Beloved franchises frequently have a hard time jumping to a handheld console. The gameplay of the originals is expected, and the scope is dreamed of. God of War: Chains of Olympus tries its best to emulate the gameplay of the first two God of War titles, but suffers from some weird compression issues. It wants to absorb the scope of God of War II, but tries to cram it all in to a game that clocks in at under half the length. The actual action does an admirable job of emulating its big brothers, but a few things do get lost in translation. Some other things, however, convey good, strong concepts.
Chains of Olympus isn't all just copy and paste. While the classic God of War formula of stop a big boss, go to a big area, spend most of your time there, then kill the bad guy is intact, there are some original tricks the game has up its sleeves. One change from the console games that the game introduces is quick casting. Instead of clumsily selecting your spell with the D-pad and then casting, you simply click down R, and select the corresponding face button for whichever spell you want. This could have used a UI element to it, though, as you're tasked with remembering which spells are mapped to which button. As long as you're paying attention, it's not a huge issue, but a quick reminder would be nice.
The variety of spells has also been overhauled, albeit with fewer options. You also have the opportunity to wield Zeus' Gauntlet, which can be most accurately compared to the Barbarian Warhammer from God of War II. It hits hard, while having a little less reach. So the game isn't starved for content, but it is very short. It can be beaten in under five hours without any real issue. With this short length, the pacing is also a little out of place. Right when the game feels like it's picking up, it ends. Red orbs are rewarded in excess to make up for the shorter amount of time you're spending, and it feels like every five minutes, you run into another phoenix feather or gorgon eye to upgrade your health and magic.
The other issue here is that with how small the game is, the secrets really don't feel that secret at all. Most of the upgrade chests are in plain view, and due to the low resolution being upscaled for the PS3, any abnormalities that may obscure these secrets stick out like a sore thumb. There are other mechanics that literally only show up once in the entire game. For instance, the classic balancing act walking over a beam is used exactly once. (Humorously, the game offers a trophy for completing all beam walks) Things like this make the game feel like it may have been rushed or unfinished. I can't speak to the truth of that, but it's an overall compact experience. Sometimes the compactness of the game is good, but other times, it suffers for it.
In terms of difficulty, Chains of Olympus is notably easier than its full sized counterparts. The enemy design is, for the most part, very simple. This results in pretty one-sided encounters. There are a few enemy types that do get a little more challenging, but for most of the game, you can breeze through everything without feeling too on edge. The platforming is also virtually non-existent when compared to the console games. There are a few fun moments here and there, but it's mostly moving from point A to point B. The final area is especially monotonous, with multiple rooms repeated two or three times. If you've played Halo: Combat Evolved
, it reminds me of the Library. It's just a dull experience, which the climax of the game shouldn't be.
Another issue the game has is a remarkably weak story. For the first half of the game, it's established that the primary Antagonist is Morpheus. He sends a lethal fog across the land and spreads his minions throughout the area, all while banishing the Temple of Helios away to ensure the sun can't interfere. This is a reasonable setup, but it's all brought down to nothing when Morpheus simply retreats. Morpheus is never actually shown on screen in any way. Not in a cutscene, not as a character model, nowhere. You're left to aimlessly wander until at the last minute, Persephone is actually the main villain. Yes, Persephone, who has not appeared at all for the entire rest of the game. It's a real hack job of a story, with loose ends and sudden shifts and jerks in different directions the entire time.
Chains of Olympus is about what you'd expect from a handheld adaptation of a console classic. It's not completely gimped, but it is marred with issues that keep it from being a viable competitor to the throne. It's a quick enough experience to where it doesn't feel like a huge waste of time, and it's perfectly playable. The ho-hum nature of the game is fortunately intercepted by a few clever design choices, though. If you want God of War on the go, or are just looking for every little fix you can find, it's a fine enough game.