It was only a matter of time before the new Masters of the Universe cartoon series was transformed into a video game. Masters of the Universe - He-Man: Power of Grayskull is an action game for the Game Boy Advance. The overall look and gameplay are heavily reminiscent of other hack-and-slash games, such as Diablo or Gauntlet Legends. As such, the game doesn't try to overcomplicate matters with puzzles or quests. Each of the 13 different levels is a straightforward dungeon full of monsters that you need to destroy in order to challenge the boss waiting at the end. It's basically all in good fun, but unfortunately some technical issues can seriously impact your enjoyment of the game.
Although you do spend most of the time attacking enemies with He-Man's sword, the levels are designed to keep you on your toes. Quicksand and flame traps can slow you down, and bottomless pits can instantly take one of your remaining lives. Enemies themselves aren't too difficult, since you can block their attacks and counterattack as they move away, but as soon as you destroy one, another will just take its place. To truly rid the area of monsters, you have to destroy the portal that's conjuring them. Once you've done all that, you still have to face the boss of the level, which is always one of Skeletor's henchmen, usually with a colorful name like Clawful, Beast Man, or Trap-Jaw. Each boss has a specific weakness or pattern that you need to exploit, and you'll probably lose a few lives discovering these necessary strategies.
It's doubtful that most people will complain about the game's relative simplicity, since the whole idea of the He-Man character is that he uses his powers to rescue his friends and beat the pulp out of Skeletor's troops. He-Man: Power of Grayskull represents these concepts very well, even if it does so with level after level of copycatted monsters.
Unfortunately, the game's collision programming is quite frustrating, so much so that many players may just up and quit after they experience any number of truly unfair situations. There are times when you can take a swing at a monster and miss, even though you connected with a previous attack and neither of you have changed positions. When you're trying to jump between elevated platforms, you can literally land square in the middle of one and still pass right through it. It's already difficult to gauge distances, thanks to the tilted perspective, but you really never know if you're going to land safely. Sometimes you'll lose a life if you land on the edge of a platform, even if only an arm or a leg is sticking out. You earn a password for every level you complete, but it's still upsetting to lose five lives and have to restart after a particularly cruel sequence of jumps, especially when you're sure you landed them.
The graphics in He-Man: Power of Grayskull are nothing special, and they won't bring you the amount of nostalgia required to accept the collision problems. The tilted perspective lends depth to He-Man and the surroundings, but individual objects tend to blend together since there's such an absence of color variety. The characters are ugly and the animation is choppy, and about the only time the game mimics the look of the cartoon series is during cutscenes and overlays, when familiar characters such as Man At Arms and Orko bark out orders that help you acquire the next key or prepare for the next fight.
Not surprisingly, the audio is plain as well. He-Man and the various monsters grunt when they take damage, but the only other speech you'll hear is during the introduction when Adam discovers the sword of power and shouts his recognizable mantra, "By the power of Grayskull...I have the power." Other than that, the music you'll hear during each level has a medieval tone that's similar to that of the cartoon series, although there's nothing that stands out as particularly melodic or catchy.
Despite the fact that the visuals don't necessarily tie in to the cartoon series; despite the fact that most of the gameplay involves stabbing one monster after another; and despite the fact that there are merely 13 levels, none of these shortcomings is really the one that makes Masters of the Universe - He-Man: Power of Grayskull an unpleasant game. The collision problems outlined above, however, are what ultimately transform this average attempt at nostalgia into a frustration for all but the most devout He-Man admirer.