Sunday, March 4, 2012

PS1 Review: Jackie Chan: Stuntmaster (2000)

Really, Rise to Honor is the end-all be-all for cinematic martial arts video games. It's a niche market, surely, and the only truly comparable game, Jackie Chan: Stuntmaster, is more Super Mario World than anything else. Much like their onscreen exploits, Jackie's game is far more cartoonish and over-the-top than Jet's. Rise to Honor, though, has a much more integrated story to go along with all the fights and gun battles; Stuntmaster only has a few short cinematics that set up a rather simple narrative thread involving the kidnapping of Jackie's grandfather. As a result, Jackie must meander through different areas of New York City in order to rescue him. The levels themselves are well-designed and surprisingly interactive. When you encounter an adversary, you can put down with the square and x buttons to fire off a few punches or kicks, or you can pick up a nearby table or mop to add a little variety to your combos, or you can roll across tables to escape, or you can spring off the wall and stun your opponents with a backflip kick. These fights are quite entertaining, even though the boss battles are way too easy for my taste. When you're not fighting anyone, most of the time you'll be running and jumping through progressively more dangerous obstacle courses. Much like the old school Mario games, the camera here stays stationary most of the time, except to zoom in occasionally when you move into the background. Sometimes depth can be hard to judge in these platforming portions, so that a ledge you think is directly in front of you is actually jutting out a bit into the foreground. This becomes increasingly problematic later on as the obstacles become quite complicated and require so much dexterity and timing. Stuntmaster is a very difficult game, one of the hardest I've played in a while, and it ramps up suddenly and frustratingly. Thankfully, though, there's just so much charm and personality to recommend in Stuntmaster. Jackie's mo-capped moves and voice-overs are wonderful, and there's something suspiciously delightful in tossing bad guys off of roofs, all while Jackie's asks after them, "Why don't we talk about this, like gentlemen?" Chan connoisseurs will certainly like this one, provided they can get all the way through. It's not perfect, and it's definitely not in the same league as Rise to Honor, but if you're looking for more martial arts action on your PS1 or 2, then this is the only other game in town.

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