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!