Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Ah, Buffy. What a wonderful concept: an attractive high school girl kicking vampire ass all over her hometown, eliminating the threat of the vampire underworld all while getting good grades and being a cheerleader. Who would think that a movie like that would be made into a TV show that would actually surpass the movie in terms of fan base and popularity? Not me for one, and I certainly didn’t expect a video game out of it, one that is actually good no less.
For those uninitiated into the Buffy franchise the basic idea is this: your average teenage girl has been determined by the fates to fight vampires and prevent them from taking over the globe and turning everyone into blood-sucking mutants. Buffy the Vampire Slayer the game starts off at the same point. You see, Buffy’s witch friend Willow has been kidnapped by the vile vampire Spike and you must rescue her from his hands. Soon after your heroic deeds, you discover that Spike and his motley crew are up to something more dastardly and as Buffy you must stop him.
The game reminded me quite a bit of Tomb Raider mixed in with some Devil May Cry goodness. As Buffy, you have to jump between platforms and pull switches to open doors, turn on power etc. As you progress through the linear levels you encounter vampires and demons of the underworld, all asking to be slain. Fortunately, our golden-blonde heroine has a few tricks up her sleeve that she learns at the beginning of each mission from Giles, her tutor.
For one, she’s packing wooden stakes and they aren’t for a tent she’s going to pitch. No, these stakes are for one thing and one thing only: turning vampires into piles of ashes. But before Buffy can stake these demons of the night, she must beat the crap out of them first with an over-whelming arsenal of moves. Buffy can perform the standard attacks such as Punch and Kick with ease, but you must master combo attacks in order to be able to defeat some of the more powerful enemies in the game. The combos are fairly easy to perform, but sadly the camera makes it somewhat hard to aim them and you have a 50% chance of actually hitting an enemy with them. To make it fair, the game limits the amount of these you can use through a stamina-style meter.
Staking is a fun thing though. Outside of Buffy’s standard wooden stake, you can use a wide-assortment of weaponry, including shovels and a water gun that shoots fire and holy water. There’s nothing as satisfying as delivering the fatal blow to those of the underworld with a new weapon…the first 30 times you do it that is. You constantly have to collect weapons in the game as they are given a limited life and will soon break.
Buffy’s levels are long and tedious, and as you progress you encounter swarms of respawning enemies everywhere. With little hint of where to go, I often wandered areas searching for the door I was supposed to go through only to encounter dozens of foes along the way. To make matters worse, enemies kept coming but health didn’t, though you do get a small health and stamina recovery after killing a vampire.
Golly, I’m torn. Here’s what we’re looking at. First, Buffy features all the cast from the hit TV series, all of which are incredibly rendered to look exactly like them. They did an amazing job in preserving even small details such as clothing that they would wear during the show and their basic mannerisms. Yes, most of the cast populates that game, such as Xander, Cordelia and the ever popular Angel, Buffy’s love interest.
On the other hand, the town of Sunnydale is boring to look at. The texturing is nothing special, walls are very bland to look at and a lot of the areas look incredibly similar to the previous areas. To make matters worse, a lot of the generic enemies are exactly the same as the ones that you destroyed just moments before, which takes a lot of the fun out of it.
A cool feature though is that a lot of the objects in the environment are real-time, so you can run up to them and beat the crap out of tables, often times leaving a stake behind for you to use. This small redeeming factor adds a little fun to a pretty boring world.
Buffy the Game has a pretty good lineup of stars voice acting for it. All of the series stars, excluding Buffy herself Sarah Michelle Geller lent their voice to their in game models, which further adds to the games television like feel. Ms. Geller couldn’t attend the voice recording because of prior obligations, such as the abysmal Scooby movie that she stared in, so a replacement was found. Surprisingly, she did a remarkable job and it wasn’t too obvious to me that she wasn’t who she was pretending to be.
During the cut scenes and the group meetings you have before your missions, the voice acting is good, straight outta the TV show good. However, once in the game the annoying phrase meter starts rising. Frequently, the same phrase is repeated over and over by the enemies. The female ones were particularly annoying, as every time you encountered one they’d say ”chick fight!” Now, as a guy I have no problem with this, but 75-100 times, it gets annoying. The music is pretty average, nothing really stood out at all. It’s supposed to invoke fear into the hearts of women and children, while encouraging men to bravely step into the darkness and face their fear, but sadly it just doesn’t cut it.
Buffy is a surprisingly good license, more so than I expected it to be at least. Sadly though, some really obnoxious sound, lame music, repetitive levels and button-mash gameplay ruin a fairly decent game. If more effort was put into the gameplay, the game could have easily gotten a higher score, but sadly Buffy just rests slightly above average.