Now this is a samurai game Donald Trump can get behind. It's Samurai G, and despite how ludicrous it sounds, the "G" actually stands for gold. That's right; this is a game about a lesser known type of samurai, one who is only motivated by his own greed. I certainly don't remember this type of samurai from all those classic Akira Kurosawa films.
Developed by the company that brought us Chuck E. Cheese's Arcade Room, Samurai G is a straight forward action game in which players run along a straight path dodging obstacles, killing enemies and, most importantly, picking up as many gold coins as possible. But don't die, because you only have one attempt to pick up as much cash as possible.
Players run along a fixed 2D path, one that is constantly pushing our samurai forward. There's no time to wait, because right from the start you'll have ninja stars flying at your face and tricky hidden spikes to contend with. The action speeds by, often given the samurai very little time to react. Even though he has a heath bar at the top of the screen, you'll quickly discover that there are plenty of obstacles that will end the game in one hit.
That's the thing about Samurai G; you only have one life to live. There are no checkpoints or 1-ups to find, this is a game about seeing how far you can go on one life. To make things easier, the actual world of Samurai G never changes. Bad guys will show up in the same spot every time, obstacles don't move and all of the floating gold coins stay put. This is a game about memorizing the run and getting better with each repetition.
The single-life thing can be infuriating, especially when you first start playing Samurai G. It won't be uncommon for a full game to take no more than a minute, even when you start to pick up the intricacies of each stage. Early games were dreadful, with my poor samurai getting pelted with every ninja star and tripping over all the various traps. Thankfully it only takes a few tries to memorize the early stages, allowing you to play longer and see more of the game with each attempt.
The problem is that I don't find memorizing level designs to be an especially fun activity. It's not that my memory is poor, but rather that the repetition it takes to inch forward doesn't hold my attention for very long. The balance is all off here, to the point where I started to hate the game's cheap and frustrating deaths. The fact that an entire life bar can be wiped away in a snap by a large spike made me want to throw my handheld game system at the wall. Thankfully the Nintendo 3DS is still in one piece.
The game offers players a choice of two different level layouts -- normal and advanced. The advanced mode is for player's crazy enough to have memorized the full normal campaign. The background graphics are all the same, but this time around the obstacles are even harder to avoid. The advanced mode lives up to its name, but ultimately suffers from most of the same problems found on the normal map.
Some of the repetition would make more sense if the gameplay was more engaging, but alas we're left with a samurai that can only run, jump and swing his sword. However, there is one wrinkle if you manage to pick up enough gold. From time to time our hero will burst into an unstoppable gold force. Not only can he take no damage (literally breaking the obstacles in his way), but he also wields a longer and more powerful sword. This is Samurai G at its most exciting. Sadly, once that's over it is back to the doldrums of the rest of the game.
Samurai G's visuals are sharp, with beautiful sprites and a hand-drawn world. The 3D effects are subtle and effective, though it never actually impacts gameplay in any way. Unfortunately, the game's background is too distracting for its own good. It doesn't help that the enemy's ninja stars blend in with the hand-drawn graphics, leading to far too many cheap hits. Each stage offers a new background, which gives players something to look forward to from area to area.
Perhaps sensing that there isn't much of a game here, the developers added two dozen achievements to the game. As far as achievements go, these are in line with what you would expect. A lot of them deal with collecting a certain amount of gold, killing a lot of enemies and running a whole bunch of miles. These achievements are a good idea, albeit a bit uninspired.
As an inexpensive downloadable game, Samurai G isn't bad. It's simple fun that you can play for a few minutes. Sadly, I grew bored of the premise after only a few plays. This has the making of something more interesting, but UFO Interactive doesn't take it far enough. What a difference an online leaderboard, extra set of levels or random obstacle mode would have made. This would have been a better game if our hero samurai wasn't so worried about the gold.
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