It's rare to criticize game developers for being over-literate, but the makers of Rise Of The Argonauts may love the classics too much. The game's action-RPG formula seems simple: Here's musclebound hero Jason, he's got a big spear, let's go knock some heads. Yet every time you're itching to fight, Argonauts gets enamored with the pomp of ancient Greece, and you end up trading Homeric witticisms with Achilles.

All the chatter in this wordy epic does, at least, add up to a compelling tale. The game takes Jason through a re-imagined Golden Fleece story with the campy confidence of a '60s gladiator epic. While most RPGs treat cinematic interludes as post-fight rewards, Argonauts uses long cutscene sequences to set up battles. This approach lends a climactic feel to the God Of War-style boss fights, though that's partly because you're starved for action by the time they arrive.

The developers' passion for the script doesn't carry over to their "favor of the gods" system, a clever idea with feeble execution. Every decision affects your standing with the gods. Careful, even-handed actions curry Athena's favor, Ares rewards bravado, etc. If the choices had more than superficial impact, Argonauts could be the Fable everyone wished for, but in practice, you're just picking options in a dialogue tree to earn power-ups. It's a missed opportunity.

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As for the Argonauts themselves, their supporting role doesn't justify top billing. They're ineffective sidekicks in battle, and the game frequently shoves them aside so Jason can fight alone. That's fine, as Jason does a good job decapitating Tartarus fiends all by himself; in the last stages of the game, he's practically invincible.

Beyond the game: Tyler Bates, who composed the score for 300, did the Argonauts music. It's mostly bland, except when Jason's near death and the sweet "State Of Grace" theme plays.

Worth playing for: The stunning Medusa battle is the best interpretation of the snake-haired maiden since Castlevania.

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Frustration sets in when: Glitches, in tandem with an anemic save system, may force you to repeat part of the game.

Final judgment: There isn't enough actual gaming here, so like a TV host facing the "stretch" signal, Argonauts tries to fill the void with talk.