12 October 2006 | TBJCSKCNRRQTreviews
Cute, little, exciting game... with emphasis on "little"
I remember playing the demo to this game back when it was first released. I was pretty much hooked right from the start. When I got it a few years after, I instantly started playing it. Not too long ago, I found the game in the pile of games I haven't played for a while. I decided to give it another go, though I have beaten it once or twice before. You get into the game very quickly... the rich atmosphere and entertaining game-play draws you in and doesn't completely let go until you've finished the game. The plot is good... the part of it I could follow, that is. The lack of subtitles and the half-hearted enunciation of most of the voice actors makes it hard to follow. You play as young Andy, an all-American kid who must find and rescue his dog, Whisky, in a dark world rule by The Master of Darkness, a tall gentleman with a short temper. Along the way, he will fight shadow creatures, monsters and other sorts of creepy crawlies. The game is a platform action/adventure journey into the very heart of darkness. You move from screen to screen, usually finding one or two minor puzzles in each screen that need to be solved before you can advance to the next. Failing to solve it properly will, with few exceptions, get you killed. When you're killed, you restart from the last save point... every few screens double as save points, and are activated simply by reaching them in one piece. That helps keep the game-play dynamic, and the lack of manual saving helps keep the mood of the game, instead of reminding you that you are, in fact, playing a video game. The trouble with the save points comes up when you find yourself almost getting past all the screens to the next save point(which aren't actually marked in the game... until you load, you don't know where it last saved) many times in a row, but then getting stopped short(which, since the game is entirely trial and error, can happen *a lot*). If you die many times the same place, the game will give you a hint, attempting to help you further. The game makes one of the most well-fated jumps from console to computer... I have only played it on the latter, but I could easily see myself grabbing a joystick and playing it on any console, as well, with no loss of features or such. The sound and music are top-notch. From the screeches of the shadow creatures when they are incinerated, to Andy's powerful electrical beam weapon, they fit perfectly and help build the mood. The music does a fair share of the work in that department, as well, with its brooding, foreboding score. The graphics are very nice... the game itself is in 2D, platform based, but the backgrounds are 3D rendered, and solidify the atmosphere. The cinematics are fully 3D animated, and while some of the movements are slightly clumsy(as a result of the limitations of the technology of the time), it mostly looks really good. The game-play mostly consists of you maneuvering the danger-packed strange world that you find yourself in, fighting enemies and solving the puzzles. You are taken through many different versions of the whole concept of "a strange, deserted location, with danger lurking around every corner". A large valley, underground caves, a tropical forest... the list goes on. The humor is somewhat silly, though it has its moments. Now, with the main story concerning a pre-teen kid and his search for his beloved pet, you might think that the game is cute, made-for-children(what studios like to label as "family" entertainment)... rest assured, once you've seen Andy disappear into a shadow creature's stomach, or either of aforementioned disappear in flames, you won't think the game terribly cute. In fact, it manages to be a surprisingly good mix between children's entertainment and something people above the age of 7 can enjoy. After all, fear is undeniably one of the most universal feelings. The length of the game isn't too impressive... proved by the fact that, within an hour and a half of playing this(granted, I knew most of the solutions to the puzzles from memory, but still), I was half-way through the game. In fact, it took me between four and five hours to play through the entire thing. For a game with exceptionally low replay value(once you know how to beat the puzzles, there's nothing left to try... there's hardly ever more than one right solution), that's far, far too little. What the game can pride itself on is that it's immersing, entertaining and exciting. It'll test how creative you can be, as far as the solutions go, and how good your reactions and hand-to-eye coordination is, as a number of the puzzles require many actions executed in quick succession. You'll find yourself playing on, in spite of the frequent occurrence of the kid's most untimely demise. Trying out another solution, or attempting the same one, just *one more time*. Just progressing a screen or two more, seeing just a little more of the breathtaking backgrounds and surroundings, facing the next challenge or foe(or grouping of either or both). The style is very hard to resist; anyone in touch with their inner child and/or possessing at least a fair amount of imagination can get into this game. The game has a remarkably simple interface... movement control and less than half a dozen keys, and you're set. Very easy to get into. You can basically come in from anything else and just start playing. Very refreshing. This game proves that fun things can still be done with 2D and platform gaming. All in all, an immensely entertaining game that unfortunately makes for a tad too much frustration in searching out the exact right solutions and is, quite simply, too short. I recommend this to any fan of adventure, platform and/or action gaming. Patience is required. 7/10