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Unbound Saga

There’s a lot to want to love in Unbound Saga. It’s the only game that I can think of that has you fighting both overweight (presumed) prostitutes with mismatched stockings AND radioactive sewer mutants AND werewolves. Starring gruff comic book hero Rick Ajax, a self-aware hero with an open disdain for his penciler, Unbound Saga is a beat-em-up with a very unique style. Sadly, every other aspect of the game is either boring or broken. The best that can be said about Unbound Saga is that it’s a dull game that’s fun to look at.

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As Rick cries out to the heavens as new enemies are literally drawn into the panels, you can’t help but feel for him. This game has style in boat-loads. You feel like you’re really inside a superhero comic in a way that even higher budget superhero romps can’t emulate. It’s just sad that you’re almost instantly ripped out of the experience as you fight from panel to panel against the same dull, stupid enemies. In one boss battle, in the game’s fourth of ten total episodes, I pinned the boss in a corner and simply mashed the punch button until I killed him. While the enemies do have very different looks, none of them offer any real variety in terms of their attacks. Mostly, they just stand around waiting to be beaten on.

I remember the stage so vividly because that’s when the game’s shine really started to wear off for me. At first, I was pretty impressed and though I could see that it wasn’t perfect, I thought it would get better as it progressed and I unlocked more character abilities. But it didn’t and as I futilely tried to perform combos on the same handful of enemy types that I’d been beating on for four straight issues, I’d come to the realization that I didn’t even need to bother with advanced moves. I could simply punch over and over and the enemies would fall because they were, even the bosses, pathetic.

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The slow and sloppy controls also extend to the character’s movement. Rick and his partner, Lori Machette, move around the environments clumsily, making picking up weapons and hitting switches awkward. You’ll give up on the idea of picking up weapons after the third or fourth time you get brutally pummeled because you weren’t the miniscule distance to the left that you needed to be to grab it. The only reason you may even bother to pick up weapons later on is to break up the monotony of the handful of attack animations that you’ll see over and over again. Lori is unhelpful, often failing to do simple things like avoiding noxious gas. Making matters worse, you share your three lives with her, which she’ll ravenously consume as she stupidly dies.

The biggest disappointment is when you get halfway through the game and realize that the story is an indecipherable mess. I wasn’t at all engaged with the narrative, despite liking graphic novels and comic books as much as the next guy that likes graphic novels and comic books. You’ll encounter boss characters that pop in with no development or introduction, just serving as yet another punching bag, albeit punching bags that takes slightly longer to take down than the standard enemies. I also encountered a glitch that other users have suffered that erased my save game at the start of the game’s fifth episode.

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It’s just so sad because the presentation is so strong. The enemies bleed ink! Unbound Saga is a beautiful, poorly executed snoozer that can’t hold the player’s attention for too long. I might have thrown an extra point in Unbound Saga’s favor had I ever found a game available to play over Xbox Live with someone else, but despite trying several times, I could never find a match. If the creators ever do get around to putting together a sequel, I strongly suggest that they nail down a focused story, add some variety to the attack animations and improve the controls. Unbound Saga is a fun game to look at, but it just isn’t very good.

4 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003.

Gentle persuasion

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