I love Buffy, in more ways than one. I’ve not been able to keep up to speed with the developments of the svelte-hipped Buffy Somers (much to my disgust) but I got my filthy hands on the PlayStation 2 version of Chaos Bleeds, the latest offering to spew forth from the Hell Mouth. So, does Buffy get down and dirty and offer the goodies in this latest game?
This game is an official product from the Buffy fold and was created as a ‘missing episode’ from Series 5, and involves all the major characters we know and love. You have the chance to control Buffy, Willow, Xander, Spike, Faith and Sid the Dummy, whoever he might be. The cutscenes that string the game together are where the amusement starts. Fox Interactive have put considerable effort into rendering the faces of the beau characters, to the extent that they almost look like porcelain dolls, especially Willow. Willow, aka Alison Hannigan (“this one time, at band camp“) has her normal/Californian speech impediment, much to my amusement, “Er, … Buffy, you’re the slayer, … I’m just Willow here” and other such revelations. As far as speech goes, they’ve done a good job of keeping things true to the series - Buffy talks to herself as you control her with arousing sarcastic quips a plenty. My favourite comment “Ah, what every girl wants -- a long shaft … wait, that didn’t come out right” shows that the developers have a sense of humour.
So what is the gameplay really like, as this is where spin-offs normally fall apart. Well, its not too bad actually. Gameplay is in the form of exploring and battling baddies, whilst completing some basic tasks, to open doors and so on. There is the normal array of secret weapon stashes and the like. As far as the characters go, Buffy has her normal slayer skills, Willow the witch learns spells (button combos) as you go along. Buffy wins hands down as the most pleasing character to play with. One thing that I think lets it down is the rendering of Buffy in-game. They had an almost perfect female specimen to base it on, but she has more of a John Wayne gait than that of Lara Croft reflecting the problem with Niobe’s digital counterpart in Enter The Matrix.
In the game you skip from person to person completing various sections of the levels. While it’s mostly straightforward action, you need to think to get through - and it’s similar to Tomb Raider in that sense, and you soon find yourself climbing on ledges, jumping broken floors, smashing vases and generally using the environment to get around. You have semi-destructible surroundings and intelligently so, as breaking a chair can furnish you with another stake for Buffy’s talented hands.
Overall, this isn't just a fans' game. Ok, it helps if you are, and I'm sure that the screaming hordes of teen Buffy lovers will drive this game to success, but it is there on another level. It is addictive, you will want to get stuck in, and rightly so. But if this game is in competition with some bigger players, it will probably lose. Will people go for Buffy over Tomb Raider? They should, but it'll be the latter's control system that drives them there, rather than being a much better game.