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Samurai Jack: The Amulet of Time

Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: bam!
Developer: Cartoon Network Interactive
Media: Cart/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

To players unfamiliar with the cartoon, Samurai Jack: The Amulet of Time doesn't come off as all that impressive. The color palette is rather drab and almost monotone in range, the characters look like a fifth grade art project, and the backgrounds are flat and simple in design. Fans, on the other hand will see the graphics for what they really are - a very good translation of the series. Suddenly all of the negatives seem like positives - so I guess it's all a very subjective thing. I was rather amused by the design, and thought they carried a certain charm that many games today don't possess. There are a few problems, such as a few instances of choppy animation, but it's something you'd have to look really closely at to notice.

Sounds are good, but, unlike the graphics, don't carry much of the show's appeal. There's a really nice digital sampling of the theme song, but unless you've heard the song before, you're likely to not be able to realize what the words are, due to the garbled quality. Sound effects are fairly straightforward and bland. Sounds are used sparingly and only when called for. The background music goes well with the mood of the game, with a nice, gentle oriental style, but there are times when you can barely tell that anything is playing. But, just like the graphics, it's all subjective.


Gameplay:

Judging from screenshots, Samurai Jack: The Amulet of Time looks like the traditional side-scroller. It's not until the second level that you realize the game is more of a side-scroller in the vein of Metroid or the newer Castlevania's than something like Mario or Sonic. For those unfamiliar with the 'traditional' Metroid setup, each of the game's worlds are separated into different worlds that are all connected. Instead of progressing by levels, Jack can travel to whatever area he wants, as long as he has the world's 'key item'. For example, in order to get to one world, Jack might have to find the Ice Amulet so he can freeze a waterfall and climb up to the world. However, in order to get the amulet, he has to get to the Ice World which requires the hammer to break down weak walls. Although it may come off as a tad complicated at first, the flow of each progression is handled really well and adds a puzzle solving aspect to the game.

The game's plot is the same as the show. The evil wizard Aku sends Samurai Jack to the future. This allows Aku to take over the world, and after arriving in the future, Jack learns of an amulet - The Amulet of Time - that would allow him to travel back to the past and stop Aku. Unfortunately, the amulet has been divided into four parts and scattered across the world. This sets Jack on a mission to find the four pieces and set things right.

Although Samurai Jack desperately wants to be a Metroid-like game, a few technical problems keep it from being what it could be.


Difficulty:

For one, the game is just a tad too easy. Nearly every enemy has one or two patterns that can easily be followed and beaten. It's also very easy to trap enemies at the bottom of stairs or behind objects so you can merrily slash away at them. This same A.I. inadequacy is seen in bosses - taking away some more of the game's strategy. Another problem I found was that the level layout was a little too easy to follow. Part of the appeal of a game like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night or Metroid is the exploration aspect. This is something you don't find too often in Samurai Jack: The Amulet of Time since the plot line tends to push you in the direction of which area to travel to and hold your hand during many of the exploration areas. There is also an overabundance of health potions in the game, so you're not likely to die often.

Game Mechanics:

Another nagging issue with Samurai Jack: The Amulet of Time is the control. Many of the game's standard moves like attacking and jumping are handled well, but once you get into using the special moves, the all-to-loose controls become rather apparent. Even performing the simpler moves, like running, are out of whack. Running isn't much of a problem since all you do is tap twice in whatever direction you want to go. However, Jack has all the stopping power of a man on roller skates, and tends to slide a little too much when you want him to stop. This makes platform jumping a pain. I also noticed that there were times when Jack would start running when I didn't want him to. This wasn't a game breaker, but got a tad annoying. Performing the wall jump was also harder than it needed to be, which was annoying since many levels require you to get really good at doing this maneuver. According the manual, the move is easy to do, but once you try it, you want to hunt down the guy who wrote the manual (or programmed the move into the game). I won't go into too much detail at how difficult the move is to use, but let's just say you better have expert timing.

Samurai Jack isn't that bad of a title. It's more than a little rough around the edges, but it is possible to overlook a few of the game's flaws (except the wall jump - then it's all up to luck). In the end, though, this is more of a fan game than something for everyone.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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