There’s Mugic in the Air
With roots as a card battling game that eventually morphed into a hit kids’ cartoon, Chaotic: Shadow Warriors is made of the typical hyperactive, overstimulating stuff that most children simply thrive on. Plop them in front of the TV for a few episodes and then listen to them chatter about the inner-most complexities of the show. Sound unintelligible? It probably is. But even if you can’t quite get into the cheeseball, self-referential plot concepts and terminology-thick dialogue, there are some sound gameplay concepts floating around here and there. You just might have to dig a little to find them.
This game is clearly aimed at serious fans of the TV show. As such, it assumes you have a rock solid knowledge of the characters, terminology, and inner workings of the Chaotic universe from the very beginning. There’s very little plot setup to fuss around with. Instead, it just throws you into the fray to sink or swim. Fortunately, you don’t really have to crack the secret language code or be well-versed in the lexicon to get the gist of Chaotic: Shadow Warriors. All you need to know is there are battling beast warriors running around – some are your friends, others are not – and you can control a few of them to kick butt in turn-based encounters. The rest explains itself. Well, sort of.
You play as Tom, a young lad who gets sucked into the world of Chaotic quite literally when he learns the strategic card game he so enjoys actually isn’t as imaginary as he was led to believe. Of course, his obsessive knowledge of the game primes him to be quite the hero in this fantasy world. Perfect timing, considering a bunch of important Mugic fragments are mysteriously missing and Shadow Warriors with glowing red eyes seem to be taking over. Yeah, don’t ask.
A sizeable portion of the gameplay in Chaotic: Shadow Warriors focuses on exploratory adventuring in different areas found in the world of Perim. You’ll wander around snaking pathways in search of secret items to pick up and important character encounters to jump into, as you move from one story-driven mission to the next. Falling into pits, touching blasts of fire, or winding up in water doesn’t kill you per se, though you’ll “port” back to the nearest checkpoint. The same thing happens when you get overrun by smaller enemies that roam around, like flying and crawling bugs. You’re given a blaster rifle of sorts early-on to use to dispatch them, and shooting meandering pests does give you something else to do while you’re exploring.
Light platforming and puzzle elements also appear sporadically during the quest. Unstable camera angles and an extremely limited range of character movement tend to get in the way of these stretches. Additionally, figuring out where you have to go is strangely confusing at odd times. There’s a built-in feature that momentarily turns and points the camera in the direction you’re meant to be traveling at the tap of a button. However, what you’re meant to do isn’t always clear, and it seems being in close proximity to hidden items or other hotspots can causes the camera to get “distracted.” It’s also hard to tell what you can and can’t climb on in the terrain, since moving towards some visual elements that seem like they’d be fine for you to hop onto actually turn out to be impassible or on the far end of an invisible wall.
All of the adventuring and exploring is just a framework to showcase Chaotic’s battle system, which is what most players who pick up the game will probably latch onto immediately. During the more significant enemy encounters, you’ll be able to throw down some humanoid beast creatures to engage in combat with mightier enemy monsters that have it out for you. This is where the strategy and card-battling element kicks in, even though there’s really no cards actually involved.
You can plunk down up to five creatures in any given battle sequence, and each can be equipped with Battle Gear you’ve collected to enhance their abilities or Mugic spells to influence the fight. Creatures placed in the three front-row slots can attack and engage other abilities, while those in the back row are primarily limited to support roles. Every round you can have your monster comrades attack, use an ability, cast Mugic, or taunt opponents. In most cases, these actions require you to input perfectly timed sequences of button combination to boost the intended effect. When you’re being attacked, you can either play a short button-mashing mini-game to block some of the damage or scan your enemy to use in future battles by follow the movements of an on-screen cursor. The characters stats, elemental affinities, and equipment you have on-hand makes a big impact on each creatures abilities on the battlefield, adding a lot of strategy into the mix.
The 3D characters and combat animations are impressive, but you’ll often wind up fighting some of the same creatures over and over again. Making matters worse, these monsters utter some of the most painfully cheesy one-liners you can imagine, and they announced every single attack with an insidious pun. This may not be as irritating to the younger audience this game is geared towards, but older players giving it a go or standing in the immediate vicinity will quickly reach their threshold without fail.
Kids who get cracked out on the cartoon show will no doubt find the enjoyable moments in Chaotic: Shadow Warriors outweigh the crummy ones. Players with more discerning tastes might even get a few kicks out of the strategic aspects of the Pokémon-like creature collection and battle system, assuming you have some ear plugs or the mute button handy. The game ultimately measures up to about what you’d expect to find in a children’s’ TV show tie-in and even goes beyond the call of duty in some regards. It’s a decent niche title with limited appeal skewed towards younger players.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.6 Graphics
Colorful characters and crisp environments offer some nice visuals to check out. 3.0 Control
Camera controls are a bit difficult to work with and platforming elements aren’t as tight as they should be. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Painfully repetitive one-liners will burn into your brain. Otherwise, it’s well-done for the kiddie crowd. 3.2 Play Value
Repetition is the biggest enemy here. It’s not a bad romp, if you have the patience. 3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.