It’s the time of year when the nights feel that little bit darker and sounds that you would often pass off as creaking floorboards or the wind rushing through the trees suddenly feel a little bit more creepy. Yup it’s Halloween which means as I type this everyone and their mum will be doing stuff on Splatterhouse because it reminds them of the classic horror movies and that’s cool because come on now, everyone loves a bit of Namco mask wearing splat-fest.
When it comes to this time though I like to go a bit beyond the reflection in the window so to speak so with this in mind and because of the weird relationship I have with it’s inspiration it seemed like a perfect time to focus on a game almost nobody ever talks about even though it has a prestigious company and game engine wrapped round it, let’s talk about a creature called… Jack!
The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of those films pretty much everyone has seen at some point, it’s produced by the man who made the best/only good Batman films Tim Burton and has achieved cult status not because nobody ever saw it and hipsters love to be a minority (when actually they have a majority opinion, duh!) but because it’s a fantastic film… That I cannot stand! Right now one person in particular is sharpening his most pointiest of knives and is planning on seeking me out to give me a good old fashioned prison shower shanking. I can’t explain why I don’t like the film other than after about 25 minutes the impact of it all goes and I’m very bored, strange then that the game is something I have huge amounts of time for.
For those who have been around the block a bit on the PS2 the gameplay instantly reminds you of the classic Devil May Cry series and it should, probably because the same publisher was responsible for it and you can tell game engine mechanics were shared, mostly because of the camera sometimes betraying you, but more on that later. Starting out in the main town itself you run around in a 3D environment opening doors, finding secret passages and areas and collecting enough souls in order to visit the local store to upgrade your abilities and health. At this point I need to point out that why is it so many games have these shopkeepers that profit from disasters or other town/country/planet problems? Forgotten Worlds has a shopkeeper that has tons of cool guns that if she wanted too you could use from the start and totally blow away those aliens who took over the world. I sometimes wonder if this is me over analyzing stuff or games developers trying to point out that one of the reasons things like war even exist is because a small number of people make so much cash from it. Interesting though for sure.
Gameplay is very standard hack ‘n slash with all of the usual jumping and special attack moves that eventually mean you can reach a new secret area or obtain an item in order to proceed, the game itself feels very open however there are multiple barriers, just so happens they are superbly hidden behind a great story pacing and design. The Soul Catcher is essentially your main weapon that feels and acts just like a whip and by using it to destroy enemies you can collect a huge number of spirits that in turn become currency. Standard play however means actually affording things in the shop will be hard because the prices are mega steep. By exploring the town you can find farming areas with constantly spawning creatures to get round this and although that’s great it does become a tad tiresome after a while.
The world of play is extremely well presented with a theme that is constant such as dark and drab colours ( I hope you like the colour grey?) however several items such as the Soul Robber are bright green, as are the souls you collect and along with many other background details helps to create a look that never feels old or samey, whoever was in charge of art direction did wonders with a very limited colour palette. The areas themselves such as the town of Halloween, the Graveyard, crypts etc all have a striking look which is something the movie did so well with, it’s clear that this was very much a project of passion and not some lame movie tie-in game released next to the film that ultimately sucks and is there to get some cash (I’m looking at you Activision Transformer games!)
Much like Devil May cry the main meat of the game itself is as mentioned before running around hacking up standard enemies, however this is all a prelude to the absolute star of the entire game, the music based boss battles! Your first taste of this will be at the end of the first chapter where you are in a large room facing off against Oogie and one of the songs from the film itself plays over your actual fight. It’s one of those things that’s very hard to explain in words hence the video attached to this review however it’s completely out of the box thinking for a game such as this and for me makes it an essential play. Presentation of the musical notes and parts of the attack/defend battle are all handled with such perfect execution you would swear Tim Burton himself did it. The music from the game is actually music from the movie with re-arranged words in some to give it that authentic feel, it’s genius!
The Nightmare Before Christmas - Oogies Revenge is a direct sequel to the 1993 major motion picture and follows on a year after the end of said cult classic. Jack Skellington is bored, he has won all the awards to win for being the scariest creature in Halloween town and everyone loves him, especially his love interest ‘Sally’ After one such evening of being celebrated he decides that enough is enough and he must find new ways to scare and new holidays to create. A discussion with the mad scientist ‘Dr. Finkelstein’ leads to him taking possession of the "Soul Robber", a green, whip-like weapon that can change shape and fling any music note he collects. Instantly realizing it’s massive potential and because there’s always a time to sing (apparently) Jack announces that he is leaving the town in order to find these new scares and will only return when he has created a whole new scare themed holiday. As plot points go it’s a bit weak to get him out of the town but it does however open up how his nemesis comes back…
A short time after our hero leaves Lock, Shock and Barrel sew the evil ‘Oogie’ back together again (defeated in the movie) who promptly takes over the town in Jack’s absence and convinces them to make all manner of devilish traps by telling the town’s citizens that Jack no longer loves them and has abandoned them… What a complete bastard! Actually saying that I remember my mum telling me that’s what happened to my old pet… That lying Bit… (edited!) Sally who knows the real story is the only one left behind who knows the truth and so writes down on a piece of paper that Halloween town needs Jack back then throws it out of the window on the 23rd December (paper aeroplane style) even the mad scientist Dr Finkelstein has been brainwashed so she sits in a dungeon alone and scared. On top of everything else oogie has captured 5 of the 7 holiday World Leaders excluding Santa Claus and of course Jack who is in charge of Halloween itself.
The very next day Jack returns to the town and is instantly ambushed by skeletons displaying oogies shadow, knowing that things are completely wrong he sets out to find his love, his friends and ultimately restore order to everything by once more stopping the plans of Oogie. It’s at this part (well the skeleton battle actually) that the game itself begins, the opening sequence is pretty long although superbly presented.
Over the 24 chapters Players must fight numerous enemies, perform platforming tasks, and occasionally solve puzzles to progress through the story. The player's performance in each mission is given a letter grade of A, B, C or D, with an additional top grade of S. Grades are based on the time taken to complete the mission, the longest combo performed, the damage done to Jack, and the amount of enemies you surprised. As you can see replay ability is here for serious perfectionists although in truth bar a few hidden secrets there’s no real reason to do this. Jack can also call upon his Santa and Pumpkin king alter ego’s to play as with each having specific powers and uses, it’s this along with the overall look and feel that elevates this way above the standard game of the genre, this really does so many new things.
Completely full of charm and packed to the rafters with moments of ‘cool’ or bits when you will laugh out loud this Playstation and Xbox game is without a shadow of a doubt a solid title that delivers far more than you first expect and does so at a standard way above what other games in the genre do. It’s not going to top Devil May cry because it’s not the same game, there’s no over the top massive monsters to fight that fill the screen and push the machine’s power to breaking point but that’s ok. What Oogies Revenge does do is take you into a world previously only possible through a non interactive film, it gives those creatures on that big screen more depth and vastly more reasons to fall in love with them. Considering how I dislike the film the fact I think the game is brilliant has to be a testament to the quality of how it was made.
Great graphics, lovely cut scenes, stunning presentation and a soundtrack that is just showing off at times it’s an all round great videogame that I have no problem recommending. It suffers from all the same problems all 3D games have in that the camera will screw you over when you least want it too and visually it is starting to age quickly. Right now though, in this exact moment in time it’s very good and on that note this Halloween why not play something so good on a night when so many bad things may just happen? Now if you will excuse me I just heard a strange noise downstairs... 'Hello, is anybody there...?'…
Verdict:- Nobody is ever going to put this game up as a poster child for the genre, the console or gaming in general but in the end none of that matters when it comes to reviewing a game. For that one just has to weigh up the pros and cons and then ultimately go with what their heart says.
When I do this with Oogies Revenge I see more plus points than I see negative and through the whole thing I find myself more and more involved with the charaters in the game world. Hand on heart I thnk this is great, better on the Xbox but only due to slight graphical enhancements and faster loading but still a really great adventure game. I know the film it's based on to be good even if I don't like it however with Capcom's sequel I know for a fact the second I face a boss battle i'm gonna smile and ultimately it's those moments that make us love games.
Second Opinion:- Transbot is confused! Logic seems to have gone on a holiday to the south of France for a bit and considering another Robot did this review all I can say is 'maybe time to get your brain fixed?' Not because the score is wrong but because that film was fantastic. Silly Decepticon.
It's not looking as great as it once did and there's just as much brown in this game as there is grey and in screenshot form it sure does look drab but game wise this hits my sensor sweet spot. Camera makes me Type 'D' shoot people in the face at times but even then i'm still carrying on. Transbot likes this and Keaton is Batman, any other opinon is merely noise!
Transbot Scores:- 7.5 out of 10