To lead up to my topic for tomorrow’s Throwback Thursday – He-Man & the Masters of the Universe – I decided to dedicate some time to play a video game from the franchise – with the Game Boy Advance installment being the most practical choice by far. While it’s technically based on the 2002 reboot, given how few He-Man games were made (and how old the “classic” games were), I figured this one would be the simplest option.
So, after you receives his your first mission, you are granted control of He-Man, outside Castle Grayskull. You can run, jump and perform a (rather limited) collection of sword attacks. Playing the game I get the impression that the creators haven’t really played a hack and slash game before, because it seems to be missing one of the most common features of the genre – combos. When swinging his sword, He-Man seems to randomly perform one of two functionally identical animations, which lack any sense of flow whatsoever. Hack – pause – hack – pause. It’s not particularly engaging, to say the least.
The first mission of the game is reminiscent of the Gauntlet games – the Game Boy Advance installment of which this game seems to hold a great debt, visually – in that it involves destroying “monster generators” (which seem to be suspiciously prevalent in the land of Eternia). The first enemies He-Man encounters are rather generic skeletons, who deals an incredibly pitiful amount of damage. Should you feel the need, you could leave He-Man to get wailed on for a good few minutes before he would die. Another frustrating aspect of these skeleton foes is their tendency to collapse after just two hits. They need three hits to be defeated, but dealing that final blow requires a frustrating pause as you wait for the monster to get back up. If there was more going on, this might not be such an issue, but as I have yet to see more than 3 foes on-screen at one time, I get the impression that there will never be a situation in which I’ll have something to do whilst waiting for my enemies to become target-able once more. Not very engaging…
Less than 5 minutes into the game, and I find myself having to resort to an walkthrough online – something I did incredibly begrudgingly. You see, whilst the game feels the need to advise you on even the most obvious gameplay elements at every opportunity, at no point was even the slightest hint given towards He-Man’s capability to chop down incredibly benign objects which – given the simplicity seen so far – I assumed were just pieces of scenery. So, chop goes the tree. And, instead of seeing the tree fall into place, we are “treated” to a Batman-esque transition scene… which just seems out of place.
The next set of enemies we encounter appear to be… flying fish, of some sort. I don’t particularly remember He-Man battling many flying albino fish on his adventures, but then again I don’t remember him battling many skeletons either (besides the obvious). These foes, thankfully, don’t feel the need to collapse after a few hits, only to get up for one more, but they make up for that lack of annoyance with one entirely their own – incredibly lousy hit detection. He-Man can swing all he wants, but the chances are good these fish will simply ignore his blows and attack him – stunning him for a brief time, during which they will begin to attack again (and I’m sure you can see where that has the potential to go…). Once these fish have, finally, been defeated, He-Man can move onto what I assume is supposed to be the “boss” of this level. A purple fish. Yeah…
Once the fish is vanquished, He-Man can rescue his ally Man-At-Arms, who appears on the map as a token not unlike those used to represent Orko. I suppose the makers of this game didn’t think there was any point in spriting the characters, when they could just use flat rotating circles instead. I mean, why doesn’t every game do this? Oh yeah… because it’s lazy. Would it have killed them to sprite out a single idle animation and a walking cycle? Possibly. Anyway, with Man-At-Arms safely tucked away in He-Man’s wallet, it’s time to return to Castle Grayskull to complete the level. Not a moment too soon.
So, that was the first level of He-Man: Power of Grayskull, and I can safely say it’s not a title I would recommend. I mean, it’s not awful by any means… there are just so many other, more enjoyable, options out there that it seems awful. Who knows, however. I may play a little further into it to see if it picks up – it’d hardly be the first time I played a bland, generic game to completion purely for the sake of it. Then again… maybe not.