Tenchu: Time of the Assassins PSP Review

Tenchu: Time of the Assassins is the sixth game in the long running series which for the past few years has made its home on Playstation consoles making its way from the Playstation, to Playstation 2 and now Playstation Portable. About eight years ago I picked up the first Tenchu game knowing nothing of the series and ended up highly enjoying the experience. Eight years on and I now get to play another game in the series but there is no joy to be had anymore. In fact as I played I found myself asking why did they even bother?

Usually it would be nice to start off a review with some positive points about a game but Time of the Assassins has so many problems it’s best to get them out of the way first. First off, the game is a third person action title and as we found out through playing many title in recent months it is very hard to make a good game in that genre on the PSP. Tenchu’s infuriating controls take these third person niggles to the extreme and when you combine those with literally one of the worst ever cameras in the history of gaming you’re not off to a good start. To put it simply; Time of the Assassins is very close to being an unplayable mess.

If you’re still reading after that love-in of an opening paragraph then we may as well talk about some of the game’s other features. The game is divided up into two sections. The first is a story mode and the second is titled ‘Mission mode’. Story mode tells the tale of five characters from the Tenchu-verse, each of them have their own set of missions which are loosely linked together with some FMV cutscenes. Mission mode changes things up by adding more characters to the mix (with some unlockables). This mode also gives players the option to set your own options for missions using a very basic mission editor. It should be said that these are some nice ideas but due to the many core gameplay flaws talked about earlier they cannot help the game raise above anything more than average.

Stealth kills are a mainstay of the series and they work just the same as they always have. A small icon in the lower right hand corner of the screen alerts you to the status of the guard(s) that are in the vicinity – indicating whether they are aware of you or not. Disappointingly these stealth kills are as glitchy and bug ridden as the rest of the game and just serve as another way of showing that the game was rushed through development. As you can see by the screens dotted around the page the game does not look very good at all. At times the graphics can look PSone in quality and sometimes it looks worse. The draw distance is also absolutely horrid as you can never see more than 10 feet in front of your character which in turn ruins the game’s stealth aspect as enemies always seem to disappear off screen when you’re tailing them. The terrible draw distance also hinders use of most of the few weapons the game presents you with. Although the game does have some varying locations to play around in they all seem to share the same murky grey textures.

The one aspect of the game that impressed me was the music. All tunes suit the game’s style well and try their best to set the scene for most of the levels. The voice talent also does an ok job but don’t expect any lines to be delivered with awe inspiring flair and emotion. The sound effects however are below average with none of the sound delivering any real oomph.

All in all Time of the Assassins is in no way an entertaining game. It looks bad, it plays bad and it sounds average. The Tenchu series has been in a downward spiral for the past couple of years and this is just another black spot for a series that was once held in as high regard as Metal Gear Solid. Somehow FromSoftware have succeeded in creating a stealth title where it is almost impossible to move about without causing a huge ruckus. The original Playstation title released way back in ’98 is still the high point for this series and it looks like that highlight may never be reached again.

5.2 out of 10

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