Real Talk By: Cmack The Don
Jackie Chan: Stuntmaster dates back to 2000, one of the last games I can recall buying for Playstation 1. The game was published through Midway but developed by Vancouver based game studio Radical Entertainment.
Stuntmaster is exactly what you’d expect from a Jackie Chan game, a third person action/adventure platforming brawler where you run through stages doing high-flying acrobatics and jumps to get past obstacles, and plenty of hand to hand against waves of goons, of course mixing in improvised objects as weapons.
As a major Chan Fan since seeing Operation Condor in theaters in elementary school, the second I became aware of this, I bought it. The game is a solid action/adventurer for anyone who plays it, but is going to be the most appealing and worthwhile to fans of the Chan Man. There are various different sequences in the game where video-game Jackie replicates moves or stunt sequences from his huge filmography (Police Story, Project A, and Drunken Master are referenced, to name a few).
Part of what makes Stuntmaster excellent is that according to my research, it was developed with the constant input of Jackie Chan himself. He not only provided his voice for himself in the game and advised on level design and layout, but motion captured every single move you use in the game. Despite it’s aged, blocky graphics, this means that the movements themselves look fluid, authentic, and are very satisfying. If you’ve seen him fight and jump enough times, you can definitely tell it’s him.
So based off that, the biggest compliments I can give the game is its level design and fighting system. Despite the game appearing a bit humble, it has a surprisingly deep fighting system that reflects the effort put into designing it. There are only two attack buttons, a punch and a kick, but these can also be combined with a dive roll and jump. Despite those two attacks, you can mix them up in a lot of combinations. I actually discovered new moves I never found back in 2000 playing it for this review. There’s also a counter button, which in my opinion, always shows depth in a brawler over just a block option, or no defense at all (*cough*cough*quartersuckers*cough*). As I mentioned earlier, Jackie can of course use his environment to his advantage, there are tables, chairs, boxes, brooms, houseplants, even fish that Jackie can dispatch enemies with, and it looks and feels like stuff he’d do in his films.
The levels are pretty well conceived, and offer multiple paths to completion and secret areas, which I love, as it increases replay value and provides more of a challenge. You are consistently rewarded for doing more dangerous stunts; often an extra life or health power-up is placed in an area that will be way riskier, in this way, it’s encouraging you to act and think like Chan himself, always going for a more dangerous, high flying route.
There’s a lot of humor in the game, also consistent with Jackie’s style, and he has plenty of cornball one-liners throughout, with the bosses pretty much all being ridiculous (you face a boxing clown in a sewer for example). A nice incentive for taking the harder route through the levels is the placement of red dragon heads that you can collect. These are often put in hard to get to, cleverly hidden parts of the stage, and their collection unlocks bonus stages and behind-the-scenes material.
The biggest drawback about Stuntmaster to me would have to be the use of the D-pad in a 3D platforming environment, especially when the game does use the rumble function, showing that it absolutely could’ve used the analog stick. I didn’t think about it much back then, but after playing through PS2 and beyond using analog/joysticks on controllers, I have to say that analog sticks are much better for movement in a 3D world. Some of the jumps are so precise in Stuntmaster, and you have to be angled just right to hit it, or you’re Chan in a can. It gets frustrating when you jump and think you’ve aimed yourself right, but can’t get that perfect spot, because it’s harder to find a diagonal on a D-pad with your thumbs. This also affects the combat, because when enemies are circling all around you, and not at all on a 2D plane, it can be sometimes hard to aim where Jackie is hitting/moving, because the enemies are sometimes in spots it’s difficult to make him correspond to with the D-pad. It would be one thing if D-pad movement was just an option, but it’s the mandatory way to move. Again, the game uses the rumble function of a Playstation Dualshock controller, which had analog movement sticks. That means that they completely could have mapped movement to those, but for whatever reason, didn’t.
One other criticism I have is the lack of a difficulty option. The game makes it clear Jackie isn’t Superman, and probably quicker than almost any brawler I can think of, even the most average enemies can take you out. This can be thwarted if you play and fight well of course, but for players unfamiliar with brawlers, or who like a slow lead-in to their games, this might be a turn off. Stuntmaster was developed before tutorial stages in games were common, and right from the first level, the enemies are pretty brutal. I know for a fact that if this were updated with a modern sequel (want) or developed now, it would almost certainly have a training mode or stage, and optional tutorial prompts.
The lack of a difficulty option pigeonholes you into the fairly difficult level the game runs at, and to me, that doesn’t please everybody, it leaves out casual and extreme players and ends up trying to cater to both. Bouncing off the lack of a difficulty option, there’s actually no main menu of the game, a staple of console gaming that has no excuse for being absent in a game developed at the end of the PS1’s lifespan. It’s not terrible, but you have to either watch or skip the opening cutscene every single time to be able to load or skip your game.
I suppose I could list it’s blocky, dated graphics which makes all of the characters look like blobs as a flaw, but that isn’t really fair, kids born when this game came out are in middle school, or maybe going into high school now.
Overall, Stuntmaster is a very simple, straightforward but fun game that has a strong concept. One clever touch I like in the game is that the lives are black and white movie-set clapper boards, or “takes”, a subtle nod that the game itself is not its own story, but just another of Jackie’s movies. That was their concept, a Jackie Chan movie you could play, and due to the input of the Chan Man, it pretty much stays true to it. It’s not a masterpiece or something you can’t go without playing, but if you like. solid 3rd person action/platformers, you won’t regret checking it out.
Jackie Chan Stuntmaster Gets
Out of Five
+Fighting engine has hidden depth
+Good level design
-Odd Control choices
-One difficulty mode
@PlayLegit #JackieChan #Stuntmaster