Despite feeling like a PS2-era title, Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time is as straightforward as they come but still features some button mashing, hack’n slash goodness. The simple gameplay keeps action at the forefront and plays well for a licensed property even though there isn’t too much meat on the bone.
Presented as a direct extension of the fan favorite TV show, Battle Through Time plays closely to his 2D animated counterpart, keeping combat at the forefront. There are no puzzle to solve as the entire game is all about slashing robotic beetles with your sword, punch cat-men things in the face, and using other melee and ranged weaponry to defeat waves of enemies. The easiest difficulty is perfect for players to cruise through the story and cut down enemies with a badass slice but the more challenging settings demands a higher concentration level to succeed. Jack will get attacked from enemies off screen, get unfairly overwhelmed at times, and get annoying sniped by rocket launchers from across the map so it is important to learn how to dodge, block, and know when to attack.
There are a lot of weapons to collect and abilities to unlock. In fact, there are so many enhancements that grinding becomes a chore if you wanted to see it all. By the time I finished the 4-5 hour campaign, I only managed to unlock about one third of all the available skills. The biggest annoyance comes from the need to repair weapons that have been used for a while. There are Achievements directly tied to this too. Going for the “only use spear weapons in a stage” Achievement, my last bamboo stick broke during the final boss fight, making my twenty-something minute romp through that level a bust as there simply are not enough shops when you need them (represented as a character from the show) to keep inventory fully stocked and repaired. NPCs are scattered throughout each stage but they just plainly and awkwardly stand there. How did they get there? Why are they not moving? Why do they speak something completely different than their text bubble? Clearly this is a licensed project on a budget.
The environment keeps the player on rails, only offering a slight detour here and there to provide a collectable if the player feels like searching each corner and breaking every pot. It is actually rather distracting to be kept inbounds by invisible walls but I guess this keeps the gameplay focused on its main attraction – the combat. The formula is very simple and it repeats throughout the entire campaign: walk into a conveniently empty area, take out all the enemies that magically spawn there, grab the floating icons they drop, maybe walk around to find a secret, then walk into the next area and repeat until you take out that level’s boss and get graded on performance. Do well and get rewarded with material used to upgrade faster. Jack isn’t as nimble as he is in the show, as he is the slowest ladder climber in video games and cannot perform those super cool but highly unrealistic jumps, but action is still fast paced and combat does its job.
It is a weird seeing Jack and everything from the show in 3D when the sharp, heavily outlined 2D art works so well in the cartoon. It does a good job to represent everything with 3D polygons but still doesn’t feel quite right. At least the voice actors from the show reprized their roles for a more authentic experience.
Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time is a very straightforward and actually tasteless experience. However, even though gameplay is repetitive and really nothing any gamer hasn’t played before, I was still hooked for some reason. Maybe it is because I am a fan of the show or appreciated the simple and mindless gameplay, but I enjoyed by time with the quest until the uninspired credits screen rolled. I personally felt zero incentive to play through again on the harder difficulty, try the unlockable challenge missions, search for all the missing collectables, and max out the stats, but my time spent this is licensed product was enjoyable and appreciated even though I know its flaws were starring me right in the face.
Also Try: Metal Gear Rising Revengeance (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)
Don’t Forget About: God of War: Chain of Olympus (PSP)
Better Than: SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated