Sunday, July 13, 2014

Level Up: Jackie Chan Adventures: Legend of the Dark Hand

Can we just talk about Jackie Chan Adventures for a bit? I talked about Jackie Chan at the start of Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu, and while my enjoyment of his work was exaggerated there, Jackie Chan Adventures still remains one of my favorite cartoons. I know almost no one who’s seen this show that didn’t like it. It had everything you could want from a Saturday morning Cartoon: action, adventure, comedy, magical elements, a little girl who grew up in Hong Kong but has less of an accent than the her uncle who grew up in America… Ok, that’s a personal gripe I’ve always had, but the point still stands that the show was fun. Of course, at the height of its popularity, there was a video game based on it… kinda, I’ll get to that in a bit. For now, let’s start our look at Jackie Chan Adventures: Legend of the Dark Hand for the Game Boy Advance.
One of the reasons I’m reviewing this game now is because it’s July and time for Adamant Ditto’s Beat ‘em up month. *Possible clip of “BEAT EM UP MONTH!”*You play as Jackie as you go through different areas and beat up members of the Dark Hand and find legendary Kung Fu scrolls. The scrolls aren’t just a McGuffin either, as beyond being able to punch and kick, these scrolls will allow you to use more attacks as the game progresses. To me, it makes sense that a Jackie Chan based brawler would have that extra focus on different moves. As well, it also makes for Jackie Chan to use what’s lying around as weapons, and while it’s not as varied as the Kung Fu legend is known for, nor as iconic and satisfying as something like the lead pipe in Final Fight, there is something to be said about whacking your enemies with an umbrella.
Despite all these efforts to make the game play match with Jackie Chan, there is one very important aspect where they didn’t match it: speed. Sure, the animations in this game are really fluid and make the action clear and visible, but it feels slower than it should be for both beat ‘em up and Jackie Chan levels. It doesn’t even make the button response better (as a matter of fact, since you need to wait for certain things, it might make it worse). To be fair though, your speed while walking is pretty fast, unlike most Beat ‘em ups.
As much as this affects the game play, I can look passed it. What really bothers me though is that Jackie Chan Adventures was famous for magical items, the talismans, bur hey are barely mentioned and never used in this game. Perhaps it would have too heavily affected the beat ‘em up style to have Jackie moving at lightning speed or be invisible, but I would have liked to have known they tried. They show up in the PS2 game though, but it’s still a big missed opportunity here.
The graphics in this game aren’t really good, but they aren’t too bad either. You’d expect, since this is based on a show, they would attempt to make the in-game graphics look just like the show. While this is true for the cut scenes, during the game play it actually looks like they were trying for a faux 3D look. There is a lot more detail than you’d expect and it seems like the developers Torus Games and publishers Activision (hey, that’s too Activision games in a row I review!) wanted this to look more realistic than the show. Like I said, it’s not bad, it’s just really weird.
The music is pretty stock, if that’s possible. From the standard “oriental” vibe from the intro music, to the level music that’s obviously simply made and doesn’t really get you pumping, it’s obvious music just wasn’t a priority with this game.
Jackie Chan Adventure’s is a significant disappointment from the TV show, but does that make it a bad game? No, though I do have to take off points for that (if you’re making a game based on something, actually base it on that). It is still playable and beatable as a game (save for some frustrating bosses). I wouldn’t recommend this if you want to get your Beat ‘em up fix for this month since it just doesn’t have the same satisfying impact most other games in the genre would have, but you can easily find worse games in general. Not really more to say to that: it’s no Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu, but it gets the job done if you can find it cheap enough. I give Jackie Chan Adventures: Legend of the Dark Hand on the GBA 6.5 levels out of 10.

Level Up: X-2: Wolverine's Revenge

Sorry about that, I just need a drink. Not because it’s Canada Day, but I kind of need it for this game (sorry for stealing the AVGN’s Rolling Rock schtick here). Otherwise, there’s just no help for me. You may have noticed in the past that most of the games that have failed have been 2D. In my mind, it’s harder to recognize a bad game in 3D over one in 2D. In 2D, it’s simple and when something doesn’t work, it’s pretty clear it should. In 3D, we seem to have a bit of leniency because it’s more complex. Well, today’s game doesn’t have even the semblance of competence. Here’s… *sighs and drinks from bottle* here’s X-2: Wolverine’s Revenge for the Microsoft XBox.
I’m among the minority of fans of the X-men movies in that X-2 falls pretty low on my ranking list. That being said, this doesn’t cause a bias for me since it has NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. As a matter of fact, this game seems to have more to do with X-men Origins: Wolverine (oh yeah, I went there). At least for the start. Later they just start throwing any random thing from the X-men universe at the player, without regard of what was previously established or how well they fit with the tone of the game. Yeah, Juggernaut and Magneto are two of the most well-known X-foes, but they don’t need to be in EVERY GAME. The tone just doesn’t work as the story feels like a mish-mash of other plots. It actually made more sense once I changed Wolverine’s costume to the Brown and Yellow comic book one, as THAT has an excuse to be silly.
It’s obvious that the developer GenePool Software (under Publisher Activision) had a really hard time balancing this game… because it isn’t. First off, Wolverine has a healing factor. This sounds like it would make the game pretty easy: just wait and heal, right? Well not really. To counteract this, most anything can kill Logan quickly and cheaply. Many times you will get knocked down easily and stand back up only to get knocked back down again (like a reverse Thubthumping). To be fair, part of the game is meant to be played out as a stealth mission and you get bonus points when you avoid fighting. Yeah, because that’s what you think about when you picture Wolverine, right? Muscles pumping, claws out, healing factor angry mutant ready to AVOID FIGHTING!
I guess I should be grateful that there is an easier way to do things, because fighting is a pain in the ass. Beyond the whole “repeated knocked down” thing, hit detection and button response can be a little iffy. To be fair, it’s not terrible, but it’s nowhere near where it should be and makes fights harder than they need to be. Often it leads to frustration or feels just plain cheap. These don’t compare to the boss fights though, where, while you’re fighting against the controls, they ask you to do specific strikes at specific times. It doesn’t work, and near the end they can instantly kill you for this!
Even adventuring around levels without bad guys can be annoying, as stages can be big and confusing. Stage hazards can be as annoying as enemies and it can be unclear on what you need to do, even when you know where you need to go. You do have a feral sense to help you track down enemies or see where you need to go, but they messed that up to, as there is no way of knowing the difference between coming and going! I’ve even turned a corner to sneak on one henchman, only to be greeted by 6 others in eye line that my senses didn’t let me know about. Nothing ever feels fair in this game.
X-2: Wolverine’s Revenge is simply a terrible experience full of frustrations. The start may not seem bad (boring but regular action adventure stuff) but as the game tries to be more “difficult”, it just magnifies the blunders. Basically, when you start at the bottom, the only way you can go lower is to dive into a sewer or go to hell. In order to beat this game, I required so many walk throughs, FAQs and videos just to make sure I wasn’t an idiot and trying to do the wrong thing (though playing this game is doing one big wrong thing), so beating it didn’t feel like an accomplishment at all. Same goes for the story, it seems really pointless and confusing, so you end up not really sure what was accomplished in terms of the narrative either. Oh, and it looks terrible too. Bottom line, this game was a real disappointment and it mostly just provides frustrations; avoid it. I give X-2: Wolverine’s Revenge for the xBox  2 levels out of 10.