Publisher: Adult Swim Games
Release Date: 08/21/2020
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Action games during the PS2/Xbox era are an entire evolution of their own. This is a pocket of the game that has evolved and also evolved itself at one point. Linear levels with simple combat was a run-of-the-mill action game back in the day, and a game released like that in 2020 is a bit of a gamble. While I’ve never seen Samurai Jack, the gameplay style from 15 years ago is what drew me in.
I have to emphasize right now that this game is mostly for Samurai Jack fans. The art, story, characters, and everything else are meaningless to anyone but. While I appreciate all of this I couldn’t follow the story and had no idea what was going on. An evil entity named Aku has sent Jack back in time through multiple dimensions and Jack must stop him. It seems rather simple and bare-bones, but fans of the series will get it more. I won’t ding the game on that merit, but even for a show tie-in, the story is rather simple and basic.
Controlling Jack is a lot of fun. He double jumps, swings a weapon, throws projectiles, and has a special move. He can wield heavy and light weapons from staffs, swords, sickles, clubs, hammers, and axes. It seems like a large arsenal, but there’s not much difference between this outside of damage and speed. I honestly stuck with the sword through most of the game as I also dumped most of my coins into training for that. Jack can also throw various things like knives, shurikens, axes, use pistols, and machine guns, as well as bows. It’s a large arsenal and different projectiles do different damage and ammo is scarce so I mostly saved these all for boss fights.
Jack also has a light and heavy attack and can dodge and block. Acquiring spirit fire allows him to unleash a powerful attack and each weapon has its own attack. It’s a decent enough system, and I felt like I was playing a game from 2005 which is both good and bad. If this game were to have come out back then it would have been considered amazing, but today it’s just a nostalgic trip that feels rather average. While everything works and the controls are responsive I just felt the game’s repetition and linearity hurt it quite a bit. I don’t need every game open world, but these games are freakishly claustrophobic and the only way forward is straight. There are side paths to take to find chests that have various items in them, but the extra effort usually isn’t worth it.
You can find shops that allow you to buy weapons and training as well as repair weapons as they are breakable outside of your magic sword. This is why I just spent and saved for training the sword. It’s kind of a broken system just like the upgrade tree. There are three categories for physical, combat moves, and spiritual for things like spirit fire recharge, but you’re going to eventually get most of them. Each one is locked off so you have to buy the one before it anyway. This almost feels useless as you don’t get a direct choice.
The game is also sickeningly repetitive. After level 5 I couldn’t take it anymore. You just fight wave after wave of enemies with various health bars and then a boss at the end. It’s nothing special and gets rather a dull quick. Sure, the game looks good and has lots of detail in the characters and environment, but only fans of the show would truly appreciate this. Once you finish the first level you have pretty much seen everything. You just play it like that 8 more times. The game also isn’t very challenging as most enemies are dumb and rely on their annoying attacks (like zombies burrowing underground and popping up under you) or swarming you until you die.
Overall, Battle Through Time is a love letter to early PS2-era action games, but there are games from that era that still do it better. Overly linear, repetitive mindless combat, useless upgrade tree, and a story that only fans would appreciate aren’t enough to save this game. It looks good, sounds good, and plays well, but the overall package is just meh.