Samurai Jack started life out on Cartoon Network where the show became highly popular; as a result we now have the game Samurai Jack and the Shadow of Aku to show for its success.
Jack lived in a Samurai village long before modern technology existed; all was peaceful until the evil demon Aku showed up. Aku enslaved Jack's village but Jack got away, trained for years and came back to defeat Aku. Of course the hero was stronger and he won the battle, but just as Jack was about to finish off Aku, he was sent forward in time by the sly monster. He now lives in a futuristic world that is run by Aku; in order to return the world to what it once was he has to destroy Aku - easier said than done!
So is this game a shameless cash-in or does it have some substance to it?
Well fans of the show will be able to connect with the game more than the average Joe will. There are characters that you'll know nothing about unless you've watched the TV series. You can grasp the story, but we can’t help but think that people who never have seen the series will be left not quite understanding it all and won’t appreciate the game fully.
As this is a Cartoon Network program the graphics are Cell Shaded - not to the quality of The Wind Waker, but more like the Simpson’s games. It doesn’t really spoil the gameplay as the cell-shaded style suits the game and complements the show, but you can’t help feel at times that it could have looked a lot better if only they had given it more time to develop.
The gameplay is pretty simplistic as expected: you can jump, go slow-mo Matrix style, slash things to bits with your sword and use a couple of projectiles. For all the simplicity and lack of variety this actually makes for quite a nice system; mowing down enemies is fun - especially when you come from above and slam your sword down into them (sounds violent but they're robots so there really isn’t anything vicious about it). There's an upgrade system where you collect tokens and use them to purchase Health, Magic/Chi (slow-mo) and Strength power-ups. It’s not rich in variety and there are only 3 upgrades for each, but still it’s better than nothing. There are also typical platform game moments where you have to jump platform to platform and work your way past various obstacles towards the boss - it's very linear, you know where you should go all the time and it doesn't take long to realise how to get there. It's pretty much what you expect from it, no surprises, and it does exactly what it says on the tin.
The game will not last you long; a player of average skill will have clocked it in 2 sit downs. There's room to replay it on different difficulties and unlock various treasures, but you don’t feel compelled to do so.
The Shadow of Aku will entertain the player till they complete it, but the lack of replay value and all too short lifespan drag the game down. We wouldn't call it a bad game: it's a good licensed title with several faults that simply limit broad appeal, though it's a must for fans of the show as you're getting another part of the story. There are extra difficulty modes for those who want further challenge, but even so it’s an easy game - as you'd expect from something based on a children’s program.