Everybody wants to be a Samurai. Get out your robes and sword, here's your chance.
Jamdat Mobile is by far one of the most consistent companies when it comes to releasing quality software. Dedicated to bring consumers cell phone games that are not only easy to play but deliciously attractive given the limited technology, its developers work hard to cover all of the bases, whether it's sports, shooters, and even hack an slash games, the most notable being Samurai, a side scrolling 2D fighter that's sort of reminiscent of the classic 16-bit beat-em-up Revenge of Shinobi. While it's not nearly as enjoyable as the aforementioned game, this stylish arcade title is a great pick up for those of you who are glued to your cell.
Samurai's cool because it's surprisingly enjoyable. In it you play as (I'll give you one guess) a bad @$$ samurai who is on a mission to reclaim the ancient/old as dirt weapon known as the Sunset Blade from the devilishly evil Lord Oshi, but as you may have already expected, it won't be easy. Standing in your way are six highly detailed levels packed with six different enemy types as well as six annoying bosses, all of which feature attack patterns and weaknesses that you'll need to identify and exploit. Some will perform rolling strikes while others will unleash a multitude of energy blasts your way, and if you're not careful or too busy talking to the dope next to you you'll get quickly housed, because while the game only lasts between one to two hours the AI is pretty brutal. At first you'll do all right, as the ninjas who are dwelling on the opening stage pretty much walk into your strikes like the true idiots that they are, and you'll soon bust through the door (each stage asks you to mash your phone's OK key to smash open a door) to progress to the next stage, which will really knock the wind out of you. It's not the grunts that are the real problem but the bosses that are the biggest pains. Thankfully (and because Jamdat loves us all), you can immediately continue from at the beginning of the stage you died on.
When I first purchased my phone I never considered its keypad to be a controller used to slaughter ninjas until I played this game. You see, while the enemies are fairly tough, our Samurai is quite a handful. If his sword isn't dangerous enough, they have to deal with his knife throwing skills as well as his throw attacks. You won't be achieving 34 hit combos or anything silly like that, but you'll be able to deal an incredible amount of damage with ease, thanks to controls that are so simplistic that you can use the OK/HOME key and the directional arrows to play the entire game, though other keys do control specific functions such as dagger throwing.
Every time that I meet with Jamdat, its representatives let me borrow a phone to play its games on, specifically an LG VX7000, a fairly plain looking device that's primary highlights are its powerful technology and enticing screen which takes up a serious chunk of its real estate. It certainly brings out the best in cell phone videogames and Samurai is no different. Resembling a first generation Turbo-Grafx 16 title, it's quite easy on the eyes. The game's uniquely designed characters aren't animated well but their detail instills them with individual personality, and the six levels (some of which are multi-tiered, so you'll go up instead of just left to right) are truly outstanding. One takes place within a pretty Japanese fortress complete with glowing lanterns that can be broken for power ups while an outside one features a setting sun, Japanese buildings, and animated birds in the distance. Good stuff indeed.
So if Samurai plays and looks great, why did it receive a 3 out of 5 rating? Although it's significantly ahead of its competition and it's worth a play through, the game just doesn't wow me like some of Jamdat's other videogames. It's good the first time through, and then after that it's not really worth playing again. Also, it's not as instantly gratifying as some of the other cell phone games out there, in particular Jamdat's Mini Golf or THQ's NBA All Star 3-Point Shootout. I know that I've just introduced a totally different genre into the mix here, but the bosses in Samurai were at times annoying enough that I shut off the phone and didn't come back to the game for several hours or sometimes even a day or two. The constant losing wasn't fun, and the appeal behind learning attack patterns began to wear off.
Don't get me wrong. Samurai's an extremely well-polished product that's enjoyable to play, and if you love these types of games than it's a must buy, but in lieu of some of the other games out there, especially Sony's upcoming Ratchet & Clank, Samurai isn't this monumental revelation. It's merely a damn fine game that's worth a few hours of your time.
What's Hot: A really cool combat system that allows the player to execute a host of different moves.
What's Not: Lacks the replay-ability of the best cell phone games.