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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Wrath of the Darkhul King
game: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Wrath of the Darkhul King
two star
posted by: GF! Back Catalogue 10/2004 => 1995
publisher: THQ
date posted: 12:00 AM Tue Aug 26th, 2003
last revision: 12:00 AM Tue Aug 26th, 2003

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By Eric Qualls

Oh great, another cookie-cutter 2-D beat em up for the Game Boy Advance. And look! It is based off of a successful TV license. There are only about a thousand games exactly like this piling up in GBA bargain bins and/or landfills, so I'm sure the demand for this game was very high. </sarcasm> Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Wrath of the Darkhul King is the latest in a long line of games based on popular TV and movies that just doesn't cut the mustard.

The story follows Buffy as she tries to stop a group of demons from releasing a creature known as the Darkhul King. The Darkhul King has the power to resurrect all of the demons and monsters that have been killed by Buffy and the slayers that came before her. This, of course, would be a bad thing. Along the way you'll meet up with villains from the show as well. Between levels, the story is told through poorly written dialogue ("Me fail English? Thats umpossible!") that appears underneath surprisingly high quality photos of Buffy and the gang. The story is actually pretty interesting but the game only takes about an hour to play through.

The gameplay in Wrath of the Darkhul King is pretty much your standard 2-D side scrolling, beat em up, punch and kick adventure. There isn't much vertical movement in the levels, so you spend most of your time running from the left side of the screen to the right side fighting monsters as you go. Combat is as simple as walking up to an enemy and unleashing a flurry of punches and kicks in order to knock it down. Since this is Buffy, though, a lot of the enemies are vampires that you have to drive a stake into when they're down. It is usually easier to just knock the enemies down and keep going because it has no effect on the game whether you kill the vampires or not. If you so choose you can also avoid combat altogether by jumping over the enemies and traps on your way to the exit. There are a few weapons available such as crosses and holy water and even a flamethrower. You are limited in how much you can use these, however, so most of the time you have to resort to chop socky.

The combat in Buffy is boring and too easy, but that is only half of the problem here. Spread throughout the game are literally dozens of wide chasms that you have to jump over using a double jump. A lot of the time, the platform you are trying to jump to isn't even on screen so you have to take a leap of faith, something that usually ends up with you falling into a spike pit or running into an enemy. Performing the double jump itself is made more difficult by the fact that there is absolutely no margin for error. You have to tap the control pad twice to start running and then hit the right shoulder button twice to double jump. If your timing is off even a little bit, you die and have to start the level over again. Jumping to a ledge or grabbing a rope shouldn't be this difficult. The creatures you fight aren't the enemy here, the crappy level design is.

Graphically, Buffy isn't bad, but it doesn't distinguish itself from other 2-D brawlers. The backgrounds are simple and rather blah to look at. Buffy is a bit small on the screen, but you can tell she is wearing clothing from the TV show. The enemies all look pretty much the same. Something made doubly annoying due to the repetitive nature of the combat is the fact that there is only one punch and one kick animation. Look out demons; Buffy is four frames of fighting fury! The photos of Buffy and her friends that pop up between levels are pretty cool, but it isn't enough to make you forget about the plain Jane graphics everywhere else. Overall, the graphics are OK, but nothing to write home about.

The sound if Wrath of the Darkhul King is similarly average. The sounds of Buffy's punches and kicks are pretty standard and the demons don't make much noise. The music in the game is surprisingly good, though. It suits the theme of the game quite nicely and gives off a definite gothic vibe.

Ever wonder why the GBA (and SNES and Genesis before it) has so many games that look and play exactly the same? It is because it is much easier, particularly when dealing with licensed games, to take a simple beat em up and slap some new character sprites in it and call it a new game. Because it has a popular license attached to it, it is going to sell pretty much no matter what. Wrath of the Darkhul King is a perfect example of this philosophy.

Overall, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Wrath of the Darkhul King is a below average platformer/beat em up that is indistinguishable from 90% of the GBA games already out there. What makes it even worse is the fact that other than the box art and photos of Buffy and friends, there is nothing that really links this game to the TV show. The whole draw of this game is the license and it doesn't even make good use of it. If you are a die-hard Buffy fan, you might be able to force yourself to like it. For everyone else the frustrating gameplay and the "been there, done that" feel of the whole experience is bad enough that it is probably best to skip this one.