The Adult Swim character Samurai Jack is great and I have appreciated the series over the years, so much so that I am happy just to hear a few seconds of the original music, or see a short glimpse of Jack's square-face. When the series was rounded off in 2017 with a final season, I was very happy, and today everything Jack-related is somewhat appealing to me, mostly because of pure the nostalgia hit I get and because of my love for the character.
Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time was announced for PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One some months back, but has now also been rolled out for players on the Apple Arcade and thus it's playable on any iPhone or iPad. It is by far the largest game for my iPhone (an 11 Pro Max, if you're interested) that I have ever downloaded at a breathtaking 4.8 GB and it's a hack-n-slash adventure where different sword-combinations form the backbone of the gameplay.
In Battle Through Time, Jack's arch-enemy, Aku, forces the refined swordsman to once again travel through time and space to revive and once again face his toughest opponents in the most challenging battles of his life. This has of course meant that the developer Soleil has been able to easily pick their own favourite moments from the cartoon and put them to good use.
Whether you play Battle Through Time on a PlayStation 4 Pro or on your iPhone, it's a handsome game that captures the basic feel, atmosphere and aesthetics of the cartoon TV series in the best possible way. What's more, as a Jack fanatic, it is hard not to giggle when classic characters appear in full 3D, looking better than ever before. There is also lots of graphical and environmental variation here because Jack (as I said) travels through time and space and the way that the colour scheme changes from one path to another fits the concept perfectly.
Mechanically, Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time is very old-fashioned and simple, but without feeling outdated. Jack hammers the enemies in the head with his sword, cuts them in the midriff or mashes them completely, and there are a number of nice combinations here, which can be updated via a well-developed skill tree. It is possible to perform a parry, you have the ability to avoid attacks, as well as double jump and grab enemies to perform small kata-like close-quarter-attacks (although that's later in the game).
It's a little annoying though that Jack can't shift focus faster when you "lock" on a specific enemy. I often end up in a situation where I lock Jack's sight onto an incoming enemy, kill him, and then I'm forced to avoid incoming attacks from other enemies, back off and re-lock my sight on one of the new foes. This may not sound very tricky, but it sometimes gets a bit frustrating and I would have preferred that it worked as it does in, for example, Zeda where Link auto-locks onto the next enemy by defeating the one you are attacking at that moment. Otherwise, the game controls are good, and it feels a bit like the first God of War, but with a katana.
There are lots of different weapons, too. Hammers, axes, swords and firearms, and they all work really well. However, what doesn't hold up as well as it should in Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time is the repetition in terms of the various environmental structures. Aesthetically, these are changeable and exciting, but in terms of gameplay, every single environment feels like the previous ones (rooms that are linked together) and the developer doesn't do a good enough job of hiding this. Minus this, Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time is a really nice licensed game that is an absolute must for anyone who, like me, loves the TV series.