Y Buffy Kant Swim?

So this week’s games have been P.N. 03 on the Gamecube and Buffy the Vampire Slayer for Xbox. I haven’t gotten far enough into P.N.03 to really talk about it, but I’ve seen a bit more of Buffy, enough to decide to put it aside as not worth finishing.

This is a harsh statement, particularly painful because the game starts brilliantly, the story is enjoyable, and the combat system is simple, but lets you pull off some really cool moves once you dig into it.

The problem is this: In about the second level of the game, you have to fight Spike. Sorry for the spoiler. He’s a tough enough fight on his own, and then you need to face off against a bunch of other vampires while you’re already low on health and short healing items.

This is the only time in the game where you are at any risk of dying to a vampire, zombie, or any form of demon. Seriously. The game throws healing items at you left and right – to the point where I kept having to skip picking up more because my inventory was full. From then on, it’s demon bashin’ fun with Buffy and an assortment of dangerous toys – it’s surprisingly fun to dismember zombies with a shovel or sledgehammer.

What’s left to provide a challenge? The environment. Buffy can’t swim, for instance. Levels have lots of water in them. If you fall into water – instant death. There’s lots of molten metal, too, in one level, but I don’t have any complaints about that, if it weren’t for the next factor:

Buffy is dumb. I mentioned Ico a few weeks ago, and if you’ve played that you probably have a few harsh words for Yorda. Buffy makes Yorda look like a genius.

Hey, Buffy! In front of you is a bar you can hang on to, and also a pit full of molten metal! When I press the jump button, which will you choose?”

She seems to instinctively pick the lethal option. It’s worse if you have to do any combat near a hazard, because her combat animations tend to chain into each other and you can punch and kick your way right into the aforementioned lethal water.

Even with that, it was still worth playing, until I got to the next-to-last level. This is where the developers thought to themselves, “Wow, this game is actually kind of short. How should we make it longer?”

You get a level that, yes, has a few things in it to fight, but they’re never any real threat. Ignore them. What will kill you here is that the level is a series of platform jumps, where missing any of the jumps means an unrecoverable fall to your death. Miss one jump – or fail to jump off the platform you just jumped TO in time – and it starts you over at the beginning of the level. I will also mention that making Buffy jump in a straight line instead of at a weird angle seems to be a matter of pure dumb luck.

Buffy the fighting-vampires game is a really great game, and I recommend it. Buffy the platform game is a mess. It’s a shame that they come on the same disc.

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