Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time for Xbox One review — A hack and slash adventure that maintains the artistic integrity of the cartoon

Hack your way through evil hordes in a style befitting the iconic samurai.

Samurai Jack Battle Through Time Aku Evil Smile
(Image: © Windows Central)

I was a tween when the Samurai Jack cartoon first aired on TV. It fascinated me with its unique animation style, dramatic scenes, and lengthy battle sequences. The show's first four seasons ran on Cartoon Network from 2001 through 2003 and told the tale of the titular Samurai Jack, who was out to destroy the evil demon, Aku. However, the demon opened a portal and sent the Samurai into the future where Aku's evil power flourished. Throughout the series, Jack sought to make it back to the past so he could put an end to the evil demon. Along the way, he met many different people and engaged with several different cultures.

The fourth season ended without concluding Jack's story. But then in 2017, Adult Swim picked up the show and gave fans some proper closure within the fifth and final season. Now, three years later, Adult Swim Games has released Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time, an adventure-fighting game that revisits many of the show's iconic locations and allows players to take part in Jack's quest to destroy the evil Aku.

Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time What I like

Samurai Jack Battle Through Time Hair Down

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Plays like the show Dramatic cutscenes and battles

Swipe to scroll horizontally
TitleSamurai Jack: Battle Through Time
DeveloperAdult Swim Games
PublisherAdult Swim Games
GenreAction, Fighting, Adventure, Platformer
Play Time8 - 10 hours
Players1 Player
Launch Price$40

Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time opens with a classic 2D cutscene that makes you feel like you're watching the original cartoon and then transitions into the 3D art style employed throughout the game. Many of the 3D cutscenes maintain the artistic integrity of the original show by doing close-ups on Jack's face, positioning characters in dynamic ways for key shots, or splitting the screen during intense situations to give that dramatic comic-book-like view of two or more characters at once.

Even the battle sequences remind me of the cartoon. There are situations where you're set upon by a massive horde of Drone Beetles, and Jack slices through them like butter. But then when the number of enemies whittles down, the fighting becomes more challenging, and Jack can no longer destroy them with one swing. I love how the game recreates those intense battles scenes and really makes it a challenge to defeat the bosses.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Jack had various high and low points throughout the cartoon series, which was emphasized by his appearance. The game pays homage to this by changing the samurai's looks as he takes damage. If your health is full, Jack looks pristine with his hair up and his clothes bright white. But as he gets hit, his gi becomes stained and ripped, his face becomes dirty, and his hair flows loose. This also helps serve as a visual cue when fighting, so your eyes don't need to be continually darting towards your health bar in the middle of an intense battle.

Brutally difficult combat For those who like a challenge

You have to think a little more critically when you attack so as not to waste a powerful, rare tool on a common enemy.

Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time is not for the casual player. The game offers four different difficulty levels (one of which must be unlocked), and they are all rather difficult. The difficulty massively increases as you make your way to the ninth and final level. You will likely die several times throughout Jack's journey. Fortunately, you can replay levels to earn experience points, acquire specific weapons, find hidden items, and unlock new powers in Jack's skill tree.

Jack has access to two types of weapons: ranged weapons and close combat weapons. Ranged weapons consist of things like bows and arrows, guns, throwing knives, and shuriken, while his close combat weapons consist of things like hammers, spears, fists, and swords. The sheer number of possible tools helps provide different ways of defeating your enemies and keeps things interesting.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Jack can purchase some weapons from his former rival, Da Samurai. However, other weapons can only be acquired if Jack's foes should happen to drop them. The thing is, aside from the holy sword, these tools break over time. Some weapons work more effectively against specific foes than others, so you have to think a little more critically when you attack so as not to waste a powerful, rare tool on a common enemy. Should one of your favorite tools break, you can replay past levels and attempt to gain another one.

While on that subject, upon completing a level, a menu pops up showing your performance stats. They include how long it took you to beat the level, how many enemies you defeated along the way, how many items you used, how many times you relied on continues, and finally, your high score for beating that level. If you're the competitive, completionist type, you'll get plenty of replay value out of running through each of the nine levels multiple times on your quest to get perfect scores.

Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time What I don't like

Samurai Jack Battle Through Time Giant Beetle

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

This title is intended for preexisting Samurai Jack fans since the plot banks on the fact that you're already familiar with the show's fifth season. As you play, the game hardly explains any of the character's relationships or backstories. As such, the game's story will be confusing for any newcomers or those who haven't watched the show in a long time.

Repetitive gameplay Non-stop fighting

Running from one fight scene to the next for hours upon end gets old real quick.

Granted, Samurai Jack has always been about epic battles and over-the-top enemies. However, running from one fight scene to the next for hours upon end gets old real quick. I would have liked the game better if it had split up the fighting sequences with more puzzles or more places to explore. While there are some secrets to uncover, Jack is kept on a narrow path. It doesn't allow for much exploration and moves from one horde-infested room to the next in each level. If that's your kind of thing, bully for you. I just found it a bit boring.

Boss fights are a welcome change to the regular onslaught. Each one has its own fighting style and is best defeated using different tactics. However, you also square off against Aku's faithful servant, Demongo, in every level. The battle is basically the same every time and just feels like a cheap throw-in. The third time I faced Demongo, I was bored to tears and couldn't wait for the battle to be over. Encountering him just got worse after that.

Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time Should you buy it?

Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time does an excellent job of staying true to the artistic direction of the show, especially given that it's pulling iconic 2D imagery into a 3D space. Much like the cartoon, this game focuses primarily on hacking and slashing Jack's way through any given area. There are a few platforming elements thrown in, but the confines of Jack's actual walking space make exploration a very limited ordeal.

If you love testing your fighting skills and enjoy punishing combat, then Samurai Jack's latest adventure will be right up your alley. The game starts off easily enough but then steeply increases in difficulty as you progress through each level. The fighting does get very repetitive. But, since Jack employs many different weapons and can widen his abilities using a skill tree, you can take on foes using completely different tactics as you progress further into the story. Still, due to the overall difficulty level, this game is best meant for more intense players.

Rebecca Spear
Gaming Editor

Self-professed gaming geek, Rebecca Spear, is one of Windows Central's gaming editors with a focus on gaming handhelds, PC gaming, and laptops. When she isn't checking out the latest games on Xbox Game Pass, PC, ROG Ally, or Steam Deck; she can be found digital drawing with a Wacom tablet. She's written thousands of game guides, previews, features, and hardware reviews over the last few years. If you need information about anything gaming-related, her articles can help you out. She also loves testing game accessories and any new tech on the market. You can follow her @rrspear on X (formerly Twitter).