Oh God, A Platform Game. Have You any idea how hard the 'In Perspective' box is going to be to write? Among the many crimes against society that games consoles continue to inflict, the continuation of the platform game genre surely has to be one of the biggest culprits. Every time I see a jolly-looking sprite leaping about amid garishly coloured 'worlds', my mind harks back to the mid-'80s and the manifold horrors that were Ocean film licences. They were everywhere. No matter what the film was in question, Ocean's developers always seemed to think that the best depiction of the various intricate plotlines and subtle characterisations was to feature the lead character jumping around on ledges. They were dark times indeed.
Frankly, I thought we'd seen the last of them with the advent of sophisticated PC gaming pleasures, but thanks to Messrs Sony, Nintendo and Sega, they continue to haunt us. Now it might sound like I'm not particularly keen on the platform game, but that's not entirely true. I'm opposed to run-of-the-mill platform games, just as I'm opposed to run-of-the-mill adventure games, strategy games, flight sims and any other game that is content to sit in the armchair of averageness. I wouldn't say that Pandemonium falls entirely into this category, but rather that it's perching on the armrest, with a foot on the pouffe of credibility.
'Pouffe' of credibility?
You see, for all the (admittedly impressive) 3D on show, it's a remarkably two-dimensional game. Graphically, Pandemonium is a feast. Smooth scrolling 3D that swoops from one perspective to another with all the ease of an episode of Homicide: Life On The Streets. If you have a 3Dfx card nestled in your PC, then things look even better than they do in the PlayStation version.
But beyond the visuals, the game is very straightforward. Unlike Mario on the N64 or Tomb Raider, you are stuck to a rigid path of movement. You have plenty of freedom in the Y-axis to jump from one platform to the next, stomp on creatures and so on, but despite the camera giving the illusion of 360 degree movement, you are always moving in a straight line from left to right (or vice versa). No Z-axis to speak of. Very two-dimensional. And it's because of this that I just can't help but feel a little cheated. The rest of the game's elements are great. Very jolly little numbers like metamorphosing characters, bonuses that keep the game interesting and fresh, different lead roles with different abilities, well-structured levels that are genuinely challenging. Everything, in fact, that a good game should have, and yet I still feel that it should be so much more simply because of the other titles out there.
The moon on a stick
Now I have to balance this biting, savage criticism (Steady on now - Ed.) with a true story. My brother really likes Pandemonium. A lot. He's been playing it on a regular basis when I'm not using the PC to rattle out 3000 words of eloquent prose about radishes for my other job as Political Commentator for Root Vegetable Grower's Digest. Which means that if you're more disposed to this sort of thing, you might well be perfectly satisfied with your $30 purchase.
The lack of freedom is a personal gripe. You might not have such reservations, in which case, like my brother, you'll probably find Pandemonium an enjoyable " experience. But then he also likes Don Johnson, so read into that what you will.
The Name Crystal Dynamics Probably won't ring any bells for most of you, seeing as how they haven't really done anything of significance on the PC since their excellent strategy game The Horde a couple of years ago. Indeed, there'll be many a raised eyebrow in the PC gaming community at the news that the company's next PC title is Pandemonium, a game which has recently sold in considerable volumes on the PlayStation and is bound to bring cries of 'PlayStation conversion alert' from all corners.
However, as Scott Steinberg, Vice President of Marketing at Crystal explains, these fears are entirely unfounded: "From the very beginning, we chose the PC as our main development environment. We created everything on the PC first and then moved to the PSX. Because of this, neither platform has had to suffer the familiar translation blues. We've spent plenty of time working on performance in order to allow the best gameplay on non-accelerated and slower PCs."
The game follows the exploits of Nikki and Fargus, and players decide at the beginning of a level which of the two they want to control. The characters have different skills (Nikki for example can jump higher than Fargus) and certain levels can be very difficult if you don't choose the right character for the job. All the usual secret areas and power-ups you'd expect to find in any platform game worth its salt are present in Pandemonium, but the game also features morphing characters which change from the form of a bulldozing rhino to a fire-breathing dragon, among other things, to spice up the action.
While the game is essentially a 2D platformer, Crystal have used their revolutionary Freestyle 3D Camera Technology to 'fool' the player into thinking the game is 3D by changing view perspectives to give the impression of a very large and open environment Scott is particularly proud of this: "Our goal from the very beginning was to take the known fun factor of a traditional action game and present it in a more cinematic and dramatic way. The action is framed perfectly to centre the character as well as give the player the best view of oncoming gameplay. To that end, we identified the camera perspective as the key to providing this enhanced experience. We also harnessed the skills of a cinematographer (by training) as a core designer on the team to ensure we got the desired effect."
You really do need to see this technology in action to fully appreciate it, but take it from me, it looks absolutely fantastic, especially if you've got a high-end accelerator card such as the 3Dfx or Apocalypse 3D, although Scott is keen to stress that Crystal haven't deserted gamers who have yet to purchase a 3D accelerator card: "Pandemonium will run fine on non-accelerated PCs, but we've spent a significant amount of time and effort tweaking the code to take full advantage of the 3Dfx chipset found in the higher performing accelerator cards. Crystal Dynamics firmly believe that the role of accelerator technology will continue to grow dramatically and allow publishers to do more exciting 3D products on the PC." Too true. Of course, all action games, even platformers, have an accompanying plot to set the scene before the action begins. True to form, Pandemonium has a plot of its very own - but I'm not going to tell you what it is. Why not? Well, I'm keeping it to myself because Pandemonium's plot is so sugary-sweet and soppy that I'll feel like I'm reading a bedtime fairy-tale to a bunch of three year olds, and I'm not having any of that thank you very much.
To be fair, the plot isn't exactly vital to your overall enjoyment of this type of game, as Scott is quick to point out: "In Pandemonium, our focus was solely on gameplay and environment. We felt that players would appreciate this concentration of effort since the story is not a crucial element to the complete enjoyment of the game. We enjoyed creating the game's story, and felt that it was an important factor in conveying the look and personalities of Nikki, Fargus and Sid (Sid is Fargus' puppet-on-a-stick), but tried not to place too much importance on it."
Although Pandemonium is looking pretty fab on the PC even at this early stage, there'll still be cynics who maintain that platform games simply don't sell in the PC format. I suppose there's an element of truth in this, seeing as how most publishers have stopped producing platform games completely. I asked Scott why he thinks Pandemonium will repeat its PlayStation success on the PC: "I think PC gamers will want to experience Pandemonium; they'll see that it pushes the limits of the PC hardware with its rich 3D environments and very cool freestyle camera experience. This hasn't been done on the PC before, and presents an opportunity for gamers to see something creative and unique."
So what is the Scottmeister playing himself at the moment? Super Mario 64? 3D Lemmings? Or perhaps he's found another platform title to satisfy his urge to bounce from one ledge to the next. Surprisingly, the answer is no: "Masters Of Orion 2 is my favourite PC title at the moment, but our current direction has a completely different focus. Legacy Of Kain, which is almost at the opposite end of the gaming spectrum, is our next title. It's a gothic adventure game starring a reluctant and tortured hero: a vampire named Kain. You can expect other action and adventure products from Crystal Dynamics later in 1997."
Master Of Orion 2, eh? A man of taste indeed. For what it's worth, I've played the PSX version of Pandemonium, and it's fab. We expect the PC version to be even better, so tune in next month for a full review of the game in all its 3Dfx glory, along with an in-depth preview of Legacy Of Kain.
On a recent sojourn to Crystal Dynamics. EGM was pleasantly surprised to find out that Crystal had a new action game in the works. The editors were even more surprised when they offered to show EGM an extensive look. The game's called Pandemonium and it is just that. Pandemonium is a chaotic action side-scroller that combines the high speed of Sonic with the adventure of Mario.
Pandemonium was still early, but it had enough preliminary game-play to give EGM an idea on how the final product would be. Players control one of the two characters through a series of huge worlds. You'll find all sorts of classic platform pitfalls, like locked doors and trampolines. However, you rarely (if at all) find instant deaths. The programmers want you to run at top speed without having to worry about falling to your doom. That isn't to say that Pandemonium is easy--it's just not cheap.
The worlds range from mushrooms to dungeons, with all sorts strange creatures roaming about. Sometimes you'll have to actually use the enemies to get past certain sections of the game. You can bounce off of groups of enemies to get over pits, or even get a chasing monster to bash walls for you. There are plenty of secrets hidden throughout each level, mostly involving jumping to higher sections. You can beat this game completely and not go through it all.
One thing that really sets Pandemonium apart from the current slew of 3-D-based action games is that it uses the look, but doesn't interfere with the gameplay of traditional side-scrollers. In fact, it is a side-scroller. However, the 3-D effect scales and scrolls around the character, giving it a highly cinematic feel. The camera is set to be at the perfect place so you won't have to constantly readjust your playing viewpoint. This fits in with the programmer's feelings on speed. They don't want you readjusting every few seconds. Pandemonium is a smooth, non-stop action fest.
Any gamer who feels that the PlayStation has been recently left high and dry without any quality third-party titles coming out needs to take a look at Crystal Dynamics' latest chart stormer: Pandemonium. It utilizes a similar gaming structure as Crash Bandicoot as well as the better aspects of Sega's NiGHTS and blends them into a graphically outstanding title.
Players climb behind the reins of the mad jester-like hero to control him through the 18+ levels of excitement. Perspective is in third-person point of view with your character always centered on the screen. Although technically the game controls like a side-scrolling title with each opposite direction on the keypad indicating either forward or backward in movement, it still appears to be a 3-D title. As stated earlier, the views automatically change at designated places in the paths. These mostly have you looking at your character from the side and from the rear, but occasionally you are found trying to control your character for a few moments while looking him right in the face. This makes the title more interesting, but it forces the player to be extremely cautious while waiting for that unseen enemy to jump up right in front of him. The only control players have over the views at the time of this writing is the ability to zoom in or out, giving the player a little more versatility.
While the background story still eludes many players, the gameplay is straightforward. Your job is to basically run through the mostly linear levels and collect as many diamonds as you can. In these levels there are also items such as heart health bonuses and stars to collect that help you along your path. Enemies and the traps change in every level and the difficulty slowly increases as the player progresses.
The most important tip to remember-even while the difficulty is climbing-is not to give up on any level. Although they may seem tough, they can all be passed by using your memory. Even though this style of game can be beaten with correct timing and movements over and over again, it is still challenging for players to remember the exact timing of the traps and the enemy locations to get around them. Players will figure out how to finish the level after a few minutes of repeated attempts with the level layout like it is.
Right now there are over 18 levels each with separate sub-stages that stretch completion time longer than it first appears when the game is started.
The levels are visually appealing for players also. The design changes rapidly from one stage to the next. For instance, in the first part of a level you may be running around the outside of a giant tower looking for a key. And minutes later in that same level, you may be scaling the highest peaks of a walled castle. Many times players will find themselves only plowing through the stages just to see the next imaginative level that waits for them on the other side.
Pandemonium may disappoint players who were hoping that this was the PlayStation's chance to release a game to combat the N64 and Mario. If players just take this title for what it is instead of what they hoped it would be, it would be much more appreciated. Sure it looks free-roaming and non-linear, but your paths are still tightly dictated until the end of the adventure. Small disappointing problems like this may hold it down, but they don't keep it down. On its own merits Pandemonium scores really high for the player with an open mind. No matter what players may have been hoping for, Pandemonium is still a fun-filled title with plenty of action to spread around.
- MANUFACTURER - Crystal Dynamics
- DIFFICULTY - Moderate
- THEME - Action
- NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1
When I first saw Pandemonium, I thought it was kind of strange but in a bad way. After I played it, though, my thoughts turned around completely. I loved playing Pandemonium. It is a fun game with great graphic. It isn't a true 3-D game, but it's a great side-scroller with realtime 3-D-generated scenery. Some of the camera views are extraordinary--it makes you feel like you're going to fall off the edge of your seat. The levels can be a little easy but they are also very diverse-you probably won't see the same thing twice. The cinemas are kind of cheesy as far as the voice acting goes, but the animation is flawless.
My friend Crispin once told me that Pandemonium is a hybrid of Crash Bandicoot and NiGHTS. What this means is that Pandemonium is a great game. The graphics are the best part. They are bold and beautiful. Wait a second...what if you looked past the graphics? Well then, you'll realize that there's not much there. Pandemonium is just a fancy-dancy, two-dimensional side-scroller played on three-dimensional backgrounds. I'm not saying that's bad, but looking strictly at the gameplay, you'll realize that Pandemonium is not all that original. Outside of the graphics, I've already seen and played this kind of game before.
Pandemonium mixes the play mechanics of Crash Bandicoot and NiGHTS, making it a fun but mostly linear platform game. I say mostly linear because you can at times choose different paths, although most of the game is spent dashing along a track. The levels hold a few secrets, too, so players shouldn't be too eager to beat the game without exploring every nook and cranny. Pandemonium's graphics are phenomenal (wait till you see the tower level or--better yet--the Sonic-like pinball stage). Yet Pandemonium isn't a very inspired game. Most of the time, it's just your standard-albeit very sharp-looking-side-scroller.
I had a lot of fun reviewing this title. The level designs of Pandemonium are simply superb, with twists and turns that will blow you away. On top of this, the music is wonderfully done and complements each level. I enjoyed searching for secrets and shortcuts in each area, and wondering which character would work best in each level. While very much a Crash Bandicoot clone, it's wonderfully done and has a fresh feel to it. Even the opening cinema was impressive. I would have liked to have seen more diversity in the standard attacks, but the weaponry is hilarious. Get the shrinker gun to really squish your enemies!
Zoinks! Nikki, costar of Pandemonium (seen here as she appears in this 3D game), is close to becoming an enemy's entree.
The Story So Far...
Enter the far-out world of Nikki and Fargus in Pandemonium. This game takes the genre of fast-paced, side-scrolling adventure and brings it to a huge new world with 3D characters and a completely 3D environment.
As either Nikki, the wizard's apprentice, or Fargus, the slightly deranged jester who talks to his puppet, you must restore order to your land after a magician's spell goes awry.
Gameplay & Graphics
Like the wise-cracking Gex before them, these acrobats with attitude will boast more than 300 one-liners as they traverse realms with deserts, castles, giant mushroom caves (Mushrooms and castles? Hmmm, sounds familiar.), and plenty of secret areas.
Graphically, the worlds are 3D, but your controls mostly limit you to two planes of movement: up and down (as in jumping), and back and forth (as in running left or right). Pandemonium looks to capture the great 3D environment with good cinematography, moving the camera to whatever angle gives you the most dramatic-yet playable-view of the action. Characters can morph, and there's also a two-player cooperative mode.
Hot on the heels of Crash Bandicoot, Pandemonium's the latest PlayStation adventure to take a stab at 3D action. The formulaic gameplay doesn't offer any innovation, but the breathtaking graphics and perspectives will grab your attention.
The story begins as two wizards-in-training, Fargus and Nikki, set out to undo an evil spell. Before each level, you choose to play as either character--both have unique abilities but acquire the same weapon powerups. Despite the spectacular 3D levels, you're locked onto rails, so you only control movement to the left or right on predetermined paths. Killer camera angles fashion an alluring "faux 3D," but you're still mainly running to one side while collecting power-ups and gems, jumping on enemies' heads, and uncovering hidden areas.
The gameplay revolves around mastering the patterns of the obstacles, enemies, and jumps, so Pandemonium's action isn't terribly original. But if an enjoyable graphical experience and traditional platform gaming sounds attractive, Pandemonium fills the bill.
- The first boss goes down quick--just dodge the obstacles until you can launch three fireballs at him.
- In Levels 5 and 6, kill these mushroom-cap shooters right away, or they'll zap you in the back.
- Pass these leaping spikes in Level 4 by jumping up, then quickly running under them while they're in the air.
- Nikki's double jump is far more useful than Fergus's spin move, which makes her the best choice for progressing through the levels.
- When jumping into obscured territory as Fargus, always do the spin move before you land to take out any unseen foes.
The gorgeous, multilayered levels and constantly changing perspective create an awesome 3D feel that will leave you reeling with vertigo. The polygonal characters move smoothly; however, they lack detail.
Although lighthearted music sets the right mood for each level, the sound overflows with cheesy effects. An obnoxious "boing" accompanies each jump, and the enemies' excessively cute grunts will make you cringe.
Pandemonium's simple jump and attack moves demand little of the controls, and they generally respond without a hitch. Nikki's double jump can be just a tad finicky to pull off, though.
Pandemonium's game-play falls squarely in the realm of tried-and-true hop-n-bop action, though the dazzling visuals and camera angles certainly jack up the fun. Definitely rent to determine if this mixture holds your interest.
It's got the speed of Sonic, the wit of Gex and the zaniness of Hermie Hopperhead.What could it possibly be, you ask? Well, folks, it's total Pandemonium!, that's what it is, the new supercharged platform adventure from Crystal Dynamics.
There are three main characters: Nikki, Fargus and Sid. Nikki is an apprentice wizard with fast reflexes and an intense personality. Fargus is a jester whose cheekiness is surpassed only by the sharp tongue of his wise-cracking puppet sidekick, Sid.
Pandemonium! has major speed and intense action. It resembles a cross between Sonic and Uniracers.You can play either Fargus or Nikki, who will both entertain you with zany one-liners (over 300 in all) supplied by the voices of two of the country's hottest comedians. As of now, we don't know who they are, but you can pretty much rule out Rita Rudner and Sinbad if they're supposed to be hot. These two couldn't book a gig at the local shriners' club.
We're still not too sure why these three nuts are maniacally running about, but I'm sure there's a pretty good reason.