Reviewed: April 11, 2003
Samurai Jack - A warrior unlike any other, trained by masters of weaponry and combat from all corners of the globe. He hails from the past, but was sent far into the future by the evil shape-shifting wizard, Aku. His mission: to find the missing segments of the Amulet Element that will allow him to defeat Aku and save the world from total destruction.
Samurai Jack: The Amulet of Time is the latest game to be born from a TV show and find its home on the Game Boy Advance. Between shows on Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network the GBA is going to have a wealth of licensed titles in no time. Those of you who tune in for the Cartoon Networks more adult-oriented shows will have certainly caught a glimpse of Americaís favorite new animated Samurai and now you can partake of his adventures in this new GBA title.
The Amulet of Time features:
About six months ago I did a review for Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance and the gameplay from that great Konami title was still fresh in my head when I started playing Samurai Jack. The designers at Virtuacraft were obviously great fans of the Castlevania game (more than Samurai Jack) as Samurai Jack mirrors that game in almost every conceivable way from the status screens to the gameplay style and layout of the levels. So what went so drastically wrong that Jack cannot even begin to compare to Konamiís platform game?
Samurai Jack is a typical action title that has you running around collecting all sorts of items for health and new abilities. You get new armor that bestows new physical and magical effects and elemental powers you use to get past obstacles. Unfortunately, none of this is remotely challenging to figure out or do.
Samurai Jack builds on a successful blueprint for a great platform game, but the gameplay falls apart with a control scheme that is so clumsy and imprecise that the game is all but unplayable. Running, jumping, and attacking become more luck than anything else, and when you toss in huge amounts of inescapable enemies, terrible collisions detection and a health regeneration system that makes it nearly impossible to die, there simply isnít enough gameplay to keep even the biggest fan of the show interested.
Jack does a lot of fighting as this game throws impossible numbers of enemies at him at each turn. The horrible collision detection makes combat a futile and random exercise in frustration. It might look like you are hitting that enemy but you arenít, even though he is pummeling you. The collision detection gets even more frustrating when you start doing the jumping puzzles. Itís hard enough to use the quirky controls to nimbly move around, but when you land on a platform then ďmagicallyĒ pass through the seemingly solid substance and fall to your death, itís hard not to smash the cart against the wall Ė just make sure to remove it from your GBA first.
The levels are designed in such a way that you cannot access certain parts until you obtain a new skill or ability. This keeps the game partially balanced and prohibits you from getting into dangerous situations before you are equipped to handle them. Of course this means you get to do a lot of backtracking to previous areas once you gain the skill required to access them.
Samurai Jack does a great job of mimicking the showís visual style, both in content and animation. Of course the show is substantially more primitive than most GBA games so donít expect any flashy game experience that pushes GBA technology to new limits. This is merely a faithful reproduction of an existing form of art.
The levels are fairly nice with unique themes to each of the lands. Unfortunately, the enemy selection is a bit limited and you only get to fight two or three different foes in each land. The fact that they throw huge numbers of these guys at you makes you feel like a Jedi in the Clone Wars.
The music was quite enjoyable featuring a lot of authentic Japanese music using traditional Japanese instruments (or reasonable facsimiles). For a game that is based on a TV show I was disappointed that there wasnít more sound bytes from the show. Thereís a few morsels thrown in to let you know this is a licensed product, but not nearly enough to satisfy true fans of the show or recruit new ones. Another low point is an inexplicable popping noise during many of the sound effects, clearly the result of some sloppy sampling and mixing.
I sliced and diced my way through this game in about six hours. The entire experience was as short as it was uninspired and just downright boring to play. The controls and gameplay are just littered with so many quirks and bugs that I never really enjoyed any of this and I am a big fan of the show.
Samurai Jack is a great cartoon and has the potential to become a great game only The Amulet of Time is not that game. While it borrows heavily from proven and successful game attributes from equally successful titles the developers just didnít put the time or effort into making the game playable and fun.
Itís clear that the people at Virtuacraft were either not true fans of the show or they simply werenít motivated to make a killer title from a great licensing opportunity. Diehard fans of the show can risk a rental but stay away from buying this game. Use your money for Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance or Metroid Fusion. Youíll get the same style of game only youíll have a better time playing it.