What I found most fascinating about Mike Bracken's review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer is that we both enjoyed the game equally, but for very different reasons. He wrote that the game is 'incredibly faithful' to the source material. I can't agree with that. While all the surface trappings are present—the show's cast, the faithfully recreated locations—the game is missing something more integral. The heart and soul of the show has always been its excellent writing, character development and plotting.
All of the game's characters, especially the villains, talk and act like crude caricatures of their television personas, and the original villains have no personality at all, a far cry from Buffy's trademark complex and witty adversaries. The whole experience ends up feeling like a shadow of a reflection—it looks like Buffy, but a fan of the show would notice right away that it doesn't feel like it.
The game mechanics, though, do more than their part to pick up the slack. Mike called the fighting 'fast and fun'. I, on the other hand, would put it firmly in the 'great' column. In fact, I'd have to say the Buffy's fighting engine is one of the best I've ever used. The combat is both completely accessible and very deep, allowing a novice to jump in right away while challenging a more experienced player to search for the longest combos.
The biggest feature that Mike overlooked, though, is just how stunningly interactive the game's environments are—and how they work to create a truly entertaining gaming experience. Wherever Buffy finds herself besieged by demons, she's never too far piece of environmental weaponry. An especially nice touch is how the game assumes that you want to throw enemies into the various broken furniture and sharp logs that are strewn about the levels, and autocorrects the flight path of your foes. This kind of helping hand could easily becoming annoying, making you feel that the game was doing the fighting for you. The designers have found the right balance, though, letting you control the action while giving a little nudge in the right direction to make the occasional kill just that much more spectacular. It is in this feature, not the cast or script, that the game most resembles the TV show, allowing gamers to engage in truly fantastic fistfights.
The other point that Mike brought up was how annoyed he was with the game's platforming elements. I have to say I didn't find them anywhere near as infuriating as he did. Sure, sometimes it feels like you're trying to toss a piece of fluff onto a moving platform, but the jumping puzzles make up such a small portion of the overall game that they can't overshadow everything Buffy gets right. Buffy The Vampire Slayer does exactly what it sets out to do: provide the player with a very good third-person brawler. While it may not satisfy a die-hard fan of the series, I have to agree with Mike's overall assessment—that it succeeds first and foremost as a game—and how much more can we reasonably ask for?
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