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Disney's American Dragon: Jake Long - Rise of the Huntsclan

Score: 65%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Buena Vista
Developer: WayForward
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Platformer (2D)/ Fighting

Graphics & Sound:

There are probably two ways to look at Rise of the Huntsclan, which is the GBA version of the latest American Dragon Jake Long release. One way - glass half full - is to say that people like side-scrolling, beat-em-up games a lot and like them with a heavy dose of their favorite licensed characters. As certainly as there are people who vote Republican in Vermont and fan-boys who would say that the Fantastic Four movie was "pretty good" there are people who will get their rocks off on any attractive beat-em-up joint. The other, "glass half empty" way to look at Rise of the Huntsclan is... oh, I guess I already touched on that.

Without the pervasive sarcasm, it's fair to say that fans of the show will enjoy seeing Jake and the gang on the small screen. The animation style is distinctive and it made a nice transition to this game. The best parts of Rise of the Huntsclan are when enemies come out of the woodwork and make a dramatic appearance. Boss battles are cool to see, but not as cool to play. Which pretty much sums up the entire experience. Very little about the sound or design in the game can redeem the very tedious gameplay. On the bright side, if you really like the gameplay, the graphics are not bad.


Gameplay:

There are times when I can't say enough about the deep gameplay and this won't be one of those times. I understand that American Dragon Jake Long isn't Sherlock Holmes, but is he really about nothing more than beating people up? Even if we're all about the beatings, can't we find some sidebar competition like skating or flying a dragon through rings (sorry, Spyro...) or anything but the constant punching and kicking? Apparently not.

The game involves fighting through multiple levels and battling a series of baddies and bosses to reach the Huntsman. If it sounds easy, you didn't read the fine print that says you have to max out Jake's abilities before you can battle the Huntsman. As the manual puts it, "you may need to play through twice or more to get to the final battle." The translation for you n00bs out there is that your friendly neighborhood developers introduced an arbitrary roadblock for you so you don't beat the final boss in your first hour or two and start looking for the store receipt. Sure you can upgrade Jake's abilities, but the non-upgraded Jake is perfectly capable of kicking butt from the beginning of the game. Your upgrades buy you more time in the game, and little else.

Fighting through each level would be a complete loss without the ability to transform into dragon form. Some power-ups that actually help make the game more enjoyable are those that help you "dragon up" sooner. The dragon rocks. Your friends also rock and can be pulled in periodically to help fight off the waves of bad guys. The boss battles are not much more than larger versions of all the other battles, so there isn't even a huge challenge to look forward to at the end of each level.


Difficulty:

The youngest gamers and fans of American Dragon Jake Long may find this challenging, but they'll eventually settle on the same button-mashing strategy that older gamers employ in these situations. If multiplayer were an option, there might be some interesting challenges in the game. As things stand, there is very little true challenge apart from timing a few jumps and planning your attacks on minions and bosses. Getting to the Huntsman fight is unnecessarily hard, as I mentioned above.

Game Mechanics:

Since Jake's skateboard is featured in the game, it becomes a weapon for him to take out enemies. There are several combos that involve low and high kicks, and a flying kick that uses the skateboard to advantage. The controls actually felt pretty good, but there was no true combo system for fights. At least there should have been some multi-button combos to make the fighting feel more enjoyable. The dragon fights aren't very strategic, since the dragon is so overpowered compared to Jake. Calling out your friends is accomplished by hitting the L and R buttons at the same time.

The long and short of Rise of the Huntsclan is mostly the short, since the game doesn't amount to much. If you're dead set on collecting as much American Dragon Jake Long paraphernalia as possible, then who am I to stop you? If you're looking for something playable over the medium to long haul, I think you'll be sorely disappointed with this puppy. I certainly was...


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Sony PlayStation Portable Warhammer: Battle for Atluma Sony PlayStation 3 Genji: Days of the Blade

 
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