Buffy The Vampire Slayer Reader Review
Itís a stressful time. So many unknown quantities. So many possibilities to consider. Do I queue at my local Tesco store for a ridiculous amount of time, waiting to pick up a 360 at midnight in the vain hope that if Iím that sad and desperate, fate will deal me a good card? Do I make do with the measly number of quality launches planned in-between now and Easter on my trusty old Xbox? (Oh yes folks, pre-orders considered, thatís the ETA of off-the-shelf 360s). Do I sidestep and sample the wonders of the DS for a few months until I can bask in next-gen glory? Or do I think about which golden oldies will keep me going for a while?
Okay, for the purpose of this review, letís dwell on that last point for a while. Aside from Halo 2 and Project Gotham 2, my options are pretty thin. Iím a forward looking guy after all and a gameís got to have a lot of quality mileage for me to warrant going back.
ďWell there was Buffy!Ē cries some long dormant part of my cerebrum.
ďMmPchkkghhaaahahahaghhh!Ē chortles reader whilst spitting out half chewed crisps onto keyboard.
Look, no seriously, just hear me out. Iím no Buffy aficionado and I donít have some weird fetish for Sarah Michelle Geller or anything; it really is a damn fine arcade game.
Apparently, the gameís story fitís in-between episode 45 and 46 of series19, or something, and was penned by the actual script writers of the series. Yeah, means nothing to me either. How it does help though is by ensuring that the whole game has that Buffy Ďfeelí to it from the dialogue to the background, characters and humour. Whether youíre a fan or not, you canít deny that Sunnydale is a rich playground for a good creative imagination. All of the actors from the series lend their voice acting talents to the game, which goes a long way towards calming cynicism.
Iíll stick my neck out now and say that, next to Riddick, this is the best use of a licence that Iíve seen. Wow, a review clichť in action! What the heck is a good use of a licence anyway? Put simply: the gameís not a steaming pile of crap relying purely on itís name to sell a few copies. At best, a good use of a licence is like a good parent: itís job is to make itself gradually redundant. Thatís to say, by the time youíve made the decision to buy the game and learnt the basic mechanics, you should be enjoying it for what it is, not what itís supposed to represent. In this respect, Buffyís my favourite mother.
Iím not normally a fan of beat-em-ups, well not since I was twelve, and so I was rather amused to find myself so engrossed in one based on a cheesy teen fantasy drama. Hereís the hook: the controls in Buffy are simple to pick-up but evolve, through a series of power-ups and a bit of experimentation, into a very deep combat system. With basic buttons for punch and kick, Buffy can string together sequences of beautifully animated moves that often reward careful and deliberate choices rather than mindless button mashing. Throw in the odd bit of bullet-time, a wide variety of enemies ranging from mindless zombies to hard as nails demons whose attack patterns are akin to the enigma machine and youíve got a winning combination. It just never gets old. But hereís the Ďcoup de graceí: you canít kill anything (apart from the low level minions) no matter how much you beat it to a pulp. The only way you can finish something off is if you stake it or cut off itís head. Similarly, you canít be killed; even on zero health, unless youíre bitten by a vamp or youíre skull is squashed under the foot of one the juggernauts. Now this transforms the game from a fairly standard and boringly predictable fair, to one the literally has you on the edge of your seat, surrounded by four vamps, desperately struggling to whip out a stake in time or grab one and throw it onto a rather pointy part of the environment. You never quite know which way things are going to go. Itís like ProEvo meets DOA. Genius. In fact the sheer wonder of it all is brought into even sharper focus when you play Indiana Jones, the game that The Collective developed on the Buffy engine. It had all the bells and whistles, apart from the unpredictability of the combat and as such, had no soul whatsoever.
Graphically the game still looks pretty good, the sound is superbly atmospheric, the campaign is lengthy and varied and there are a few unlockable goodies at the end to keep you going back for more. The geometry and level design are a bit stale, but to be honest, when Iím performing Jacky Chan whirlwinds with a mop handle, driving it into the head of the vamp behind me, ever conscious of the three in front and not sure how things are going to pan out, the lack of contour in the environment is not really an issue thatís plaguing my mind.
Iím aware that you probably think Iím off my nut, but for the sake of a fiver and a scooch round e-bay, I dare you to have a go.
Now, whereís my hair bobble?
9 / 10