"It's no Power Stone, that's for sure."

Sometimes, no matter how much you want to like a game, it just does whatever it can to keep you from that.

In a designer interview, they said their inspiration for this game was Power Stone. Be that as it may, I am at a loss as to how they ended up with this. Even more puzzling is that it was pushed back a few times before release. I am left wondering if they were struggling to salvage it, or if they ever even played it. That it released at $30 should have been a sign to me. That price tag is an apology, and even then, it's too high.

Style 9/10
Yes, a 90%. When I first saw the character designs, I was psyched. It was like Power Stone, but without the kiddy characters! In that sense, I was not let down. The characters and their levels have a lot of personality and are rather cool. There are some obligatory busty females, one surprising modestly dressed female, a knight in armor (with no helmet, of course), a samurai, a monk, and a bunch of other Japanese-y archetypes. The levels are fitting and designed nicely. In other words, if someone had stolen this idea from someone else and made the game, it could've been great. We love Barty Bart!

One of the coolest things about the game is the little image of two of the characters playing with XBox controllers on the loading screen (which has a nice star background with about 3 frames).

Gameplay 2/10
All I have to say is... huh? This is how things seem to go. You start the game and spawn in an arbitrary place. You run around killing and/or getting killed and after a random amount of time, the words WIN or LOSE appear in huge letters on your screen. This seems to be more or less random. Running away from everything and doing supermoves seems to make you win sometimes. But you can lose whether you're kicking ass, running in a circle, enjoying the view, whatever. In other words, flip a coin and you get the same effect. To rub in how totally arbitrary and meaningless the lose conditions are, while the continue countdown goes down, the game continues in the background with your character standing there, getting pummeled. Also to add to your sense of utter confusion, your character is always named Stake. There is only this one game mode in which you keep fighting through levels that seem to be organized randomly as well. I don't know how many you play through, or what happens when you get to the end, if there is indeed an end. I had to put it down after the third or fourth match.

The AI is insanely obnoxious. When injured, your enemies will run away, and since all characters go the same speed and all attacks are sluggish, you CANNOT hit them till they get cornered. Fortunately, the levels have many, many edges. Unfortunately, if you knock an enemy over an edge, it counts as -1 kills for them, rather than +1 for you. This means they can come back and slam you around randomly and kill you.

The levels are far too big for 3-person fights and the clipping is awful. You clip through walls, the stairs won't always let you use them as stairs, and worst of all, sometimes you'll instantly climb a wall taller than your character as if there was no height distance at all. This is just sloppy.

Control 4/10
The control is sluggish and irritating. The camera can be raised, lowered, and zoomed, but not rotated, leaving two of the right thumbstick's axis unused. The camera use would be nice if it wasn't so easy to get lost behind walls and pillars. You need to constantly adjust the camera to keep your character in sight on most levels, by the way, meaning if you're under a roof, you need to zoom in or else you'll see nothing but roof. And when you're zoomed in, it's really hard to keep an eye on your enemies. In multiplayer this is even worse, with the screen chopped in fourths.

As I mentioned before, the attacks are slow to perform. Someone want to tell me why someone using a spear has to spin it around all fancy and can't just STAB with it? Your enemy can easily slip in attacks if you miss, and hit detection is ruthless. And you can't block. Ever.

There are very few options for gameplay or for entertainment's sake. In other words, you don't get a lot of control no matter what you're looking to do.

Graphics 7/10
Well, they're not XBox-exclusive quality, but I like them. The distance blur looks nice, the characters look good (although not very sharp), and the environments are colorful and interesting. Some things don't mesh right though. For instance, everyone that's ever made an XBox game has used the box's water rendering techniques, so all water in all games looks exactly the same. Which is nice. Unfortunately, the rest of the game has a somewhat cartoonish look to it, and the water doesn't fit in.

Sound 2/10
I'm a quiet person. I keep my TV pretty low, so I odn't bother the neighbors or hurt my ears. The first time I played this game, I thought there was no sound, only music. When I turned it up, I was even more disappointed. The sounds are stale and repetitive, and the music is consistent... stale and repetitive. One of the game's redeeming qualities is the funny way it says ''STEAK!'' on the title screen. It never fails to remind me of tasty meat.

Replay Value 1/10

I still haven't figured out how to unlock anything, and I'm pretty sure there are alternate costumes to get. For what it's worth, every time I play it is just like the first. Confusing and unfulfilling.

Bottom Line 3/10
I really, really wanted to like this game. XBox needs a good brawler. But quite frankly, Kung Fu Chaos is a better game in all matters of execution. And that doesn't say a whole lot...

Reviewer's Rating:   1.5 - Bad

Originally Posted: 05/13/03, Updated 05/13/03

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