Buffy the Entertainment Slayer 

Vampire-game sequel takes too much effort for too little reward

Vampire-game sequel takes too much effort for too little reward

I'm still a relatively new convert to modern gaming systems, and one of the first games of my initiation was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. At the time I wasn't even familiar with the TV show. I didn't follow it until it was winding down, and even then I only tuned in because my partner is a big fan. As a self-admitted geek, I enjoyed the superb horror-cum-comedy series when I finally got around to watching it. But it's too bad I wasn't watching sooner, as the game would have made more sense. While it was a fun play, it didn't hold my interest long because I had no previous investment in the characters.

By contrast, with the release of the second game, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds (Vivendi Universal/Fox Interactive), I had a greater grasp of Buffy's world and could tell the difference between Xander, Willow and Faith. Turns out this is actually helpful knowledge. In Chaos Bleeds, unlike the first game (in which you played only as Buffy), you play as these and other characters at different stages of the game, and their personalities translate into their fighting styles. But what the game gains in complexity, it loses in simple fun value.

Chaos Bleeds takes place in one of the later season plotlines involving Kakistos, a powerful vampire who wants to get rid of Buffy. To beat the game, you have to run around killing vampires, zombie gorillas and the like while finding items to further your quest in getting to Kakistos. At least I think that's where the game is leading. See, I've actually hit a stopping point-but I'll come back to that.

The biggest drawback to game play is the fighting combos. When you try to kill the baddies, hitting the control buttons in certain sequences will perform a combination of attacks-e.g., if you hit X X B A and push down on the left thumbstick, Buffy will double-punch, jump, back-kick and ask the vampire out for a soy latte. (OK, the last part I made up.) This is great for fighting-game lovers, but for players like me who just want to pound buttons and make things fall down, it's needlessly complicated. For me, the unavoidable combos just slow the action. By the time Buffy (or another character) finishes a lengthy combo in one direction, the baddie has already run around behind her and started attacking.

When I first started playing Chaos Bleeds, I enjoyed it mostly as a better-looking version of the first one. However, the game suffers compared to the original in one important aspect. Unlike in the first game, you have to complete each level to save your progress, which sucks for a player of my caliber. Playing the original Buffy, I relied heavily on the ability to save often at each sublevel. Which leads to the crux of the dilemma I'm currently having with Chaos Bleeds.

With the help of an online walk-through, I made it pretty easily through the first eight levels. After that, though, it's frustrating enough to defy anyone who just wants simple diversion. I have no problem admitting that I "cheat" at video games by using codes and walk-throughs, which break down the game into a narrative format so you know what's coming (and how to avoid it). While I enjoy the accomplishment of overcoming some difficulty, playing games is an entertainment option for me. So I likes 'em fun and easy.

Thus when I end up playing the same level over and over without progress, I lose interest fast. There are plenty of other ways to while away my meaningless existence. The breaking point here was Spike's "Initiative" level. I spent over an hour replaying it, only to end in bitter frustration after a combination of weak jumping abilities and unstoppable cyborg attacks. That's why I'm shelving it and going back to Voodoo Vince.

While Chaos Bleeds is a decent action game, it seems designed to separate the Buffy latecomers from the die-hard fan cult. If you don't kneel at the feet of Joss Whedon-or even if you need that reference explained-this Chaos can be left to Bleed until it's exsanguinated.

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