Now here’s a game I didn’t expect. Samurai Jack ended over three years ago, so I can definitely say I wasn’t expecting a new video game anytime soon, much less one from a Japanese developer. Yet here we have exactly that from the same guys that brought us Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker. As someone that was a fan of the original cartoon, I had to give it a look.
So I’m gonna start with the game’s art style, as that is one of the defining features of the source material. I feel like the game does a decent job translating that 2D cartoon look into a 3D Unreal Engine game. It keeps all the flat colors, the striking character designs without outlines, and even the silly facial expressions that Jack sometimes wears. It looks great in motion as well, with a dynamic lighting system reflecting off of characters and even cool weather effects on some levels.
Now as for the gameplay, I would say that the game is most comparable to the action platformers of the PS2 and GameCube era. You’re given a series of levels to complete that have you killing enemies, collecting various loot, upgrading stats, and taking down a boss before proceeding to the next level. It’s relatively straightforward, but it’s oddly nostalgic in a way. It reminded me of the day when you didn’t need a bunch of fluff to sell a video game. The devs had a clear vision in mind here and they just kinda went with it, and I kinda respect that.
Despite this though, the combat actually has a good amount of depth to it. I was expecting your simple two-button mashing game, but there’s a lot more to the combat here than just that. You’ve got parries, dodging, counter attacks, ranged attacks, and weapon swaps that can be performed mid-combo. I would find myself dashing in to an enemy and dealing a few attacks, firing off a quick arrow to stagger the ranged enemy in the distance, before parrying the enemy in front of me for a free attack and dash towards that ranged enemy I just staggered. The combat has a really good sense of flow here.
It’s unfortunately not perfect though. Although there is some feedback behind each attack, it still didn’t quite feel like it had that sense of weight that really sells combat-heavy games like this. Whether that be enemies that feel like I’m cutting into paper or attacks that land on me without any sort of indicator, the combat is lacking in more than a couple areas. That and I found it frustrating how easily you could get stun locked, especially from certain enemy types that knock you down to 10% HP while doing so.
When you’re not in the combat though, you’ll be exploring the game world and doing some platforming along the way. I wouldn’t say that the game is too impressive in this department, but as I said earlier, if you’ve played the action-platformers of 15 or so years ago, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect. The level design is decent, the platforming mechanics are solid, and there’s a good amount of collectibles to find too.
If I had a complaint there, it would be the repetitive combat sequences that the game scatters about in these levels. It’s fine to have a wave or two of enemies to fight when entering new areas, but when I’m entering a small room and have to fight five waves of the same enemy type, it does become a bit repetitive. Granted, the combat depth makes up for it a little bit, but it’s still something that the devs could have done better.
Perhaps my favorite part of each level were the boss fights, which make excellent use of all of the different combat mechanics. You can’t simply spam your way to victory in these and the game encourages you to experiment with different weapons to find each boss’s weakness, in order to get that optimal damage. And I would definitely be lying if I said that these fights were easy. Despite the fact that this is a game based on a cartoon, it can be pretty brutal at times and I found myself constantly having to restart fights even on the game’s normal difficulty.
On the topic of optimization, I had pretty much no issue there. I played through the game in its entirety at 1440p with an unlocked framerate, which ended up hovering around 120 or so fps on my 1070 Ti. I didn’t really run into any frame drops, crashes, freezes, or even bugs – it’s a pretty polished game all things considered. The controls were nice as well. I tested keyboard and mouse and they worked fine, but I ended up using a controller, as that felt like a better fit for this type of gameplay.
So with that said, I would say that Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time is worthy of recommendation. It’s a solid action platformer with some nice combat, a cool aesthetic, and an overall nostalgic style of gameplay reminiscent of the PS2 and GameCube days. It may not have much in the way of a story and the combat isn’t perfect, but I had a good time during the six hours that it took for me to complete the game. It’s definitely worth a look for fans of the series or really anyone that’s a fan of the 3D action platformers of old.
You can buy Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.