Handheld ‘God of War’ lacks originality

And yes, this game includes the threesome sex mini-game.


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Yep — it’s “God of War” all right. Hard to believe this thought would cross anyone’s mind just three years after the fantastic debut of “God of War” on PS2. Have we already grown tired of hacking off demon limbs, ripping Cyclops’ eyes out of their sockets and taking down gargantuan creatures from Greek mythology?

Not necessarily.

But “God of War: Chains of Olympus” certainly could have offered something, anything to separate it from its predecessors.

A brief crash course for the uninitiated: “God of War” is a violent Greek mythology-inspired world that tasks players with slashing up monsters in sealed-off rooms using attacks, blocks and dodges.

Then there’s some puzzle solving, some big boss fights, some new attacks and magic abilities to acquire and plenty of cut scenes to move along the story. This is how the action genre has worked for years, and it still works to this day.

“Chains of Olympus” explores some of main character Kratos’s life while still in servitude to the gods of Olympus, before the events of the original “God of War.” This tale revolves more around saving the world than selfish revenge, though. The plot nevertheless lacks the emotional impact of the first two games, as well as a satisfying conclusion.

When discussing the differences between “Chains of Olympus” and previous games in the series, they begin and end with the story. That and the most obvious difference — being a handheld game.

Ready at Dawn Studios clearly aimed to translate the experience of the PS2 games to the PSP without any compromises, and in that regard they have succeeded.

Even if this had been available for PS2, playing “Chains of Olympus” would still feel like going through the motions. Ready at Dawn stuck to the blueprint a bit too strictly. The animations, the applications of the magic powers, the progression of skills, the block-pushing and crank-turning puzzles, the lengthy and epic opening chapter and even the off-screen threesome sex mini-game all return from previous games with no fundamental changes whatsoever. “More of the same” could not be a more apt description.

On the other hand, that blueprint was pretty damn good to begin with. Every “God of War” game is an extremely tight, directed and controlled experience, where getting lost is nearly impossible.

Between just the right amount of forgiveness in the controls and the smart placement of chests for restoring magic and health, the default difficulty is perfect. Fighting grunt enemies is fun and breezy, while bosses offer appropriately larger challenges.

This review thus far has held “Chains of Olympus” to the same standards of the PS2 games, but on PSP, “CoO” is in a league of its own. It reminds us just what this little machine is capable of.

No other game on the system can compare in the arenas of smooth frame rate, lighting and shadows and even nonexistent loading times. In this sense, being exactly like the PS2 games is a good thing — a very good thing.

Beyond re-playing on higher difficulties and a handful of difficult arena challenges, there’s nothing to do in “Chains of Olympus” beyond the six-hour adventure. It’s an action-packed testosterone-filled adventure, but a brief one.

I feel like I’ve played this game twice before already. “Chains of Olympus” exudes quality from every crevice of its design, but it lacks the capacity to surprise. If you’ve played either of the “God of War” games for PS2, this one will feel quite familiar. Perhaps a bit too familiar.

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