It's good for a licensed game, but there's a lot of potential that is not realized.
I'm a big fan of the Avatar: The Last Airbender TV show on Nickelodeon. I feel it's the best animated show on television right now, and perhaps even one of the best shows on television period. When I put the Avatar disc into my Wii to see how the license translated to games, I was expecting a generic hack-n-slash port that did the show no justice. For the Avatar faithful, I'm happy to say that the game is not as bad as I thought it would be. It's quite good in some areas, in fact. However, it suffers from some problems that really pull down the enjoyment you'll get from this game.
The story starts off at the North Pole, where the Water Tribe village is being attacked by the Fire Nation and their machines. Aang the Avatar is charged with figuring out where the machines are coming from and to stop them before they cause any more devastation. The gameplay revolves around a party of four going from location to location around the world, looking for information about the machines and battling bad guys they encounter along the way. The game is primarily action/adventure, but the experience, item, and battle systems give it an RPG feel, too.
Four special moves can be assigned to a character at any given time. They are activated with a combination of the B Trigger and a directional swipe with the controller. That is, hitting B and moving the remote to the left will activate whatever special move that was assigned to the left slot. This system isn't perfect, as I did find myself needing to do two or three swipes at times for moves to activate. I eventually got used to it, but I honestly would have preferred to only press a button to perform special moves.
The special moves aren't really that critical for success in battles, since you can very easily hack up enemies with a fully-upgraded chain of normal attacks. This is especially true because you only control one character at a time; the other three automatically attack what you are attacking. Character health regenerates over time, and Katara's healing abilities keep the party's life meters high at all times. What this ultimately does is turns the game into a one-sided affair. With plenty of health and a potent offensive attack, there is little chance of all four characters getting wiped out completely. Boss battles are tougher, but they have completely predictable routines that even younger gamers will become bored with.
Each chapter of the game is set in a different part of the world. The base of a chapter is most often a city or major location from the TV series. It acts as a central hub that has roads leading to nearby areas where you'll be doing most of the dirty work. The hubs have traders and herbalists who will buy and sell items and also craft new items from raw materials found along the way. Items can augment character stats and give bonuses like increased health regeneration or reduced shop prices. Talking to people within the hubs will give you quests which will ask you to make your way to an outlying area to complete.
Traveling from place to place is what takes the fun out of Avatar. The roads can be fairly long, and there are always enemies to fight along the way. Those fights can get boring, as previously mentioned. Once you get to the destination and complete the objectives there, the game makes you go back down the same long road and back through the same boring fights to return to the hub location. At one point, I had to travel up and down the same road four times to finish a quest. Optional quests will have you running around even more. Although they are worth more experience points, I was discouraged from doing them because of the travel time they would take to complete. There were many times when I wondered why there wasn't a faster way to get around.
Graphically, the game uses a cel-shaded art style. During cut scenes, it looks a bit overdone. During gameplay things look better-than-average...but not better-than-GameCube. The Wii version of Avatar is, of course, a port of the GameCube/PS2/Xbox game. It runs in progressive scan and does not appear to have the slightest hint of slowdown. That's good, but the real reason for that might be because of the game's restrictive auto-camera. There are very few places in the game where you'll be able to see a large chunk of a level at once. It feels like you're looking down into a box as you play the game, which is too bad. Some of the locales have a nice atmosphere to them, and it would have been nice to see more of it.
If there is a major oversight with Avatar's game, it is the lack of multiplayer. The battle system reminded me of Namco's Tales of Symphonia, though at a less frenzied pace. If it was possible for different people to control each member of the party, this game would have been a blast to play with friends. It's too bad the adventure is restricted to one player.
I'm optimistic that the eventual sequel to the Avatar: The Last Airbender game will keep the RPG elements, add multiplayer, and improve on the battle system. The Avatar license has the goods to make a sweet game, but the first attempt at it falls short. If you like the show, you won't mind playing through the game to see what antics Aang and crew get themselves into in the game's original story. You'll just wish the game's shortcomings didn't get in the way.