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Van Helsing Package Art
  VU Games

Van Helsing

In his original form, Van Helsing was an estranged elderly gentleman, lacking the physical features and acrobatic skills of our dearest Hugh Jackman. Despite this major oversight, Universal Studios had a real money concept on their hands; take a reputed actor to play a hero protagonist, add in all the legendary monsters of old, place them all in Transylvania, and use modern movie magic and let things develop on their own volition. Unfortunately, they seemed to forget a script in the process. More pointedly, however, is that Van Helsing for the Game Boy Advance plays like a decrepit old man, not the youthful warrior who you take the reigns of throughout the quest.


The first evidence that would suggest Vivendi actually tried to deliver a better-than-average product is in the visual style, which went the isometric route over the usual sidescroller. However, the title lacks both the color and the clarity of Vivendi’s other isometric titles for the Game Boy Advance, Crash and Spyro. Granted, Transylvania is a dark place, but it certainly has more than 12 viewable colors to satisfy one’s ocular palette.

Like Saffire’s other deplorable handheld product, Around The World In 80 Days, the visuals themselves are jagged and blurry. In their muddied state, these characters lack the sort of life that Van Helsing so desperately needed to give the game a sense of soul and charisma. Likewise, the actual environment you’ll “explore” about is still and lifeless, very rarely offering you an item that actually moves. To its credit, I was impressed when two giant statues from the background tore themselves away from the castle wall they had been grafted to and proceeded to attack me. The brief enchantment ended there, however.

The lack of color, clarity, and movement all contributed to make Van Helsing a visual bore. For that, one can thank Saffire for making it so difficult to explore the few open-ended levels that exist in the game.


When the title screen first faded into view and a stilted scream was emitted from the Game Boy Advance’s tinny speaker system, preceded (of course!) by a knife falling into the “Van Helsing” logo, I knew I was in for a doozey. Throughout the experience, low-ringing percussive beats stream through the background to parallel the nefarious nature of the accursed Transylvanian terrain. Inserted in a manner so as to not act as an intrusion on the game player, it is the high level of repetition that makes the looping track an exercise in aural boredom. The best, non-melodic sound effect is the slashing of Van Helsing’s blades in the air and on enemy flesh. Nothing else exists of real value to the ear, making further examination of this facet relatively pointless.


What I figured would be the saving grace of Van Helsing -- the combat system itself -- is in fact relatively graceless. Clunky and poorly contrived, the coolness of Van Helsing’s moves and arsenal is obscured by the poor manner in which they are (or aren’t) used. Our cloaked warrior can flip (rather far, actually) via the right shoulder button, latch onto most objects with a grappling hook via the left shoulder button, fire off a secondary weapon with the ‘A’ action button, and slash around in historical form with the ‘B’ button. Therein exists proof that Saffire has some good ideas, if poorly implemented, which is rather unfortunate.

You’d the think the flip would launch you into the air at an elevation that would protect you from ground dwellers for that short spurt. Apparently, you still hit them, despite being decisively airborne. There is no way to tell, as well, how much damage has been inflicted upon your enemies. They do not indicate if they’ve been successfully hit, either, sans occasionally stepping aback after receiving a series of blows. Secondary weapons are slow and difficult to control, with no actual aiming system in place. Enemies are dull and uninspired, all requiring a long string of hits to quell them, said string growing longer with each successive level. The only insert placed to mix things up a bit are orbs of sorts to replenish health and boost one’s life meter.

Ah yes, how can I forget – password save systems are cumbersome and stupid. Despite being a tedious process, one could theoretically just hop online and get all the passwords from some cheat-site, making the game itself obsolete. When are developers going to learn the utter uselessness of such a setup?




Just when I thought Game Boy Advance developers were taking movie licenses more seriously, along comes Van Helsing. Alas, there must exist crap amongst the cream of the crop. I really wanted to get behind Van Helsing -- really -- but cannot ignore the terribly sloppy interface that fails to entertain one in the slightest. After both this title and Around The World In 80 Days, I’m inclined to say that publishers should elicit Saffire in instances that deal exclusively with console games, not handhelds. Stay far, far away.

final score 2.0/10

Staff Avatar William Jacques
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"Oh oblivious, naïve Humanity... How ignorant we really are - safe only in our blind "superior" view of the world."

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