Jumper: Griffin's Story Review
Perhaps you hadn't noticed, but just about every high-profile action movie is getting a video game iteration these days. But unfortunately, just about none of these are even worth mentioning, as the unfortunate trend of terrible film-to-game adaptations continues, despite all the technology and advancements we've made in the industry. Here we have a game based on "Jumper," which portrays people with the ability to "jump" anywhere they want, whenever they want. Obviously, this could translate to a fantastic video game, just because the concept is so darn appealing. Being able to teleport wherever you want? Running rings around enemies when they can't ever see you? Instantly reaching seemingly impossible locations? As the movie says, "anywhere is possible." It all sounds like crazy fun, but once again, we're faced with unrealized potential combined with a horde of terrible technicals. Jumper: Griffin's Story can't possibly be better than the movie because if it is, it means "Jumper" is on the same approximate level as "Gigli." So sad.
For whatever bizarre reason, the developers decided to go with a cel-shaded look for the game, which in no way reflects the slick presentation of the film. Even worse, this is horrendous cel-shading; the artistry is severely lacking, the detail is slim to none, and there are all kinds of visual flaws. Everything appears bland and unrefined, and we never encounter an environment that feels lively and realistic. The second we began play, we shook our heads with a rueful grin, because we immediately knew we were in for another sub-par game-based-on-a-blockbuster-movie experience. The color is boring as sin - "oh look, another shade of...tan" - character detail is less than mediocre, and only the hand-drawn cut-scenes stand out as a highlight. With all the big-budget action scenes going on in the movie, one would expect some highly accomplished graphics in the game, but no such luck. A car flying into a helicopter and exploding should never be yawn-inducing, but the combination of ho-hum detail and outrageously fuzzy cel-shaded graphics sinks the presentation right from the get-go. Sure, it's just a PS2 game (and we're used to PS3 titles by now), but even so, Jumper: Griffin's Story is just painful to watch.
The sound is no better, as average voice acting can't possibly override an absurdly repetitive and generic soundtrack, erratic balance, and effects that fall well shy of expectations. Oftentimes, we'll hear an enemy die a dozen times over with a strangled cry, just because we retraced our steps over the spot where he fell. We get to hear some clear swishes and cracks with the decent assortment of weapons, and some okay voiceovers help to take our minds off a complete waste of a soundtrack. The music never steps up and enhances the action on screen, primarily because we hear the same set of tracks over and over and over until we're ready to jab a shrimp fork in our eye. The combat effects are hindered by the aforementioned lack of balance, as they will typically be drowned out by sudden - and poorly implemented - voice exclamations, which gets annoying after a while. It's hard to say if the sound or graphics are worse, but it's easy to say that neither is even remotely impressive. In fact, and to avoid unnecessary elaboration, both are just plain bad.
As we stated in the intro, "Jumper" has one hell of a cool concept, and it's one that should provide an excellent foundation for an exciting and engaging video game. But they somehow manage to erase anything about the movie that might make it appealing, and boil it all down into an adventure that's more boring than "Ben-Hur." We're initially greeted with those cut-scenes that feature hand-drawn animation, and get a glimpse into the story of Griffin, the main character in the game. Immediately following this intro, we're thrust into combat against faceless enemies armed with everything from knives to those "anti-Jump" weapons you see in the movie trailers (they're like electro-sticks of some kind). The game looks terrible, so we were disappointed with that, but of course, enjoyable gameplay can always make a title worth playing. But with loose control, a slow and irritating camera, a complete lack of diversity in the battles, and one giant programming error, nothing about the gameplay is "enjoyable."
Yeah, you're probably wondering about that error, huh? Well, it has to do with Griffin's ability to teleport around enemies and deal surprise attacks. By pressing the left analog in a certain direction at the same time as an attack button (either X for light attack of Square for heavy attack), he will instantly teleport to another side of the enemy and strike. This is a fantastic idea and it happens quickly enough to be both fun and effective. In all honesty, it's the lone bright spot of the game, but it gets old very, very quickly; when you realize you'll be doing the exact same thing throughout the entire quest, it loses its luster rapidly. Now, the previously mentioned error has to do with level boundaries in certain areas. For example, when running around narrow pathways in a mountain range, it's very easy to teleport directly off a ledge, which drops you to your death. Even more comical is when you appear just over the edge, but can't get back onto the path and are forced to commit suicide in order to continue play. In other words, the collision detection is sometimes non-existent, which - although humorous - is a glaring flaw.
You can jump over long distances by holding down the R1 button and aiming a simple target over the desired location. If the ground glows white, you can make the jump; if not, nothing will happen. Unfortunately, this makes very little sense, if we're taking the movie at face-value. The movie says "anywhere is possible" and that's most certainly not the case in Griffin's Story, as you'll usually only be teleporting over a span of a few feet. You can "jump" through solid walls, too...but only if it's wooden or comprised of "see-through" stone. Worst of all, while Griffin pulls off a variety of awesome stunts throughout the game, you almost never control them! When he zips clear across a room and tosses a foe through the wall, that's a cut-scene. When he leaps into a cop car and uses his ability to "drive" it into the hovering helicopter, we stand by and watch it happen. How come we couldn't do it? How come the player isn't allowed to pull off these wicked sweet maneuvers? Why are we limited to simplistic and repetitive melee combat all day long? These are questions without any answers, evidently, and that's very disappointing.
There's only one thing your unique skill is really good for- unleashing a special attack once a certain meter is full. Dealing successful blows in combat will fill this gauge, and when it's ready, you can slow down time and Griffin will execute a devastating attack that is best saved for groups of enemies. You can't really choose which maneuver he'll choose (that seems to be random), but at the very least, it looks kinda cool and easily mows down several enemies at once. You can also find a few nifty collectibles and pick up more than a few different weapons, ranging from blades to cudgels. Upon completion of a level, you will gain a full sheet of statistics, which tell you how many enemies you dispatched, how many secrets you uncovered, how many kills you achieved with each particular weapon, etc. You will travel across the world, constantly hunting down the Paladins, who have sworn to eliminate Jumpers by any means possible. Griffin butts heads with a character who appears to be Samuel L. Jackson from the movie, although it's hard to tell, what with the shoddy graphics and all.
The storyline is completely uninteresting and suffers from pacing issues, every last battle feels identical - and that includes the lame boss encounters - and combat is all about jamming on the same buttons. Blocking is rarely required, and as your health refills over time, running around in circles is an easy way to preserve your life, even if you're facing a tough foe. The graphics and sound bog the game down even further, and within minutes, you'll realize you're playing a game that nobody is going to find entertaining. The battle is fast-paced enough, but with all its problems, Jumper: Griffin's Story is a crucially flawed production that excels nowhere and falls short just about everywhere. We're starting to wonder if anybody will ever put forth enough effort to provide gamers with a decent game based on a Hollywood movie, but we're not holding our breath. Perhaps the movie producers believe fans of the film will simply buy the game because of the name, which would imply those fans are ignorant consumers who appreciate playing garbage. ...it can't possibly be true.
Oh, and we'd like to point out one final ridiculous irony: in a game called Jumper, based on a movie called "Jumper," the character isn't allowed to JUMP. Seriously. You can "jump" across distances, but you can't just jump straight up in the air. Is that comedy gold, or what?
2/19/2008 Ben Dutka