Developer(s) – Toys for Bob, Crystal Dynamics, Ideaworks 3D & Eidos Interactive
Publisher(s) – EA, Crystal Dynamics & Eidos Interactive
One of the earliest examples of a 2.5D platforming game, and released as a launch title for the original PlayStation, Pandemonium served as a breath of fresh air among a great deal of 3D platformers released early on in the PlayStation’s shelf life that, to say the least, left a lot to be desired. I personally found it to be a pretty enjoyable game, since at the time; it was as good and as creative as most other concepts for video games, and I fail to understand why it wasn’t built upon any further than it was.
Graphics – 8/10
The visuals did an extremely good job of showcasing what the original PlayStation was capable of on a graphical level. It even has considerably less glitches than many other early PlayStation platformers, such as Croc or Bubsy 3D. The game also excels on a conceptual level, featuring a number of extremely unique level designs and a number of unusually fascinating objects appearing in-game; such as huge watermelons used for making high jumps.
Gameplay – 7/10
As well as being one of the first games of it’s kind, it also has a fair bit of variety in gameplay attached to it, in the feature of being able to play as any one of two different characters intermittently, who have different abilities. The female character Nikki can double-jump, whilst the male character Fargus can cast spells and perform a rolling attack; similar to Crash Bandicoot’s spin attack. The gripe I have about it, however, is that instead of using the then-new feature of saving via memory card, the developers instead utilized password saves, which by this time, had more or less gone out of fashion. To me, it severely defeated the object of taking video games into the next generation, and can become quite the hindrance at times.
Controls – 9/10
Unlike many early PlayStation games, only a few issues arise concerning the control scheme. Because the perspective and camera angles are much different to the conventional side scrolling game, it can be a small annoyance to navigate through different passageways and make certain turns. Otherwise, however, there are no further complications, and handled fairly well for what was clearly a question of trial and error.
Lifespan – 6/10
Although this game is fairly short, it shouldn’t lose out on too many marks, since the industry was just undergoing the transition between the fourth and fifth generation s of gaming, and 3 to 4 hours was about the average lifespan of a game back then. The bar would be raised much higher within this particular genre upon the release of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but for a game to last this short was by no means unforgivable.
Storyline – 6/10
The story follows the adventures (or rather misadventures) of two friends called Fargus and Nikki, who whilst experimenting with various magic spells, manage to unwittingly cast a more advanced spell, which summons a huge monster called Yungo who completely swallows a nearby village whole. After consulting the book, the duo learns that they must travel across the land, and obtain a wish from a machine called the Wishing Engine to reverse the damage they have done. Aside from the fact that the tow main characters are a pair of idiots, it’s as wacky and weird as most other storylines in games were at the time, and shouldn’t lose out on too many points, since not only was there a great deal of emphasis on story at the tie anyway, but on a creative level, the fifth generation of gaming was an extremely strange time for the medium anyway.
Originality – 8/10
As well as containing some wonderfully strange aspects, like the in-game items, enemies and even the overall concept, Pandemonium was also instrumental in establishing a new sub-genre of gaming, that has in recent years, made quite the resurgence, being adopted by many different developers; including Nintendo. Games like Trine, New Super Mario Bros and Limbo have taken the industry by storm, and it was games like this, as well as NiGHTS, that served as the basis for it all.
Overall, Pandemonium exceeded my expectations when I got round to playing it. On the surface, it looks like a bog standard launch title, but it turned out to be one of the best of which for the PlayStation in my personal opinion.