Buffy The Vampire Slayer - Wrath of the Darkhul King,
is not the first Buffy game to appear on the GameBoy.
THQ released one for the GBC a few years ago, which
was so awful, that I couldn't bring myself to play,
let alone review it. Well, second time's a charm they
say, so I'm reasonably optimistic that with the extra
power that the GBA provides and the mistakes learnt
from the last outing, that this Buffy game would definitely
be better than the last.
Without revealing too much of the 'B-Movie' type
plot, it's fair to say that at its core, the game plays
like a standard platform. The developers might disagree
and assert that it is a side-scrolling action adventure,
but I've played it and if jumping from one object to
another to avoid plummeting to death isn't at all platform
like, then pray tell, what is?
Anyway, aside from jumping around, there are some
other tasks you have to complete to progress through
the game which includes the flipping of switches and
the disposal of pesky vampires. If you know anything
about Buffy, then you should also know that vampire
disposal should be the focus of the game. Unfortunately,
what you get instead is an incredibly weak combat system,
which usually only requires that you select a wooden
stake from your inventory and simply stab your vampire
until they turn to dust. Do this repeatedly and voila!,
you'll reach the end of the level.
Usually, at this point, I'd go into detail about
the game's other aspects but since there isn't any,
I won't. If you're a regular reader, you'll know that
I'm generally full of praise for any game that includes
a battery backup. Well, this game has one. The only
problem is that your progress is only saved at the beginning
of each level. What a waste of battery, since a four-digit
pass code could have done the same job!
The controls are pitifully basic and generally the
kind you’d expect from a substandard platform game.
There's the usual jump, attack and select, although
it doesn't utilize the standard button layout. One plus
point though are the 'pop-ups' in the first level which
details how the control system works. Although good,
it's also pretty irritating because it gets repeated
every time you have to restart which will happen on
more than a few occasions.
Visually, the game is split into two very different
departments. First, there's the crisp digitized shots
lifted directly from the show which push the plot of
the game along nicely. Then there's the in-game visuals
which quite disappointing. The problem is that everything
looks dodgy, from the bland uninspiring backgrounds
to the less than fluid animation. It's also been rendered
in a rather odd perspective, which is not only unnecessary
but also overly confusing when you're attempting to
pull off some of the more difficult jumps. Developers
Natsume aren't exactly known for their visual flair
but this thing looks like they've given it to a bunch
of junior artists to cut their teeth on. Great experience
for them no doubt but little in the way of visual quality
for you and me.
Sound & Music
Even though they've licensed the images of the cast,
there's no digitized speech from any of them. I'm not
entirely sure why, since it could simply have been lifted
from the show with no need to record any special dialogue
unlike a console version. To add insult to injury, the
music that plays through the game is also weak and does
nothing to enhance the on screen action. Overall, the
audio appears to indicate that the developers simply
couldn't be bothered!
Aside from the nicely digitized shots of the cast,
which will no doubt please fans of the series, it's
hard to find anything positive to say about this latest
Buffy game for the GBA. To tell the truth, it bears
nearly all of the annoying hallmarks of a typical TV
tie-in game i.e. bland visuals, mediocre level design,
unimaginative game play, crappy music and etc. and etc.
and etc. All in all, Buffy The Vampire Slayer - Wrath
of the Darkhul King, is nothing more than a rushed attempt
at capitalizing on the Buffy name. Hopefully, Buffy
herself will drive a stake through this cart and put
it out of its misery. Recommended only for the die-hard