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Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked review

Who knew mashing buttons could get so dull?

Pros

  • Cool presentation and visual effects
  • Bizarre setting and storyline
  • Nicely captures the series' tone

Cons

  • Lots and lots of load screens
  • You can skate through on just one button
  • Confusing
  • uncontrollable camera

Given how crazy violent the postmodern, hip-hop-heavy anime Samurai Champloo is, you'd think it'd be easy to make it into a decent video game; just inject the characters into a cool-looking slash 'em-up and add a whole lot of weirdness, right? Guess not.That's more or less what the developer did, but Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked still kinda sucks.

Not that Sidetracked doesn't have good things going for it. Created by the TV series' writers as a "lost chapter" in the show's canon, Sidetracked takes the series' 19th-century heroes - wild talent Mugen, sword master Jin and the food-obsessed girl they protect, Fuu - to Hokkaido, a place overrun by foreigners and controlled by an evil samurai clan.

Like in each episode of the show, the plot splits into two distinct directions, as its heroes wander off to do their own thing before meeting up again. These two plot threads gradually weave together, creating an interesting (if hard-to-follow) narrative involving the native Ainu people, demons, a rain of blood and at least one evil European transsexual with a beard, nice breasts and an ugly hat.

If the gameplay was that fascinating, we'd have a classic on our hands. Unfortunately, Samurai Champloo' s hack-and-slash wears out its welcome after about half an hour. Most of the game is spent navigating narrow, linear environments filled with enemies that suddenly appear every few seconds. Sometimes you'll have to kill a set number of them to advance to the next area, and other times you'll just need to find the exit. But you'll always be slashing through nonstop, repetitive hordes of ninjas, samurai or monkeys with knives, all of whom behave more or less the same.

More Info

GenreAction
DescriptionA violent, hyperstylized, hip-hop romp through 19th-century Japan that introduces some cool new ideas but gets old fast.
PlatformPS2
US censor ratingTeen
Release date11 April 2006 (US), 11 April 2006 (UK)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.
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