IGN Review of American Dragon Jake Long: Rise of the Huntsclan
Remember when Disney Channel shows were about rodent rescue squads and bears that flew planes? Well now they're about kids that turn into mythological creatures and defeat swarming masses of the undead. I've got to admit, the newer shows lend themselves better to video games. WayForward has recently finished American Dragon: Jake Long - Rise of the Huntsclan for the Gameboy Advance, and I'm reminded that even if the subject matter has grown up a little, it's still just a kid's game.
Based off the hit Disney show of the same name, American Dragon: Jake Long - Rise of the Huntsclan follows the reluctant hero, Jake, as he tries to save the world from the evil Huntsman. Jake has to travel from New York City, to secret islands, sewers, and catacombs as he tries to stop the Huntsman's latest scheme: reviving all the dead Huntsmasters from the past. Oh, and taking over the world too. Jake may have the power to transform into a fire-breathing dragon, but he's not going to be able to defeat the Huntsman alone. Luckily he's got his grandfather, his talking dog, and his two best friends to help him out along the way.
American Dragon is a linear, straightforward, beat-em-up game. Players use Jake to punch and kick their way through level after level of bad guys. As Jake there is only one attack button, so the game ends up being a button masher, but with a few extra elements. As Jake defeats the hordes of villains, he earns energy to be able to transform into his dragon form. As the American Dragon, Jake is invincible, and the beat-em-up turns into a slaughter fest. Getting to play as the American Dragon is pretty fun, and the mindless joy that comes with a beat-em-up is delivered here. It's not a deep title, but I got to do exactly what I expected: beat the hell out of lots and lots of bad guys.
Everyone in the game is crisp and stylized. The game maintains the same charm that the television show has, and nearly all of the characters make an appearance. The dialogue in the cutscenes is absolutely ridiculous, but that's how the show sounds. It's just funny to read a text box of a 13-year-old Asian kid trying to sound super ghetto. The game tries to keep the humor from the show intact, even going so far as to have scribbled notes from Jake on the "Official Tactical Instruction Booklet."
To help the cause, Jake's friends and family will pop in occasionally. By finding powerups, players can summon Grandpa, Fu-Dog, or Trixie and Spud to take out some enemies, fill up Jake's focus meter, or restore health by way of a rainstorm of cheeseburgers, respectively. It's a great way to help get Jake out of sticky situations, or prolong his time in his dragon form, but I wish the powerups weren't so random. When I needed cheeseburgers falling on my head the most, Trixie and Spud were nowhere to be found, but when I was in the easier sections of the game, I had more powerups than I could use. Considering how often the powerups appeared, it would have been nice to be able to save some, or maybe upgrade them. If I get two Grandpa icons in a short period of time I'd like to be able to call Grandpa twice, or summon a more powerful attack from him.
Apparently the Huntsman has some of the stupidest lackeys in the business, or else the enemy artificial intelligence is a bit off. On multiple occasions I'd watch the bad guys leap off platforms and plummet to the death. Also, in some of the multileveled areas, a lot of the enemies lack the ability to jump and will just furiously run at the wall while I kicked them in the grill repeatedly.
After some of the levels, players can upgrade one of Jake's abilities. Attack power, health, speed, and other attributes can be upgraded for both Jake and the American Dragon. The upgrades aren't really noticeable as the game progresses. I couldn't even tell if they were doing anything until I beat the game and it put me back at level one, where I was killing trolls with one swift punch. The upgrades are necessary, though, as players can only unlock the final boss after Jake is fully leveled up. So if players want the real ending, they'll have to play the game a few times over.
Beating the game a few times isn't going to take long, since the entire game only takes a couple hours to beat. Even the boss battles don't offer much of a challenge. Oddly enough, Jake fights all the bosses in his human form. Personally, if I could turn into a dragon, and I was fighting a 30-foot-tall Cyclops, I'd seriously consider powering up. Still, even as a little kid, Jake can beat the crap out of giant spiders, Medusa, and ninjas, without much difficulty.
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