X-Men Legends II: Rise Of Apocalypse is fairly much a direct port of Activision's console sequel, thus furthering the myth that the "Portable" part of Playstation Portable has less to do with any kind of ability to heft the unit around. Where X-Men Legends II at least somewhat redeems itself is in the fact that, for the most part, it's a quite competent port of the original game, although predictably loading time issues make themselves felt pretty quickly.
X-Men Legends II: Rise Of Apocalypse is a light RPG/action title that's very similar to the console Baldur's Gate games. Like the original two console titles, X-Men Legends II uses a pseudo-3D cell shaded motif for all of the game's visuals. This provides a nice comic-book effect, albeit on a rather reduced scale. You play as your choice of four mutants, but the big twist in this year's version of the game is that you're not all good little mutants. Professor Xavier's X-Men must team up with Magneto's Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants -- who, as an aside, were clearly napping when all the good villain team names were being handed out -- to defeat the evil Apocalypse and his four eponymous horsemen. This gives you a massive initial roster to play with, from the standard and rather well-known characters such as Wolverine and Cyclops, to the slightly more obscure (unless you're a comics fan) characters like Sunfire and Juggernaut. Given that it springs from the same creative well as the Dark Alliance and Champions of Norrath camps -- big, essentially-dungeon-bashing quests -- it's a really nice change to be able to mix up your team setups from mission to mission. You're never forced into a particular character set, either, as your inactive choices gain levels as you go along, so everyone retains parity throughout the game.
Given the simple button choices that the console versions used, it should come as no surprise to find that the PSP fares quite well in controlling your team. You're always in control of a four-mutant team, although you only directly control one hero at a time. Assisting AI is surprisingly good, meaning there aren't many times where you'll get stuck by a stupid character who can't navigate round a crate, or anything like that.
On the PSP platform, the obvious comparison point would have to be Untold Legends, and X-Men Legends II: Rise Of Apocalypse arguably works better as a single player experience. Firstly, it's somewhat easier -- Untold Legends could get irksome in early stages where you could be killed quickly, necessitating another lengthy load time. Secondly, the team structure -- you've got twenty-odd mutants to make up your four-person teams -- gives X-Men Legends II: Rise Of Apocalypse a certain amount of variety. There are even scenarios where specific characters will get positive or negative
responses from NPCs depending on their particular allegiances.
These kinds of smash, bash and lite-RPG games work well on the console stage, especially in multiplayer. The PSP version offers multiplayer, either through an Ad-Hoc wireless connection, or via online multiplayer, which isn't a bad substitute, as long as you've got friends with PSPs and a copy of the game. Playing online is a strangely absent kind of idea. Because there's no voice communications, and lag can become a factor, it's not terribly satisfying, and that's presuming you can find an online player or two to join you in your quest. Anyone considering X-Men Legends II: Rise Of Apocalypse would have to realistically like the single player game a fair bit, but thankfully that's not too hard.
Visually, X-Men Legends II: Rise Of Apocalypse recreates the look of the larger console versions -- most obviously the PS2 version with quite a good level of fidelity. Everyone looks as they should, and while it's not the chattiest game, they all sound as they should too. There is a price to pay here, however, and it's in the load times. The PS2 version was somewhat guilty of long load times as well, but on a portable platform it can be quite disheartening to wait endlessly to get to and from the status screen just because you want to equip characters or help them level up. For the truly impatient -- or those who hate the micromanagement aspects of these kinds of games -- you can set all your characters to automatically equip and level up, although that robs the game of some of its fun charm.
It should go without saying that if you already own one of the home console versions of X-Men Legends II: Rise Of Apocalypse, then you can almost certainly live without the PSP version. Having said that, if you like dungeon bashing games and mutants, it's a good title to have, and one of the better ports to PSP we've seen of late.