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The Scorpion King: Rise of the Akkadian

Score: 40%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Universal Interactive
Developer: Point of View, Inc
Media: GCD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action

Graphics & Sound:

Ugh. Just when you thought it was safe to go back to a license game, this rolls around and you're right back where you started, back in the landfill with E.T., somewhere in New Mexico or wherever they stashed him. Sure, The Rock has probably never looked better, but all the graphic splendor in the world couldn't save this fish from stinking. If that is what The Rock is cooking, I'd say it's time to order delivery and throw out the cookbook!

Not to gloss over the graphics, because they don't actually suck. Thanks to the power of the Gamecube, we find some nice things done with lighting, some interesting environments (certainly lacking in much detail, but colorful), and almost everything completely destructible. What we don't find is any real variety, so usually each level is composed of too many rooms looking exactly the same, with objects slightly rearranged and enemies coming from different angles, but otherwise very homogeneous and repetitive. This, along with atrocious music starts to wear on the nerves; you know mine were jangling within the first 30 minutes... There may be people who think that anything featuring a visage of The Rock can't be bad, but there are also people whose idea of fun is licking a 9-volt battery. Poor fools.


Gameplay:

The first tipoff you're in trouble should come when you see this is an 'original story inspired by the blockbuster film The Scorpion King.' So, we know right away this isn't going to follow the 'film' and that means - you guessed it - creative license. Generally, when producers get a little creative license the first thing they seem to do is go all 'Sling Blade' on us. Instead of imagining all the cool things The Rock could do, we instead find him in a horrible, 'Final Fight' type of product that not only makes very little out of the character or the license's potential, but doesn't add anything to the genre of third-person brawl titles. Which - okay - I'll admit, is exactly what a license game seems to be all about from most folks' perspective. Why come up with some daring new game and take a risk when you can tack a licensed character onto an existing formula and produce something that has worked before? And, if you really think about it, the bland qualities of this game pretty much echo the movie itself. If you actually were trying to make an accurate game depicting the action seen in The Scorpion King, you would pretty much come up with a joint like this. Sans the wild Hollywood special effects, of course.

So, without much need for a driving, engaging plot (heck, the 'film' didn't have one) you'll see The Rock punch and kick and punch and kick differently if you press the buttons fast and in different combinations... You'll see him pick things up to use for bashing and to keep people from bashing him. You'll see him knocking things down all the time, creating a lot of mayhem and mess. And, you'll see him perform some special magic juju that clears away enemies quicker than a firehose scatters non-violent protesters. It may be repetitive, tedious and require nothing more than a quick thumb, but if you've always been a fan of brawlers such as 'Final Fight,' you might actually see something redeeming in The Scorpion King. I'd be surprised though, because with no cooperative or multiplayer action, The Scorpion King starts to get tedious. You'll be able to collect some treasure, boost The Rock's power and fight all kind of bad guys. You'll even get to beat up some dogs, which I found in especially poor taste. As you play through each level, there are moments where a cool looking enemy or a difficult section puts a smile on your face, but more often than not there'll be a grimace or a scowl there while playing this game. Not a good thing, if you ask me.


Difficulty:

Cheapness abounds in a game where button mashing is its own reward. You seem to be able to magically defeat enemies by pounding relentlessly on A and B buttons until they expire (the enemies, not your buttons), hitting fallen foes on the ground and never giving them a chance to defend themselves or run away. And, as you might expect, there are plenty of times when this kind of treatment is dished out to you. Exasperating? Yes. An encouragement to keep on playing? No. Without any participation from another Human player, you're left with a CPU that is either unfairly tough or ridiculously easy. Again, not a good thing at all.

Game Mechanics:

Judging by all the things you are able to do, going from the manual at least, The Scorpion King comes off as a nice piece of work. The controls, I'll admit, are really fine. You move around and punch or kick with the A and B buttons, you control jumping and special attacks with the X and Y buttons. Defensive moves are mapped to the front shoulder buttons and the analog stick (obviously) moves you around. During battles, it is actually easy to move The Rock around and attack anything and everything, and a long training section in the beginning of the game shows you almost every possible attack combination and defensive move available. Not that you'll be very inspired to move around, since that would involve doing things. Dumb things, as I expressed before. Very little in the way of a puzzle shows up in The Scorpion King, and the extent of the drama is that you'll fight lots of guys until a locked door opens up and you can move to the next room full of guys. Sure, there are some places you can punch or throw objects at to get secrets items. These items either grant short-term benefits like health and stamina (your ability to perform special attacks) or give you a one-time permanent improvement in some status area. The former is nice when in the throes of battle, but not nearly plentiful enough. And the latter is an essential part of playing the game without getting your butt kicked all the time. Not an easy task. Otherwise, you can pick up objects to use during the game, again either on a temporary basis for things that can be broken or used in some way, or as a permanent enhancement to The Rock's arsenal.

It's a stretch to say this is even a game to recommend for fans of The Scorpion King, the movie. I honestly think that most self respecting gamers will feel dirty after playing this thing for a while, and fans of The Rock would be better to run out and buy some wrestling game where the poor guy is at least cast in a part he plays well. Huge playability issues mar a completely average brawler, and apart from some nice graphics and the appearance of a license game for a movie that delivers all you'd expect from a brain-dead piece of Hollywood fluff, this is certainly one title to avoid like crazy.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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