D3 PublisherDeveloped By:
High Voltage SoftwareGenre:
E10 (Everyone 10 and Up)Release Date:
October 20, 2009Screenshots: LinkAmazon: Buy Now!Written By:
From the Quest Family to the Fantastic Four, it seems every generation of Saturday morning cartoon-viewers gets at least one family of adventuring and world-saving scientists. Added to this auspicious list is Cartoon Network’s The Secret Saturdays. Available now on multiple platforms --Wii, PlayStation 2, Nintendo DS, and PSP-- D3 Publishers brings us a new original adventure, The Secret Saturdays: Beasts of the 5th Sun.
Once again, D3 has done an excellent job maintaining the style and heart of the original license. In order to prepare for this review, I actually watched some Secret Saturdays and was pleased to see the video game started off exactly the same as a regular episode would: with a trip to “Weird World.” V.V. Argost, the arch nemesis of the Saturdays happens to have his own television show and its segments are usually the beginning of a fantastic adventure for this hip young family. This time, Argost tells viewers of an ancient Aztec legend that mentions 4 suns that eventually died out and explains that we now live in the age of the 5th sun. The legend goes that if the powers of 8 great beasts are combined, it will bring about the end of the 5th (and final) sun!
Being the wicked TV host slash scientist that he is, V.V. Argost sets off in search of the mythical beasts. His first stop is to invade the Saturdays’ compound in search of some valuable items. This sets the family into action and they chase after him. Along the way, they discover his nefarious scheme and attempt to beat him to each of the eight beasts of the sun. Unfortunately, they are never quite fast enough to stop him and a final showdown for the fate of the world takes place where the adventure began- the Weird World Mansion.
Players control Zak Saturday as they make their way through standard platforming puzzles. Zak can double jump and also shoot a claw that allows him to hook onto certain surfaces and either climb up or swing from them. Most of the game is on a flat 2D plain with 3D/cell-shaded graphics, but there are some sequences where Zak is granted that elusive third dimension of movement. Throughout the game, Zak must rely on the magical beasts of the Saturdays’ cartoon world- the cryptids. Each level features several moments of cryptid-based puzzle solving. Players must use the beasts’ abilities to reach unreachable zones or clear paths to areas that could not normally be reached. Finally, these puzzle solving/action platforming moments are broken up by small 20-30 second 3D battles that use a tag-team system to take out a few waves of foes. The back of the box may be a little deceiving to some people. It proudly boasts that you get to play as the entire Saturday Family (including the super-cool Casey Jones type character- Uncle Doyle!) and interact with over 50 cryptids; however, it does not mention that you only play as the family members for incredibly brief and simple battle scenes and some of the cryptid interactions are incredibly brief or altogether unnecessary. Players are basically Zak the whole time, but these brief interludes do provide some well needed variety in game play.
The levels contain various extra features such as hidden relics, firefly challenges, and Beasts of Bowness (bonus…get it?) that all unlock various cheats and conceptual artwork. The hidden relics are easy-to-miss background objects that players can scan to unlock. The firefly challenges are platforming events that require players to take a specific path and complete various jumps and puzzles in a somewhat short amount of time. Finally, the Beasts of Bowness are chubby little flying guinea pigs that are hiding in obscure spots and simply need to be scanned. Altogether there are 15 cheats and 72 pieces of artwork to unlock. Playing through somewhat slow and thoroughly, I averaged 20-40 minutes per level and without really trying, was able to collect about 75% of the hidden bonuses. Altogether the game can be beaten in less than five hours, going back to collect these extras will provide gamers with at least some replay value. Many of these extras only give you one chance to obtain them and if you advance too far, or miss one platform, you will have to play through to the end and retry the level later.
The graphics are nothing groundbreaking, but they are appropriate for the show. Quality-wise, they are about as good as one would expect on the PSP or DS platforms. There is some decent cell shading and somewhat detailed backgrounds that do an excellent job of bringing the Saturday’s world into a hybrid 3D/2D mix. The sound, namely the voice acting, is perhaps the game’s strongest feature. The entire cast of the show reprises their roles for the game and the lip sync is quite good.
All in all, Secret Saturdays: Beasts of the 5th Sun is a decent, somewhat entertaining platformer that has a decent amount of variety in game play but is ultimately quite short, and too simple. It’s almost impossible to die in the entire first half of the game, and many of the firefly “challenges” are so forgiving that they betray their name. Some let players miss 5 or 6 jumps and still give them enough time to successfully complete them. At 39.99 for the Wii, and 29.99 for all other platforms, it is a good children’s game that could have been just a bit better. The game would have benefited nicely from a hard mode, and the 3D movement effects worked so smoothly that it was almost a disappointment to have to go back to the 2D platforming style. That being said, fans of the show will definitely be pleased with this nearly flawless recreation of a typical Saturdays’ style adventure.6.7/
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