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Review #321

Chaotic: Shadow Warriors
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Fun Labs
Genre: Platformer/Turn-Based Strategy Hybrid
Release Date: 11/11/2009

I consider myself pretty hip to what the kids are into these days. I can talk Pokemon better than 99% of them. I can do the Bakugan thing. But there is one thing that I’ve never quite picked up and that’s a TCG called Chaotic. Now I’ve never been into the whole collectable card game craze, because I don’t like clutter. Both Pokemon and Magic: The Gathering were tcg’s I played through video games rather than going to a tabletop gaming store and plunking down money for cards. Chaotic falls into this same category, but there’s one big problem setting it apart from the two big kid crazes of today, Pokemon and Bakugan: no kid I know has ever touched it. The play the Pokemon TCG or the Yu-Gi-Oh, but no little kid I’ve ever come across has so much as purchased a starter deck of Chaotic. The same holds true for the cartoon. No one I know has, regardless of age, has seen it. No one I know, regardless of age, could tell me anything about Chaotic. So when i saw the video game was coming out, I decided to review it; partly because I was curious as to why no one had touched either the game or the cartoon, and partly so I could keep my finger on the pulse of what is being marketed to tweens and under. I have a reputation to uphold after all.

Well, the first thing I discovered is that this game has little to nothing in common with the card game. It’s about 85% platformer…which sends shivers down my spine. The very few battles per level were done in a turn based fashion, but revealed nothing about how the card game worked. Alas, at least I tried.

So although I’ve learned nothing about the real Chaotic game, what have I learned about the video game spin-off? Is it worth your time, is it only for fans of Chaotic already, if there are any out there, or is it a steaming pile of poo that no one should ever touch?

Let’s Review

1. Story/Modes

One of the most important thing about a licensed game is that it needs to be easily accessible to anyone that picks it up. By this I mean that it needs to explain a bit of back story, who characters are, and what the whole craze is about. All those franchises I mentioned in the preamble do this marvelously. Even lesser franchises have done this, like Marvel Super Hero Squad and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra did this. After all, the purpose of a spin-off video game is not only to sell the game to fans of the franchise core, but to sell curious gamers on the franchise as well.

Well, Chaotic: Shadow Warriors does neither.

After beating the game, doing every little thing, finding every little knick knack AND being the highest rated player in ranked battles for this game on the PS3, I can honestly say I have no idea what the heck this game was about. You’re just thrown in to the plot with nothing explained. You are never told where you are, who you are, what chaotic is about, what all these creatures are, anything about the factions or personalities contained therein or just why you are fighting or scanning creatures. Seriously, the only thing I can tell you about the game is that you’re a kid named Major Tom but the organization you work for is unfortunately not named Ground Control. You have ported into the world of Chaotic where humans are players of something else also called chaotic and you seem to be friends with all four warring factions even though you primarily side with the Overworlders. Of course you learn nothing about the politics or intrigue amongst the groups. You’re just running around doing platforming crap until you run into a battle.

To explain WHY you are battling there is something about shadow duplicates of each major character in Chaotic running around doing evil things. However, everyone seems shocked and amazed by this even though Major Tom has the ability to create lifelike holographic duplicates of Chaotic creatures himself and have them fight for him. Eventually you discover who the main bad guy in and you defeat him and everyone goes back to hating everyone else even though they already were doing that.

To put it simply, this is the most unfriendly game I have ever encountered in terms of introducing a gamer to a license. I still can’t tell you anything about the Chaotic franchise and I’m the #1 ranked player in the world on the PS3. That’s pretty f’n bad. As for that #1 ranking…well, as of the time of my writing this review, there were a whopping FOUR matches fought online for ranking. I am 3-0 (and won’t be playing any longer thank you very much) so maybe someone will eventually usurp my crown. Considering it took me a week of nonstop checking for anyone to play against to fight those three matches and I have 75% of the battles…it probably won’t happen for quite some time.

Your other modes besides story mode are a deck editor, the ability to search through every card in the game, even though it’s one card at a time and you can’t quick check anything, and online play. Now here’s a funny thing. The deck editor option is only for the cards you unlock in Story Mode and you can only use those cards in Story Mode, not online play. So why do you have a deck editor outside of Story mode that is fundamentally useless? I have no freakin’ idea.

Besides online mode being a virtual wasteland bereft of gamers, you can only use one of a few premade decks. This is utterly asinine and it defeats the whole point of collecting all the cards in Story Mode in the first place. There is a “Customizable Deck” option, but this only lets you use half the cards, and they aren’t necessarily cards in your deck, or even an entire selection of a full faction. Who the hell made that kind of decision? This totally kills any fun with online mode, because instead of being able to fight it out between super decks that you made in story mode, you’re having to play with wimpy decks that you can’t put your own touches on. LAME.

Finally, with Story Mode, once you beat it, you can’t go back. No, seriously. You are locked out. Which means if you missed something, you have to start over, all the way from the beginning. This infuriated the hell out of me because, for some reason, the Gold Trophy for finding every secret area didn’t click for me even though the logbook showed I had FOUND EVERY SINGLE SECRET AREA IN THE GAME. So I wanted to go back and see if I just needed to retrigger one, only to find out the game had given me a giant middle finger and now I couldn’t use any of my cards or refight any battles even though I had everything in the game unlocked. Yet another jaw dropping programming decision that leaves me wondering if anyone at Fun Labs had ever made a video game before.

Alright, so we have a game that goes out of its way to alienate anyone new to Chaotic, a game that has you try to collect everything in the game only to lock you out and forces you to start over once you have all while taunting you with a deck editor mode, and an online mode that doesn’t let you use any of the cards you unlocked in Story mode, forcing you to play with one of four horrible deck options and severely limited customization. Quite honestly, Chaotic: Shadow Warriors just might actual repel more people from the franchise than it brings in. Cthulhu knows I pretty much never want to touch or look at anything having to do with Chaotic again thank to a game with some of the worst mode programming decisions I’ve ever encountered.

Modes/Story Rating: 1/10

2. Graphics

I was really not impressed with any of the character designs in this game, but that’s not Fun Labs fault as they were just lifting art from the cartoon and/or card game. Still, the fugly character designs are probably a big reason as to why I never hear any kids talking about Chaotic. It’s a weird mix of bad junior high furrie art work and third rate Magic: The Gathering monster. When a rip off of a Bog Imp is your main antagonist, you have wonder who was behind the marketing or art direction of the card game and cartoon. At least, I think he’s the main antagonist. He seems to be in the video game. He also has the word “Lord” in his name, which helps.

The rest of the video game visuals are merely passable. Backgrounds are fairly generic, with the big problem being that the game suffers from an amazing amount of “invisible wall syndrome.” You see, the game doesn’t really ever designate between what is background graphics and what is foreground, so often times you run into invisible wall. By often I mean, “CONSTANTLY.” Even worse, there is no rhyme or reason as to what will be an invisible wall and what will be an interactive visual that you can climb on or jump over. In Giantopolis (which is oddly devoid of any giants), there will be large bricks that you can sometimes climb up on or jump onto…and sometimes you can’t. It’s a matter of trial and error to see what you can interact with in the game, and this gets pretty annoying before you’ve even finished the first world in the game.

The rest of the visuals are of the same minimal effort quality. You’ll see water that doesn’t flow and just sits there with a static green colour. You’ll constantly be hounded by infinitely respawning insects that have no real design or depth to them. It’s simply a mediocre looking game and it’s telling that even in the graphic’s mediocrity, it’s probably the best thing about the game.

Graphics Rating: 5/10

3. Sound

I can’t tell if the game is using the voice actors from the cartoon, simply because I’ve never seen it. If they are however, then the acting troupe either phoned it in big time or simply aren’t very good. Considering this is a 4Kids cartoon series and they generally have a pretty good collection of voice actors, I’m going to have to assume the former. However in doing an IMDB search, the voice of Maxxor is both the voice of Goku from Dragon Ball Z and Lucario from Pokemon and as the character in the game sounds nothing like either, it could very well be the latter as well.

The voice acting is limited to only four or five sound bytes per character and you will hear them repeatedly throughout the limited battles in the game. The worst is that 85% of the game is running through platforming levels where you’ll hear Major Tom talk about how close Mugic fragments are or he will attacking insects to “Push off!” which is probably a G rated way of using a different four letter word.

The music is okay, but nothing to write home about. It’s merely acceptable, just like the voice acting quality of this game, but none of the tracks are catchy or even that interesting. They’re merely background noise you’ll be hearing for five to eight hours.

Mediocrity is about the highest claim to fame this game can have.

Sound Rating: 5/10

4. Control and Gameplay

You know, I am really not a fan of 3-D platformers and sadly, Chaotic: Shadow Warriors contains all the aspects of this genre that I absolutely hate. Bad collision detection so that you “die” (or in this game, are teleported away) even when fire or an enemy’s attack is nowhere near you. Horrible camera angles that lead to death because you can’t see that you are on a ledge or in front of a pit. Invisible walls. Objects that repeatedly come up in a game that you can sometimes interact with and sometimes you can’t. Fetch quests. Jumping exercises where if you are off by even a pixel you die, yet your character’s jumps are never the same distance twice in row and sometimes he takes a couple steps after a jump while other times he doesn’t. Horrible stupid respawning enemies that make Evil Dead: Hail to the King look well made. Weird puzzles that involve jumping on the right symbols in a particular order, only some of the symbols are obscured by camera angles so it becomes a guess and check experience. I could go on and on about how the platforming stages of Chaotic: Shadow Warriors are the personification of everything I hate about 3-D platformers, but I think the paragraph I have just written is enough. To simply say I hate platformers and this is an especially is not especially telling. However to say that this has been a year where I have found three platformers I really enjoyed and yet Chaotic: Shadow Warriors has single-handedly flushed all the progress this genre was making with me down the toilet and then some IS.

Battles are triggered when you encounter enemies in this game. Then the game goes from a platformer into turn based strategic battles. You start out with only a single character, but as the game progresses you’ll be allowed to use up to five – three characters in the front row and two in the back. Characters in the front row can use attacks and Mugic (magic) but can only attack opposing front row characters. Characters in back take less damage but cannot attack – they can only use Mugic and Taunt. One side gets to go first. That side picks one of their characters to attack. Then the other side goes. So on and so forth until all characters have gone and then a new round starts. Repeat until one side wins.

Instead of blocking enemy attacks, you can choose to scan them. Scanning a character involving using the Sixaxis aspect of your controller and following a cursor around the screen during the opponent’s attacks. Once you get a 100% scan, you get that character added to your deck, but with the stats they had at the moment you get the 100% scan. This means if they only have one hit point left and you’ve used attacks that have drained their stats, that’s what you get. On one hand I really like this as it forces you to play defensively instead of all out offense. On the other, you can never repeat a battle and once a character is gone, they’re gone from the game forever, much like a Legendary Pokemon. This means if you are trying to catch them all, you’re going to be scanning everything and if you miss even a single character, you’re going to have to start the game over from scratch.

You can also combine three character cards of the same level and refine it into a more powerful card. For example. Three one star Attacats can be refined into a two star card. Then three two-star cards can be refined into the final level, a three-star card. Refining your card to the next level gives your character more life and better attacks, so you might as well go for it every chance you get.

Chaotic: Shadow Warriors is basically two games in one. You get one of the worst platformers I’ve played this generation and a fairly generic and uninspired turn based strategy that offers you no real challenge or need for strategy. Like everything else about this game, it smacks of minimal effort and no real value. There are a few amusing bugs in the game, like if you hit pause during someone speaking, when you un-pause, the conversation will keep going, but it also be repeated from the beginning on a second layer. This can be done repeatedly (I got it up to five times at once) for a crazy surreal echo effect. Sloppy sloppy sloppy.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 3/10

5. Replayability

Well if Chaotic: Shadow Warriors actually let you use your deck from story mode, or return to story mode after you beat it to finishing finding everything like a normal platformer, things might be difference. As such, this is worth the five to eight hours it will take you to beat this game and nothing more. Even then, it’s probably not worth even THAT unless you really freakin’ love Chaotic.

Online play is pretty worthless due to the fact no one is one it and the fact you have four possible deck choices, all of which pale compared to what you collected in story mode. This makes Online mode only worth playing if you really want to get the 22% of the trophies that only can be collected from online play, which is a Herculean effort at best. Most likely the only way you’ll achieve these is if you and a friend both buy the game and then trade fifty wins each.

Every thing about this game was so poorly implemented. One would think a game based on a (supposedly) popular TCG would have a great deal of replay value ala the Magic: The Gathering game for the 360. Instead you have a game that has one of the worst online modes I’ve seen on the PS3 yet and a Story Mode that actually punishes you for beating it. Just stay away from this.

Replayability Rating: 2/10

6. Balance

This is arguably the easiest video game I have ever played. I never lost a single battle. The final ultimate five on five battle where you have to face the five most powerful opponents at once? I used a straight Overworld deck and I didn’t have a single character knocked out. It was crazy easy. The computer has no strategy. It just randomly chooses attacks and opponents instead of concentrating on a specific opponent to quickly knock them out and force a back line character to the front. I wound spend the first two rounds of a battle just scanning opponents so I could build up my card collection for refining. This should have given the CPU a decent advantage. It never did and I would always come back to slaughter the opponent without any real effort. In fact the only thing that ever gave me pause were the quick time events that came with each attack as the involved using the SixAxis controls and sometimes what would be displayed on the screen is NOT what the computer actually wanted you to do. Again, bad programming.

This should be a cakewalk for anyone that plays it. If you’re in need of a lot of gold and silver trophies (as this game has plenty), you can get everything but the online trophies in just one or two sit downs with this game. It offers no challenge, no need for and no substance. Take every complaint you’ve heard about turn-based RPG’s being mindless and crank it up to 1000 and you have Chaotic: Shadow Warriors battles.

Balance Rating: 1/10

7. Originality

Well, this is the only Platformer/Turn Based Strategy Hybrid I can think of. That’s something. It’s also the first (and probably ONLY) video game based on Chaotic I can think of. However both halves are extremely generic and the online play basically punishes you for all the work you put into Story Mode. So while it’s a nice ideas in theory to blend these two genres, I can’t help thinking that a pure electronic version of the card game would have been a better idea.

Points for originality, but the actual follow through is god awful.

Originality Rating: 5/10

8. Addictiveness

I hated every moment I spent with this game. HATED it. I’m not going to mince word. The horrible gameplay and programming bugs had me swearing on a semi-frequently basis. The battles were boring and never required me to think. Maybe if there had been a bit of challenge, I would have been happier, but it took an amazing amount of willpower to keep going. Those five and a half hours it took for me to beat the game were stretched over three days because this game was so bad that I needed to take constant breaks away from the horror. For half the game the main thing that kept me going was the chance at an easy Platinum Trophy…and I think trophies/achievements are the stupidest thing foisted upon gamers in several console generations. That’s how bad it was. So of course, imagine the level of hate that built up when I discovered the game didn’t actually recognize the requirements for the last Story Mode gold trophy I needed even though I had done everything. SO MUCH HATE.

Although I didn’t hate this game as much some of the PC Adventure games I had to slag through this year, this is the worst game I think I’ve played on the PS3 yet. It will take days to wash the scars of it from my brain.

Addictiveness Rating: 3/10

9. Appeal Factor

The only people that will like this game are diehard fans of the Chaotic cartoon. There’s no way the battles in this game are anything like a TCG so people like myself(and probably fellow staffer Mehar) would be disappointed if they didn’t know that going into this. Chaotic cartoon fans will probably understand what is going on and who these characters are and so will enjoy it most of all, but the gameplay itself is so boring and trite, I can’t even see too many of them enjoying it. Online play is god awful so the biggest reason for getting this game is right out.

Again, unless you live, eat, sleep, and breathe Chaotic, you shouldn’t bother with this game. Keep your forty dollars for a wiser purchase.

Appeal Factor: 3/10

10. Miscellaneous

There’s nothing really nice to say here. This is a perfect example of a game that does everything wrong. Who ever heard of a platformer that doesn’t let you go back to 100% things after you beat the game or replay levels? Or a game that doesn’t let you get a trophy after you have qualified for it? Or a game that has you collect tons of stuff you can never use in Story Mode but then doesn’t let you in Online Play either all while taunting you with a Deck Editor that basically exists for no reason. There are many horrible programming decisions, several wacky bugs, and battles that offer absolutely no challenge whatsoever.

The bottom line is according to the Ranked Battle System on PSN I’m the best there is right now at this game and I’m saying, “Don’t play this horrible, horrible game.” What more do you need me to say?

Miscellaneous Rating: 1/10

The Scores
Story/Modes: 1/10
Graphics: 5/10
Sound: 5/10
Control and Gameplay: 3/10
Replayability: 2/10
Balance: 1/10
Originality: 5/10
Addictiveness: 3/10
Appeal Factor: 3/10
Miscellaneous: 1/10
Total Score: 29
FINAL SCORE: 3.0 (BAD GAME!)

Short Attention Span Summary
Chaotic: Shadow Warriors is a buggy mess of a game that only hardcore fans of the cartoon should bother with. It’s an odd mix of platformer and turn-based strategy while embracing the most annoying and boring aspects of both. The AI is laughable and you should never lose a single battle in the turn based strategy sections, while the camera angles, unresponsive controls and invisible wall syndrome will leave you uttering profanity at the platformer bits. Online play is a virtual wasteland and even when you do find someone to play against, you have to use premade decks instead of the ones you can develop in either Story Mode or even Deck Editor mode, making the latter utterly worthless. This is simply a bad game not worth anyone’s time or money.

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