reviews\ Mar 26, 2003 at 7:00 pm

Samurai Jack: The Amulet of Time - GBA - Review

Samurai Jack, Genndy Tartakovsky’s great Cartoon Network action hero, now arrives on the Game Boy Advance.  The Amulet of Time attempts to fuse Castlevania and Metroid-like gameplay with the flair and sensibility of the popular TV show.  However, does it succeed?  While the game’s graphics manage to capture the look and visual style of the show, the stiff controls, redundant action, and frustratingly lousy collision detection ultimately sour the experience.  Simply put, Samurai Jack is just no fun.


The game’s storyline follows Jack, a samurai warrior sent to the future by a shape-shifting wizard named Aku, on his quest to recover the Amulet of Time, which would return him to his past.  As Jack, you will collect the pieces of the Amulet of Time and fulfill your destiny by defeating the evil Aku.


The game tries to emulate the deep gameplay of the recent GBA incarnations of Metroid and Castlevania.  Throughout your quest, you will collect items that can increase your maximum health and special meter points, and you will pick up various pieces of armor that have different effects on you in terms of physical and magical protection.  As you collect pieces of the Amulet, you’ll gain special elemental abilities, like the ability to shoot flame trails and ice pillars.  These elemental powers also get you through different obstacles that stand in your way.  For example, you’ll have to use your fire special power to melt an ice block in your way or use the earth power to break away loose ground.  This leads to a lot of backtracking, as you will need to come back to the places you couldn’t previously get through after you gain a special ability.  Along your journey, you’ll also interact with various people that will give you hints to help you on your way.


This all sounds well and good in concept, but the level design is horribly redundant, and the backtracking aspect gets very boring very quickly.  The enemies are also very redundant, as you will only fight about two or three types enemy per area.  Samurai Jack has a few different attacks to dispose of these enemies, but ultimately it all comes down to hammering away at the attack button when you get close to an enemy.  What’s worse is that the game’s horrible hit detection will often leave you swinging at nothing as the enemy wails on you.  This poor hit detection also leads to some much undue frustration when it comes to platform jumping, as you’ll often seemingly land on a platform only to fall to your death.  Couple this poor hit detection with the fact that Jack handles very stiffly and slowly, and you get irritation and dissatisfaction.


 The graphics are the one thing the game does fairly well.  The style and presentation stays pretty accurate to the show, and the animation is pretty nice.  Aside from the repetitive environment backgrounds and enemies, I couldn’t really say I had a problem with the graphics.


The sound is a different story.  While the music is good and pretty accurate to the TV show, the sound effects do a really bad popping noise.  At one point I even popped in a different game to make sure nothing was wrong with my GBA.  Fortunately, it just turned out that the game has some nasty sound effect problems.


Samurai Jack tries to repeat the deep and engaging gameplay mechanics of the Metroid and Castlevania series, but ultimately fails due to nasty collision detection and clunky controls.  Anyone looking for a good action/adventure would be better off trying Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance or Metroid Fusion and avoiding this weak licensed title.


Reviewer’s Scoring Details


Gameplay: 5.5
The game shoots for the same deep level as the Metroid series, but falls very short because of clunky control, frustrating hit detection and repetitive level design.


Graphics: 7.0
The graphics nicely recreate the visual style of the television show.  Jack is very nicely animated, though the backgrounds and enemies are a bit redundant.


Sound: 5.0
The music does a nice job of establishing a mood similar to the TV show, but the irritating popping noise in the sound effects is just too annoying to listen to.


Difficulty: Medium


Concept: 6.0
The storyline is what you’d expect to see on the cartoon show.  The Metroid-influenced mechanics are a reputable endeavor, but the weak gameplay sours the whole experience.


Overall: 5.5
Fans of the series would do well to skip this title and hope the next game is better.


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