enndy Tartakovsky’s Samurai Jack cartoon has a lot of cool things going for it: a unique look, smart stories, good sound design, and tons of action. The Samurai Jack game, however, has none of the above. The conversion of Tarakovsky’s two-dimensional characters to three dimensions makes for graphics that look familiar, yet still crappy. Where the show looks lush, the game looks bland. But the graphics aren’t the only dull aspect of this title.
As with the show, The Shadow of Aku follows Samurai Jack’s quest to defeat the evil demon Aku by travelling back in time to thwart him before he can rise to power. Before he can head into the past, Jack has to free those Aku has enslaved. In each stage, Jack must seek out caged villagers and ancient relics to earn power-ups. Freeing villagers can earn Jack new swords, while relics can be exchanged for more life, power, or Zen (which allows Jack to enter "sakai mode" – basically a simplified bullet time). The trouble is that none of these power-ups have any real effect on gameplay. The various swords all appear to dish out basically the same amount of damage.
Like most licensed games, The Shadow of Aku is a collect-a-thon with simple combat, basic platforming, and little innovation. This isn’t a truly bad game, just a very uninspired one. The various combat systems all work perfectly, they’re just shallow and a bit counter-intuitive. The difficulty level is hilariously low; on the hardest setting, it’s still a cakewalk, on the lowest, it can be easily completed by someone in a coma. Strangely, young kids don’t seem to be this title’s target audience, based on the Teen rating. Overall, The Shadow of Aku comes across as an amazingly generic action title. It’s a shame, as Samurai Jack is easily one of the most unique cartoons on the air today, so this could have been so much more.