Call me a culture snob, but I sort of grew up on the classics- well, I HAD to study them in school, that is. So I have a lot of respect for Greek myths, Shakespeare, the whole nine. So, the idea of any sort of modernization or dumbing down of these works gets the fisheye from yours truly. In other words, I'm not the worlds biggest Xena fan, but I jumped at the chance to review this game, mostly because of the demo version I played a few months ago. Besides, a good action game with a female character on the PS is scarce these days. Well, the bad news is that Xena: Warrior Princess isn't all that great, but, the good news is that it manages to be an incredible amount of fun!
The game starts off with an average-looking intro, which segues into some pretty poor CG, which is sad, because they got the actual actresses to do the excellent voice acting! I wonder if it would have cost them less to actually film a real opening then to present what's here. There are quite a few of these sequences in the game, though, so you'll get used to them. The game itself is a straight out Tomb Raider style actioner with super simple puzzle elements, and lots of tough enemies and bosses. Xena has loads of moves, but they can be a bit hard to pull off at times when enemies surround you (which are very often!). The game is geared toward Xena fans, and is a bit easy at first, but by level 12 or so, things get a bit tough. Part of this is due to the control- while simple enough, it's hard to make Xena do just what you what her to, when you need her to. So, if you're the impatient sort, you'll spend a lot of time falling off of ledges or into water.
There are 7 areas of varying length, and a total of 21 sub-levels in which you get to sneak about, rescue hostages, and defeat hordes of evil henchmen and monsters! Combat in the game seems to be of the button mash until enemy collapses school, but taking out enemies with the chakram is a real treat! Movement is an issue, though. The game camera is adjustable with the L2 and R2 buttons, but you have to combine these button combos with the walk button at times, which is weird. Fortunately, you can also use Xena's chakram as a sort of spycam to scope out areas- if you're good...I'm sure that the developers didn't intend this, but it makes the game really cool! The boss encounters range from way too easy to really amazing, a couple of highlights being the encounters with a HUGE Cyclops, and a very hard to kill fire-breathing dragon!
The environments in the game are quite nice, with rich colors and a solid look to buildings and objects, but the people in the game look a little rough around the edges- as in the first Tomb Raider. But that seems to be a common thing with games of this type. But you have to give the developers credit for their creative use of lighting effects and transparencies here (except when Xena turns into the Invisible Woman when she's in a corner!). The music is excellent (straight from the show, I think) and fits the action perfectly. As I said earlier, the voice acting in this game is perfect, and there are loads of horribly bad (but funny in their own way) jokes- but I guess if you watch the series regularly, you'll be used to this! See if you can find all the funny signs in the game as well.
In short, Xena: Warrior Princess is exactly like the television show: mostly harmless and pure, simple entertainment for the masses. Serious gamers will cringe, but hey, every culture needs its Twinkies to go with its Dom Perignon.
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