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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Game Boy
TDK Mediactive
GENRE: Adventure
November 01, 2002
 Written by Matt Swider  on December 06, 2002

Review: He-Man is strong, but as Adam he is very weak. People I know named Adam are usually weak. What's the name of our Sony Editor-In-Chief again? Oh yeah?it's Adam.

Being a fan of the original cartoon and collecting almost every action figure throughout the 80's, I was pleased to see Mattel recently remake its He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series. It's thrilling to watch episodes of The New Adventures of He-Man airing on Cartoon Network and be able to recall each classic character or name which toys are still sitting in the basement untouched. However, Mattel isn't the only company restoring the power back into He-Man. TDK Mediactive scored the rights to the franchise this past May and has already produced its first title for the Game Boy Advance. As the initial game based on the new cartoon series, He-Man: Power of Grayskull features the all too common isometric perspective and action filled gameplay that originates from titles such as Diablo or Gauntlet. It's not flawless like the cartoon reincarnation by any means, but should be just enough to suit those looking for a He-Man themed adventure on their handheld.

Since there are countless Game Boy Advance games that already utilize the isometric viewpoint, the developer has decided to separate Power of Grayskull from similar titles on the market. First and foremost, He-Man is rich with detail and boasts several frames of animation. Unlike other gaming mascots that appear to be simple or undeveloped onscreen, He-Man is a well-rendered character. This is especially noticeable with the many sword slashes that he takes throughout the game's surroundings that adequately depicted the cartoon's environments. Yet, the entire game lacks the visual flair that other Game Boy Advance games seldom present. It doesn't contain anything else stunning for the eyes and for the most part remains a one-track sort of title because of this.

The majority of Power of Grayskull takes on the generic hack-and-slash approach with mission objectives thrown into the mix. Players will have to rescue fellow characters of the He-Man cast, defeat ruthless enemies from the series, and amass collectables along the way. Enemies respawn from destroyable generators as in Gauntlet, but are tougher to defeat when battling. It will take several hits to overcome a single enemy and twice as many to destroy a generator. Using the Super Slash technique by holding down the A Button will reduce the tedious effort, but leaves He-Man more prone to enemy attacks for it to be worth the risk. By the end of the game's 13 levels, the swordplay becomes monotonous and boss encounters are the only aspects that leave a varied impression.

While most missions in Power of Grayskull often involve defeating enemies and collecting items, bonus levels spice up the action and offer an opportunity to earn extra lives. The first type requires players to speed through vacant stages on foot and follow a trail of collectables before the clock runs out. He-Man calls upon BattleCat in certain missions to help run along and gather items while shooting enemies along the pathway. These extras aren't overly challenging to complete, but act as a great diversion from the regular gameplay.

Along with the repetitive nature of the main portion of the game, there are quite a number of gameplay inconsistencies that devalue progress through the levels. My lead gripe comes with He-Man's jumping and the flawed collision detection that goes along with it. Since characters must land entirely on the ground for a jump to count, it often results in a cheap death. Becoming stuck in a corner niche can spell Game Over quickly no matter how many lives a player has racked up beforehand. Likewise the collision detection when battling enemies is also imperfect, though not as much as jumping.

The opening consists of images linked together and the voice of Adam becoming repeating the words ?I am He-Man? and becoming his stronger self. The rest of the audio elements found within Power of Grayskull do a decent job in providing suitable music and a handful of sound effects taken from the cartoon. Walking around does trigger an annoying pacing effect that doesn't really seem necessary and many of the other actions come off as repetitive after a while. Nevertheless, each was well recorded, so there's no big complaint there.

Bottom Line
Even with its 13 levels, Power of Grayskull ends up being a relatively short adventure. Considering the amount of recurring gameplay though, this might have been the best choice for the game. Avoiding problems such as providing a varied technique to He-Man's sword combat or reduce the amount of blemishes in its collision detection would have improved the game greatly. Instead, we are left with a slightly above average game that faces an assortment of competition on Game Boy Advance. Despite its troubles, Power of Grayskull should prove to be competent in demonstrating its He-Man license to those are looking for just that.

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