Even if you aren't a fan of the cartoon series, Activision's video game version of Jackie Chan Adventures is a fun beat-'em-up that captures the innocent charm of the show's martial artist namesake. As in the show, Chan plays the role of an amateur archaeologist who reluctantly turns swashbuckler when an international crime organization known as Dark Hand busts up his uncle's shop. With his niece, Jade, by his side, Chan and company travel the world to recover the eight stolen scrolls and to prevent Valmont, Dark Hand's master, from unleashing a horde of demon sorcerers unto Earth.
For the most part, Chan gets the job done via a plenitude of well-timed fisticuffs, something that translates well into the video game. Across the game's 10 stages, your job is to fight your way through hundreds of Dark Hand minions. The controls are quite liberating in that Jackie can chain together a variety of combos and counters, but he can also flip, run, and reverse when the situation calls for these moves. Using the shoulder buttons--for example, the block and jump buttons--you can also pick up objects or enemies, which you can then swing or throw with comical effect. Each time you recover a scroll, you'll add even further to Jackie's repertoire by learning a new combo or special technique. The only real tarnish to the game's otherwise polished control is that move response tends to be sluggish--a justifiable touch of realism that isn't as bad as it sounds.
Unlike in most beat-'em-ups, the enemies in Jackie Chan Adventures don't constantly leave themselves open to attack. Although they may be pushovers early on, Dark Hand's goons are more apt to block or counteract when you reach later stages. When you see just how colorful and well designed the characters are, the fact that they actually put up a fight creates something of a philosophical epiphany: This isn't your typical TV license rehash. Huge 3D stages allow total freedom of movement, which includes rooftops, ladders, dumpsters, and awnings--as well as a potpourri of objects to smash, grab, or otherwise interact with. Developer Torus Games didn't miss a beat in taking advantage of the GBA's horsepower either, as bosses grow larger and larger the further you progress--all with zero choppiness.
Although its audio isn't necessarily superb, the soundtrack and effects found in Jackie Chan Adventures aren't as scratchy or basic as those found in the majority of current GBA games. A series of beat-filled melodies provides the background music, while punches, kicks, and the other assorted miscellany that comprise the battle sound effects are clear and meaty.
Even though it's a great game, Jackie Chan Adventures has two obstacles to overcome this shopping season: It's in direct competition with Capcom's fantastic Final Fight One and the sullied reputation that applies to license-based video games. Rest assured, Jackie Chan Adventures is one of the few games worthy to sit on a shelf alongside Final Fight One. The lighthearted charm of Jackie himself really comes through via the story, and there's plenty of variety to keep a person occupied long after an initial run.