Okay, before I start this review, I have to confess something that would probably eliminate at least 80% of my geek cred. I have never watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I mean the show; I had seen the Kristi Swanson movie once a long time ago. It's nothing against the show, Joss Whedon, or Sarah Michelle Geller; I just never got around to it. I have, however, played and thoroughly enjoyed the Buffy games on the Xbox and was curious to see if the Game Boy Advance could hold its own compared to those games. While it doesn't reach those heights, I'm not sharpening any stakes to use on it, either.
The story is fairly straightforward involving going after the cybernetic Frankenstein's monster Adam as well as the Gentlemen. Even though I haven't seen the show, I am familiar with the main characters thanks to the aforementioned Xbox games. You only control Buffy Summers herself through the game, but Xander, Giles, Willow, and the rest of the Scooby Gang show up in publicity still form for the between-level cutscenes. Even though the scenes lack voice-overs, the writing managed to capture the personality of the characters and stay chuckle-worthy.
The aesthetics definitely show off what the Game Boy Advance could do. Buffy and the villains are well-drawn and animated beautifully. Whether performing spin kicks or driving stakes, Buffy looked fantastic. The backgrounds are gorgeous, too. I even give props to the great shots used in the cutscenes. The audio is kind of generic and forgettable but does manage to provide a creepy vibe that works for hunting vampires.
The gameplay both makes and breaks the game. The combat is great. Despite the limited buttons on the GBA, Buffy has plenty of attack combos at her disposal, and the Select button quickly clicks to the stakes for finishing blows. Aiming for the heart can be a little irritating but not so much to ruin it. She also has plenty of other toys available like crossbow bolts doused in holy water. There are even interactive elements in the stages from breaking boxes for free stakes to breaking skylights to use the sun as a weapon. The combat just kicks ass.
Unfortunately, the platforming nearly ruins it. The movement controls are fine for fighting but too stiff for hopping platforms. Running jumps become infuriating before the first stage is over, and when it gets to collapsing platforms, you would be ready to chuck the game into a furnace. Add in the lack of mid-level checkpoints (did no one learn from Decap Attack?), and you have a game that gets frustrating very frequently.
The Slayer's outing on the Game Boy Advance frustrates me. The combat is almost as good as in the Xbox games, but the platforming feels like it was spawned from a Hellmouth. It may be worth playing for hardcore Buffy fans, but others should just give it to Giles and forget about it.