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The Secret Saturdays: Beasts of the 5th Sun Wii Review Box Art
GENRE
Action
DEVELOPER
D3 Publisher
PUBLISHER
High Voltage Software
NUMBER OF PLAYERS
1
WI-FI ENHANCED
No
DS COMPATIBLE
No
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The Secret Saturdays: Beasts of the 5th Sun Wii Review

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard scoring criteria.

The Secret Saturdays: Beasts of the 5th Sun for Wii closely follows the cartoon that started last year on Cartoon Network. The Saturdays are a family that travels around the world discovering "Cryptids," which are supernatural and chimerical creatures. The family simply documents and researches these beasts for their (the creatures') protection. No one else needs to know about them, and this is exactly where the villain comes in. V.V. Argost is the man in charge on the opposite side of things and always has plans to interrupt what the family is doing.

In Beasts of the 5th Sun, V.V. Argost is again placed into the villain role, except this time, he is doing his own evil deeds that the Saturdays family must stop. The game's subtitle refers to the beasts (Cryptids) that are tied to a "fifth sun" that is shining on Earth. When this fifth sun burns out, apocalypse will be at hand, and V.V. Argost is out to speed up the sun's remaining time so that he may take over and rule the world. Of course, Zak (the main, most-oft-playable character) and his family won't allow this preposterous plan to take shape.

At first glance, this game doesn't look bad at all and really matches the cartoon's look and feel, all while being more of a cell-shaded, 2.5-D game. Fans will probably love the presentation, but the more you look into the little details, the more off it seems. Sure, the voices are all done by the cartoon's actual actors, but it seems like the cheesiness is pushed a little further. This could be a good or bad thing depending on who is playing, so this can be left up in the air. However, the cut scenes are done well, and every scene (both in game and cut scenes) is very bright, colorful and vibrant like the cartoon. The in-game presentation is where things get a little off. Mouths do not move at all during speech like they do in the cut scenes. This isn't a huge gripe, but it just looks odd when the player becomes accustomed to seeing mouth animation both in the game's cut scenes and the actual cartoon. Fans may get a little turned off by this small detail, and that's something that licensed games are all about: pleasing the fans.

Aurally, the music and voices are done well and will match or exceed the cheesiness of the source material, as previously stated. The musical soundtrack does get a little repetitive, but to its credit, so can the cartoon's. Another thing to point out is the level designs are based on the same themes that are so over-used in video games: jungle, ice, lava, etc. Also, character and enemy animations are done well, but minimal enough that it's obvious where some are reused.

As for gameplay, Beasts of the 5th Sun's a very mixed bag. The game is basically a cell-shaded, 2.5-D (think Paper Mario) action-platformer with some helpings of exploration and puzzle-solving thrown in for good measure. The player will never hit full 3D areas, except for battle segments. Unfortunately, level progression seems to follow a strict set of rules for how these gameplay areas connect. Every level is exactly the same, except for various puzzles and the lava level: traverse platforms by walking, swinging or jumping, then fight in a 3D area, then go back to platforming, solving a puzzle, etc. This may sound like other games, but the problem is, each level is absolutely no different besides the visual themes and where the objects and Cryptids are.

The Cryptids that Zak can actually use (meaning the gamer briefly gets to control them) seem to change every third level (there are only ten total) and Zak never receives upgrades. All he uses are his feet, hands, Cryptid pals and cane-claw tool. The cane-claw tool is, however, very useful and for being limited to a single weapon, it does more than enough. Certainly, the young fan demographic may like this type of gameplay, but they're just as likely to be bored, too.

Getting deeper into the game, Zak runs into other Saturdays family members and occasionally is switched out with one of them to battle Argost's henchment who want to impede the Saturdays. Each family member has his or her own powers and moves, but the problem is, there is basically only a light attack and heavy attack for any given family member. That means little difference between Zak and his dad, mom or even his uncle. Regardless, engaging in enemies always means easy battles, that is to say, extremely easy.

On top of fighting as other Saturdays folks, Zak can also control Cryptids for battles as well. The Cryptids are even stronger that Zak's family members and can be called upon whenever they are available. Since battles are pretty much button-mashing, though, the Cryptids can be ignored if the player wants any sort of challenge. But, if the game gets too tough and a death occurs, don't worry, the game autosaves so much that Zak is bound to wind up no more than a few steps behind where he last was.

Besides the normal action and platforming in the game, there really isn't much else to do. Okay, so puzzles come up in every level where Zak has to use a Cryptid like Fiskerton to climb walls and so on, but the puzzles themselves are repetitive. The lava level gives players a chance to step away for about twenty minutes, but then, it's back to the basics. There's the ability to "scan" other Cryptids that are discovered in each stage's backgrounds and foregrounds, but there are only thirty total to find. Once found, each can be scanned three times for additional information about the creature, but even this gets repetitive and is nothing like scanning in the Metroid Prime series. However, the ability to find and scan what are called Bownesses (flying, rabbit-looking creatures) unlocks extras. Lastly, there is a task that involves touching lightning bugs and trying to touch all of them in a row before they disappear, yet there's no incentive or reason to do so, so what's the point?

All in all, there isn't much to fault in the gameplay; however, there isn't much gameplay in the game. And of what is there, there are three areas that are really annoying. Platforming plays a significant role, however, High Voltage Software did not take enough time with the grab-a-ledge mechanic. Sometimes it seems like Zak slides right by ledges that he should grab onto.

Another game design flaw relates to "should we use a 2D, 2.5-D or 3D design?" The game handles flipping between 2.5-D and 3D fine, but why mix a usually 3D mechanic with 2.5-D design? In the jungle level, for instance, Zak comes upon an area where he needs to jump on bouncy mushrooms that move into the background. The problem is, the camera stays in side-scrolling 2.5-D mode, while Zak has to bounce from mushroom to mushroom and move into another plane of 2D depth, making things confusing and complicated. To top that off, his shadow only shows up at a certain height in the air, so this area could and will be very frustrating for the younger audience which this game is intended.

One last gripe about the gameplay comes in the lava level-- yes, the only level that gives the player a break has a mishap, and a decently annoying one at that. The lava Cryptid that Zak must use to ride on the lava must be made of ice, because any time Zak steps off of it, it's a game within a game just to try and get back on without slipping off. Many deaths occur. Thank the developer for an overabundance of autosaving.

Beasts of the 5th Sun is very basic in gameplay and presentation, but does this add up to basic controls? Yes. This title uses the Wii remote and nunchuk: the nunchuk's thumbstick makes characters walk, while switching characters (which hardly happens) is done by pressing the control pad. Attacks are executed by either pressing Z for special attacks or B for light attacks (which, for some reason, usually do more damage). The A button is for jumping, and holding C on the Nunchuk will allow for the remote's pointer to scan and use Cryptid control. Finally, the + button pauses and the - button accesses the Cryptopedia. No other buttons are used and, surprisingly, no motion controls come into play. This is odd because it would seem like a no-brainer to use the Wii Remote's motion ability for light attacks, at the very least.

A few final thoughts concern the game's multiplayer gameplay and manual. First, there isn't any multiplayer, which seems odd considering there are more than enough family members and the whole Cryptid concept could be great for multiplayer battles, almost like Pokemon. Anyway, one more sad note is the fact that the manual matches the game: it's basic... very basic. There are literally only six pages, front and back, which includes the cover. On top of that, only half of these pages are used for English, so that means there's really only a couple pages of any content in the manual. The controls and warning are really the only sections to be seen in this thing. Yes, the game is basic, but how about some storyline, Cryptid definitions or something to give the player a reason to have the manual?

Overall, The Secret Saturdays: Beasts of the 5th Sun isn't bad for its basic details, and it's actually decent for a licensed game. Yet flaws shine so bright when a game is this simple. Nothing will make the player want to play through this game more than once, and that will only take a weekend for even the younger audience who this game's intended for. The gameplay goes from fun, to repetitive, to annoying and then to just straight frustrating. If this story and these characters are interesting at all, then watch the cartoon. If a dedicated fan sprouts from watching the cartoon, then rent or buy the game. This game is only good for the most dedicated Saturdays fans.



final score 5.1/10





WRITER INFORMATION
Staff Avatar Greg Wampler
Staff Profile | Email
"Ok, little buddy, as part of your hero training, you've got to stand guard tonight over my bananas... I'll relieve you at midnight, so try and stay awake until then!"


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