Monday, April 21, 2014

Weird Entries: God of War: Betrayal

Any series has characteristics and features that make it immediately recognizable. Shinobi is distinguished by being about an awesome ninja; Uncharted is distinguished by its everyman, light hearted protagonist. However, every once in a while, when a series has been around for a while, the developers and publishers will want to shake things up. Sometimes this works wonderfully (Resident Evil 4), but other times it doesn’t work out too well. In these latter times we get sequels/reboots/off shoots that are remembered only by their weirdness. Perhaps not as bad of a game as last time's entry but no less weird is God of War Betrayal.

God of War Betrayal was strange for two major reasons: its gameplay and its platform. The God of War series is known for its huge set pieces, intense battles, and (for better or worse) boss finishing quick time events. God of War Betrayal doesn’t really have any of these as a result of the developers changing from a fully 3D hack and slash design to a 2D beat-em-up one. To be fair, many familiar elements from the original God of War are still present in Betrayal (puzzle solving, brutal combat, etc.); however, playing the game wasn’t overly intuitive because of the platform on which the game was released.

I will have my revenge!

Familiar elements were there, but they weren't as fun.

Rather than wait a year for the far superior PSP release of God of War: Chains of Olympus, Sony decided to release Betrayal on…phones. This wouldn't be too weird if it happened today, but remember that this is 2007, so Betrayal wasn’t getting the iphone port treatment; it was getting the brick phone treatment. ‘OK’ was your attack button; the arrow keys were for movement; and the left and right soft keys were your context sensitive buttons. It was awkward enough to play a bad Galaga rip off on a 2G phone, so imagine how frustrating it would be to play a God of War game on one. The restrictive controls neutered God of War's combat and overall enjoyment. 
You may be thinking you'd play it on this...

...but this is what you'd be using to slay the gods in Betrayal.

Unlike Bomberman: Act Zero, Betrayal isn’t really a terrible game. It’s essentially a 16 bit version of God of War, and if it were to be re-released on PSN, playable with a controller, it would be worth picking up. However, its entire existence is simply odd. Sony was already working on a game in the series for their dedicated mobile platform; their phone market didn’t really benefit from a God of War game; and no one seemed to care about the game once it was released. It seems Sony would have been better off waiting, but if companies did that, we wouldn’t be able to talk about these fun little oddities.

Despite its platform, the game was far from ugly.

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