master the special skills each character has and the combo skills they gain by working together. Levels are divided between puzzles and heated battles with enemies popping out from the woodwork.

Some of the puzzles are pretty involved and require several steps to solve or good timing. The tutorials are optional but recommended as a way to master abilities without a lot of trial and error. Points are scored in each round by taking out enemies and extra points granted for stylish knockouts. Timing is everything and if you finish a level with plenty of time left, you'll nab a handy bonus. Pickups in each level are limited to a few bonus multipliers and lots of little bottles that add to your bonus time.


It's a nice touch when there aren't a million keys to pick up and doors to unlock. Switches abound and have to be thrown in the proper order. Timing is important in Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Burning Earth, so butter-fingers need not apply. The target demographic for the show skews a bit young to understand and master all these puzzles. The older kids will have the coordination and reasoning skills to deduce the proper action on each screen.

Combining special abilities with objects in the environment to battle enemies makes battles much easier, but also demands good mastery of the game's controls. Boss battles are really tough and don't feature much in the way of hints. Using abilities and timed actions against bosses gets the job done, but each boss demands a different mechanic. The only real downer in this category is the lack of a true save system. A password save is all we get; you DS folks almost forgot about password save-systems, didn't you? They're not that great because they don't give you any options to quit and restart in the middle of a level. Levels are luckily not very long.

Game Mechanics:

Not using the touch-screen feels strange if you play this on a DS and I don't love the way the top screen gets in the way of the shoulder buttons. Nothing about the design of Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Burning Earth is to blame for this, so it's fair to say that the game is not only approachable for older kids, but probably a bit too easy. Luckily those secret missions will keep even dedicated gamers scrambling to improve their performance. The trickiest thing to remember is how each character's unique skills work compared to the team skills. Touching the (L) shoulder button switches the primary player or leader of the on-screen duo and will then change the type of primary attack performed by touching the (A) or (B) buttons. Button presses in combination with a shoulder button or covering multiple buttons will produce special attacks. Gestures on the D-pad will also create some interesting effects such as the sweeping fire attack of Iroh or the back-to-me attack of Sokka's boomerang. Nailing it all down is a challenge, but that's all part of the fun.

Fans of the show will be happy that a licensed game managed to be a fun experience and an accurate representation of their favorite character. The play style is cool and conveys a nice mix of traditional side-scrolling beat-em-up with more involved puzzles and some magical attacks. The thinking-man's stuff is combined with plenty of action in this one. There's very little replay value once you unlock the secret levels and very little play to be had in this one at all. Older kids will burn right through Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Burning Earth but if they're fans of the show they'll be glad they had a chance.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Windows Painkiller: Overdose Windows Bee Movie Game

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated