Patreon button  Steam curated reviews  Discord button  Facebook button  Twitter button 
3DS | PC | PS4 | PS5 | SWITCH | VITA | XB1 | XSX | All

Masters of the Universe: He-Man - Power of Grayskull (Game Boy Advance) artwork

Masters of the Universe: He-Man - Power of Grayskull (Game Boy Advance) review

"As a He-Man fan, I really tried to like this title. I watched the original cartoon as a kid, and had all the trinkets: the playsets, action figures, and even a He-Man sticker book. Yet Iím not so much of a fangirl as to stick up for a game like this, which is obviously a rushed and poorly designed cash-grab. "

As a He-Man fan, I really tried to like this title. I watched the original cartoon as a kid, and had all the trinkets: the playsets, action figures, and even a He-Man sticker book. Yet Iím not so much of a fangirl as to stick up for a game like this, which is obviously a rushed and poorly designed cash-grab.

Where do I begin. First of all, the game is not based on the original He-Man series, but on the remake. Thus, all the characters have had subtle make-overs from their originals. He-Man is slightly lankier and not as manly as his eighties counterpart. Despite cosmetic differences however, the cast of characters will certainly be familiar: there is the wizard Orko, the friends Man-at-Arms, Man-E-Faces and Teela, and a host of recognizable villains including Trap-Jaw, Beast Man, Mer-Man, and of course Skeletor. Despite the slightly disappointing He-Man, general manliness abounds everywhere, since most of the characters have Man somewhere in the name. Itís really quite overwhelming.

I was hopeful for the game as the title screen loaded up and erupted with He-Manís famous cry ďI have the power!Ē Then, puzzlement. He-Man begins his quest at Castle Greyskull, where he must both locate Man-at-Arms, who has apparently wandered off somewhere, and defend the castle from a host of skeletons that are attacking it. The first level wasnít bad, but wasnít great. I was hopeful that things would improve throughout the other 11 levels. Unfortunately, aside from a few flashes of inspiration, they didnít.

There is no overall story arc to the levels; instead they are a collection of disjointed scenarios where He-Man is usually sent to rescue one of his friends who canít ever seem to stick up for themselves and get abducted every time He-Man turns his back on them. Man-at-Arms, Cringer, Queen Marlena, Stratos, Man-E-Faces, then Man-at-Arms again. The Man-E-Faces level was particularly disappointing. He-Man is instructed to help Man-E-Faces defend the castle from Skeletorís attack. I assumed this would mean that I would eventually have Man-E-Faces tagging along as an ally. However, when I finally found him, he said something like ďoh great He-Man, thank goodness youíre here,Ē and then disappeared! Again, He-Man was left to fix everything. The last few levels crystallize somewhat around a quest to journey to Snake Mountain to save Teela, who has beenÖ.wait for itÖabducted!

Of course since He-Man is the most powerful man in the universe, I was expecting to see some heavy-duty sword-wielding prowess. Not so, since He-Man has a limited number of moves that are, frankly, rather on the wimpy side. The A and B buttons jump and swing the sword respectively, while holding L causes H-Man to sprint and R blocks. He-Man can also perform a jump-attack and a charged attack, but the overall lack of variety when fighting was very disappointing. The jump attack is quite problematic when fighting enemies who hit back, because they always seem to hit when He-Man is in the air, defenseless, before he has a chance to swing. The charged attack takes too much time, and is therefore unrealistic for the same reasons.

The fearsome foes sent to stop He-Man all have the same unsophisticated attack pattern of charging head-on, pulling back, and attacking again ad nauseam. They frequently cheap-shot, and are generally only vulnerable to hits right after having attacked. As a result, He-Man must adopt a similarly repetitive and unimaginative strategy for defeating them, which consists of blocking the enemyís attack, striking with the sword, blocking the enemyís attack, and so on, until the enemy dies, which is often after 5, 6, or even 10 hits later. This strategy is the same for defeating most bosses, although the Mer-Man and Beast Man did stand out as being slightly more challenging.

Masters of the Universe is an action game that uses one of those quasi-top-down perspectives where the camera is above the player so that all the terrain looks like itís on an angle. This makes jumping absolutely hellish. I hate to go as far as to call the game glitchy in this respect, but something was seriously wrong with the jumping nevertheless. Sometimes when close to a ledge, pressing the jump button would do nothing at all and He-Man would remain firmly on the ground. A successful jump involves painstakingly aligning He-Man with the next platform, pressing the jump button and praying, since the perspective often makes it difficult to judge angles correctly. Hit-detection is wretched here; if He-Man is just slightly touching the edge of the platform, he dies, because the game things he has landed in the water/lava.

Level designs are repetitive and totally linear and artificial. Aside from a few tasks like having to smash rocks or cut down a tree to cross a river, He-Man does not interact with the environment at all. The terrain obviously continues off-screen, but He-Man isnít allowed to walk there. Even the most elementary of games will usually put in a row of fake-looking trees or an out of place rock formation to contain the gaming terrain. Not so with Masters of the Universe. No explanation is given for why He-Man canít leave the screen, we are just expected to accept it and subdue our curiosity about what lies beyond.

The ďexplorationĒ (and I use the term very loosely) levels all consist of finding keys that unlock new areas, which then allows He-Man to progress through the level to the boss, which he must then defeat. The problem is that there is not always a logical reason for fighting the boss, except that the boss is there. Ooh, thereís Lockjaw hanging around across the river. Why donít I go and fight him, because Iím He-Man, and thatís what He-Man does.

One blatantly silly scenario involves saving Cringer, who has been ďabductedĒ by Clawful. After progressing through the level, He-Man arrives at the foot of a large hill with a cage at the base. Upon approaching the cage, we see that Cringer is inside. Then we are told ďHe-Man, you must defeat Clawful to set Cringer free.Ē WHY? Clawful is all the way up at the top of the hill, while Cringer is sitting there right in front of He-Man. Sure, heís locked up and all, but iron bars are no match for the manly He-Man. Why doesnít he just break the bars, take the cat, and get the hell out of there? But no, he has to climb all the way up a hill and fight a pointless battle. I know, without fighting and boss battles, there would be no game. But the developers should have devised more intelligent reasons for He-Man to do the things he has to do, rather than just telling us he must do it in order to finish a level.

Besides these exploration/fighting levels, there are three vehicle levels, where He-Man rides either Cringer or Stratos with the goal of trying to collect all 20 crystals. Again, rather disappointing. These levels were obviously included as an interlude from the fighting levels, but when I think of similar racing-type levels in, for example, Klonoa: Empire of Dreams, the ones in Masters of the Universe just donít measure up. Control is stiff and limited to left, right, forward or back while travelling along a flat surface that never changes or turns.

Even those looking for a simple romp through the fields of nostalgia will find little to get excited about with Masters of the Universe. The graphics are grainy at best, and the characters and enemies are rendered with a poor amount of detail that makes it hard to pick out any defining features. As for He-Manís allies, they arenít even animated, but instead show up as little rotating coins with the personís face on it. Touching the coin cues some dialogue with that person, but after the dialogue is over, they immediately disappear. Cheap. Very cheap.

That, in a nutshell, is what is wrong with Masters of the Universe. To a complacent and casual gamer who just wants a quick nostalgia-driven romp through a vaguely He-manly universe, go knock yourself out. But others, myself included, will quickly realize that Masters of the Universe is a game of chronic underachievement and unrecognized potential.

alecto's avatar
Community review by alecto (January 25, 2003)

A bio for this contributor is currently unavailable, but check back soon to see if that changes. If you are the author of this review, you can update your bio from the Settings page.

More Reviews by alecto [+]
Dynasty Warriors 2 (PlayStation 2) artwork
Dynasty Warriors 2 (PlayStation 2)

Yes itís flawed, but thereís something satisfying about this chaotic 3-D beat Ďem up all the same.
Ice Hockey (NES) artwork
Ice Hockey (NES)

Back in the day, sports games were different. Most of them were realistic to a point, but also took a lot of liberties with the game to make it, well, fun. There were no marathon season-long campaigns, name-brand players or realistic physics, just arcade-style action sometimes only very loosely based on the sport it wa...
Silent Hill 2 (PlayStation 2) artwork
Silent Hill 2 (PlayStation 2)

There are different types of horror. Thereís the kind that goes for the obvious and cheap shock-scare, like Jason in a mask with a chainsaw, or the leering zombie who jumps out from behind the table accompanied by a scream and a stab of high-pitched violins. Then thereís horror of a more subtle nature -- the kind that ...


If you enjoyed this Masters of the Universe: He-Man - Power of Grayskull review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

You must be signed into an HonestGamers user account to leave feedback on this review.

User Help | Contact | Ethics | Sponsor Guide | Links

eXTReMe Tracker
© 1998 - 2024 HonestGamers
None of the material contained within this site may be reproduced in any conceivable fashion without permission from the author(s) of said material. This site is not sponsored or endorsed by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft, or any other such party. Masters of the Universe: He-Man - Power of Grayskull is a registered trademark of its copyright holder. This site makes no claim to Masters of the Universe: He-Man - Power of Grayskull, its characters, screenshots, artwork, music, or any intellectual property contained within. Opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the opinion of site staff or sponsors. Staff and freelance reviews are typically written based on time spent with a retail review copy or review key for the game that is provided by its publisher.