Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Rant Gaming: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Review (Game Boy Color)

The following article was originally published on Dec 12th 2012 on the new defunct videogame news website Rant Gaming. The article has been reproduced with permission. The URL for its original publication can be found here (the link may become broken in the near future).

Buffy the Vampire Slayer the television programme needs no introduction, with its immensely popular six year run placing it into the early 21st century pop culture hall of fame. Of course, with any popular franchise aimed at the same demographic as videogames, stink-tastic videogame tie-ins are always ready to cash-in on the action. Enter Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the Game Boy Color.

Developed in 2000 by Malaysian developer GameBrains, Buffy is a sidescrolling brawler that sees the eponymous heroine takes on hoards of vampires across various settings. Unfortunately there's nothing more that can be said to objectively describe this game. A few minutes of gamplay is all that's necessary to experience the entire breadth and depth of what Buffy offers.

Each level consists of walking from the left to the right while being confronted by the game's sole enemy, vampires. Even though you may have to defeat more than one vampire before progressing through a level, they will only ever appear one at a time, boiling the game down to what is essentially a series of very poor 2D fighting sections.

Combat involves nothing more than randomly flailing your arms and legs in the general direction of your vampire opponent while they wildly flail back at you. Hit them enough times and they'll fall, at which point you'll need to kneel by their corpse and whack your stake through their undead heart. An once of luck is required to pull this off as you need to stand precisely by their legs before they rise again, but with that game's slow, finicky controls to get in your way this is easier said than done.

The developers chose to adopt a peculiar health system that consists of a stamina bar, followed by a health bar. During your first few fights the system will seem to make sense; when your stamina runs out you'll be open to a vampire bite which draws directly your actual health. While being bitten, button mashing will recharge stamina which, when full, will throw the vampire off. Strangely enough, stamina can only be recharged while being bitten so if a particular battle ends and you're left with low stamina, there's no way to get more before the next battle.

The confusing health system is of no consequence however as your character is practically invincible and even if you find yourself with low stamina or health, regularly occurring power up will charge both back up to full status. It is entirely possible to complete the entire game in one sitting without dying at all.

The developers managed to keep close to the source material in terms of the game's somewhat original storyline which borrows elements and characters from the television series. As Buffy & Co. get ready for their university's multicultural week they discover that a magician plans to bring the world's strongest vampires together to help open a portal to hell. 

At the end of each level the story progresses via still shots comprised of poorly drawn cartoon renditions of the programme's main characters with cheesy white speech bubbles superimposed over the top. Dialogue is plentiful, and is brimming with the super-sarcastic one liners the programme is know for. Unfortunately, these long 'cut scenes' make little to no sense at all and only act as vague explanations of the locations you'll find yourself in and the enemies you'll be fighting.

The enemies in question are vampires and vampires only, but due to their intercontinental origins they'll take the form of a range of stereotypes including tribesmen, ninjas, Egyptian Pharaohs and European noblemen complete with top hat and cane. In actuality it's difficult to tell these enemies apart as the muddy graphics blend into the dark backgrounds of the game's unimaginative locations including the sewers, a zoo, and a spooky mansion.

After a while every battle boils down to simply crouching in the corner, sweeping your legs, and frantically trying to get that stake in. This method applies to each and every vampire as well as the few bosses that appear such as Sasquatch, a devil and, get ready for it, a woman. Due to the combat being the only gameplay element present, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is nothing more than a short, hour long endurance test of the mind that offers nothing in the way of entertainment or challenge. A true retro stinker that gamers and Buffy fans alike should stay well away from.


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