The Secret Saturdays: Beasts of the 5th Sun - WII - Review
The Secret Saturdays: Beasts of the 5th Sun might not look like much to the outside world. Those who have never seen or even heard of the show could easily walk by this game in the store, see it on the shelf, and not even realize it’s there.
But while The Secret Saturdays may suffer the consequences of the licensed game stigma (which constantly reminds us of the dangers of playing games with any movie, TV or comic book property attached), it does not suffer the same quality-damaged fate.
The Secret Saturdays isn’t one of those games kids will be hiding from their friends, embarrassed that they got it instead of the latest sequel to Big Long-Standing Franchise (BLSF). Despite the 3D tidbits, The Secret Saturdays is by all accounts a side-scrolling action game – a distinct departure from the average BLSF. There is, however, one big series that will come to mind as soon as you start playing this game: Spider-Man.
Over the past few years, Spider-Man has seen a ton of 2D releases on the Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance. Last year, Spidey side-scrolled his way to PlayStation 2. Each of these games (especially the DS iterations) were champions of D-pad controls, combining intuitive and seamless functions with the joy of fast-paced stages. Despite not having a thing to do with your friendly neighborhood superhero, The Secret Saturdays is entertaining for those same reasons.
Playing as Zak Saturday (the leading Saturday family member; several others are playable but Zak is the primary character), kids can use a grappling device to swing from the ceilings of building and floating platforms. The device can be fired straight up and climbed on to reach high platforms. It doubles as a weapon that can be swung around like a whip. When swinging – or running or jumping through any of the stages – the controls aren’t merely adequate. The button placement feels natural (press A to jump; press B to launch the grappling device), but that’s not what players will remember. The way the game responds – without fault and without any kind of cumbersome annoyance – is what really makes The Secret Saturdays special.
It sounds simple, and perhaps it should be: 2D gaming has been around since the beginning, so why shouldn’t all side-scrollers scroll this well? After all, developers have had 20+ years of time to get it right. But the sad truth is that most don’t get it right. So when a game does, it’s easy to ignore the fact that it should practically be expected – and instead praise the ones who succeeded.
The Secret Saturdays is more than a grapple-swinging action game, however. Its most interesting feature is the introduction of the Cryptids – prehistoric-type creatures that can be manipulated to influence the course of a level (open a locked door, remove a hazard, etc.) or to fight off enemies. Though Zak and other Saturday family members are capable of defending themselves, it is much better to take control of an enemy and use it against his own monstrous allies.
Cryptid manipulation is as easy as pointing the Wii remote at the screen. Hold the C button to bring up the targeting circle and aim at the desired Cryptid. Within a second or two, the Cryptid will be activated – and influence the stage or be yours to control.
Occasionally, The Secret Saturdays will drop its 2D act in favor of something more dimensional, bringing a little beat-‘em-up gameplay to the adventure. The conversion isn’t mind-blowing, nor is it as exciting as the rest of the game. It should, however, be just what 3D-craving kids are wanting – especially those already mesmerized by the other gameplay elements.
High Voltage, one of the Wii’s most dedicated third-party developers, applied the same development philosophy to The Secret Saturdays that it has applied to all of its projects: great controls come first. High Voltage then merged those controls with gameplay that’s light but not shallow, and challenging but not exasperating. It’s a fast-moving game that’ll keep kids excited throughout each stage, whether they’re fans of The Secret Saturdays property or were merely in search of good old-fashioned gaming fun.
Review Scoring Details for The Secret Saturdays: Beasts of the 5th Sun
Well-controlled side-scrolling gameplay with fast-paced levels and a lot of action to encounter along the way.
The backgrounds are a bit lacking (visually, The Secret Saturdays could have been made for the DS very easily), and the character models are plain at best.
There's some good music underneath the goofy sound effects.
Not a game kids will have trouble playing through.
The Secret Saturdays isn't an original game concept, but the execution is vastly superior to the normal licensed game (or the normal 2D game, for that matter).
Fans of The Secret Saturdays will be thrilled to play Beasts of the 5th Sun.