Jackie Chan's Stuntmaster is one of those games that looked promising... when we first saw a preview of it two years ago. The game is finally finished, and while it's still quite a bit of fun, the graphics don't shine quite as much as they did back then, and the gameplay doesn't really live up to its full potential. As such, it comes off as a decent beat-'em-up game with some shaky platform elements thrown in for bad measure.
The storyline of Stuntmaster revolves around Jackie's grandfather, who has just been kidnapped by thugs, and a missing package that Jackie must retrieve. To achieve his goals, Jackie must wander through areas like rooftops, Chinatown, sewers, and the waterfront. Each area is broken up into three levels, and each area ends with a boss battle. The gameplay is split between Final Fight-esque punching and kicking and a good deal of platform jumping. Since Jackie is such a master of stunts, you can do things like wall-jump, counter enemy attacks, and perform all sorts of martial arts-style kicks and punches. Breaking apart items like crates and garbage cans will occasionally reveal food. But instead of Final Fight's big red meat, Stuntmaster uses milk and cartons of Chinese food (complete with chopsticks) to power up Jackie's life bar. Keeping your life bar full isn't always an easy task. The enemies are fairly easy to take out in one-on-one fights, but they make a habit of ganging up on you. So the minute you start pulling off a seven-hit combo on one enemy, another will slip behind you and plant a boot in the back of your neck. Careful hit-and-run attacks are the order of the day, letting you cause damage before any of the other enemies can get in a hit or two. The only extremely annoying part about the gameplay is the platform-jumping influence. Between fights, you must make your way past a few obstacles, for instance, dodging a crate swinging from a rope, avoiding fans who will blow you out of the level, and jumping from one tiny moving platform onto another. Ninety percent of the deaths in this game will likely come from mistimed and poorly positioned jumps. You know, you'd think if Jackie Chan were such a stunt master, he'd at least be able to swim. But this is not the case. The body count caused by poor jumps wouldn't be so bad, but the level has to completely reload after every death. So if you spawn near a jump, miss it, and fall into the water, you're looking at a good 20-30 seconds of waiting before you get to try again.
The game has a very definite graphical style to it. The general smoothness of the character models is the game's most impressive visual element, though the textures used in the game are ultralow on the detail scale. The result is a collection of good-looking, albeit totally unrealistic, fighters. The environments are well constructed and very colorful. Graphical effects like the sparks that fly out of neon signs when you accidentally crash through them bring a lot to the game as well. The sound is full of standard martial-arts- movie Foley work - lots of loud smacks and chops. The game also features a great deal of speech. Some of the one-liners were ripped from Jackie's films, but some of them were recorded especially for the game. Jackie is constantly saying things you haven't heard before, and that's a very nice touch, indeed, as it always seems relevant to your current situation.
When all is said and done, Jackie Chan's Stuntmaster is a solid game, but from a technological standpoint, it's a bit behind the pack. If the game had been released in a more timely fashion, it would have made a much larger impact, but it's still worth checking out.