My God is this Bad
A note to my readers: I do not watch the Chaotic cartoon that this game is based off of. I do not know the basic plot or the underlying stories of the show. I also never played the card game and have virtually no clue about its cards, rules and whatnot. Everything I write is merely based off of what I see in the game, and my judgments of the game will be based off of those observations and those observations only. That being said, I felt very disappointed about Chaotic: Shadow Warriors. This is a game that is probably best suited for the pre-teen crowd (and perhaps for Chaotic fans), for an assortment of reasons that I will highlight in this review.
Here's what I got from the story. You play a group of kids that has entered the digital game world of Perim. Upon doing so the kids are recruited by the good guy creatures from this world to find out who has been stealing weapons in an effort to (you guessed it) take over Perim. So the kids head out to do so. That's the jist of the whole story. There are no character development and plot twists. There is nothing in the story that even screams average. The story is just meant to be an excuse for you to do what you are doing. In sum the story is entirely forgettable and not worth your time. The only plus side I can possibly think of is that there is an almanac that keeps track of the plot, characters, creatures, which helps those new to the series understand the story. That would be nice if the plot is anything worth writing home about.
Another shoddy part of this game has to be its presentation. Shadow Warriors looks terrible now and during its time. Though character models for the kids are passable and card portraits are nicely rendered, everything else falls short. Environments are merely vistas of one color (and its shades/variations). Even more damning is the monster animations. Every single creature in battle has the same rudimentary animation of double fist pumping, throwing (a crap substitute for an attack animation), and raising one hand in the air to cast mugic (magic in Chaotic). It just looks awful and dated. However the lackluster graphics are only the beginning; the sound work screams either a lack of caring/attention or incompetence. The various ambient music is completely forgettable with no recognizable or emphasized mood. The battle music is a loop that repeats once every 5-10 seconds and it is best if you turn it off altogether. Creature grunts are not distinct from one another. There is, simply put, a lack of detail in the sound department. Compare the presentation of Shadow Warriors to those of Children of Mana, a game that I have reviewed pretty recently, or even Mario 3 on 3. Both of those games are on the DS and are released at roughly the same period as Shadow Warriors, so there's no way to justify the presentation quality of this game or lack thereof. There really is no excuse. I hope this game did not have a budget required to make a worthwhile product this is the case. If it did, it says a lot about the people behind the creation of this game.
So I have covered two of Shadow Warriors' main flaws, so let's go on to the parts of the game that are a bit more passable. The game is divided into two main parts: Exploration and combat. In the former part you lead the kids around an area from Point A to Point B. But doing so is similar to navigating a puzzle. Each kid has his individual powers such as super strength, ability to walk on water and so on. So with the stylus (because that's the only way to move the kids) you have to manipulate the environment in a way to get a key, blow up this door and get to the exit. The game also rewards you for exploring more parts of the stages by hiding collectibles that help such as new monsters, attacks and mugic that you can use in a battle (more on that soon). The puzzles don't require Braid-level intelligent, but they are actually a slightly enjoyable part of the game.
But every once in a while you will have to fight through some monsters in order to get somewhere. That's when you bring out your monsters in either a 1 v 1 , 3 v 3 and 5 v 5 onslaught to defeat the enemy. Battles proceed in this format. You select a monster to attack an opposing monster with a set of attacks that are randomly chosen. You can keep doing this as long as you have enough monsters eligible to attack (ie. those in the front line, up to 3). Then you can cast mugic (again, magic) to end your turn. Now on the surface it is actually not too bad; in fact it has a structure similar to the actual card game. But it's interface is really really terrible. For instance, some attacks requires some basic maths (ie. this monster needs X more courage [a game stat] than that monster to do Y damage), and the game cannot even provide that sort of mathematical information, because stats are shown in bars and not numbers. Also there is very very little strategy when it comes to fights. All you do is pick the best attacks and use them every round. The fact that the game allows you to decrease damage done to your monster (or increase the damage your monster can do to others) via a mini-game reduces the strategy necessary to beat the game. It's really a mindless romp from start to finish, with the game tickling your brain cells only during the exploration/puzzle sequences, not during the actual combat. Speaking of start to finish, it takes only 3 hours to finish the campaign once. You can do it again with a different set of monsters, but given how similar all the monsters are it is a waste of time.
To sum up this review, Chaotic: Shadow Warriors is a forgettable experience because its story stinks, its presentation stinks even more, and the slightly above average gameplay cannot mask those problems. It is so bad that its short length (which you usually don't want in games) is actually a blessing. I can only recommend this game to those devoted to Chaotic or to pre-teens who are not exactly the most critical about video game quality. But even then I would advise these two groups to pass this game up and find a game more enjoyable.