My Link to the Past: Pandemonium!

Pandemonium

This month, it’s about how one game eased the transition from the platformers of the 16bit era into a 3D world with the original Playstation.

July of 1997 was when a Playstation first arrived in the household. There were a couple of games that came bundled with it, and one was a unique ‘2.5D’ platformer called ‘Pandemonium!’.

‘2.5’ means a game that is rendered in 3D, but controls similar to a 2D game, such as Crash Bandicoot, Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee and a part of Nights.

Alongside the ‘Demo 1’ and Formula 1 bundled when it was bought, this game stood out straight away to me. As I had a Mega Drive previous, it was an easy transition to see how a game could look on a ‘32bit’ console, but play like a Mega Drive game. Dipping the toes in as it were.

There was also a new effect which was new for a console, which was ‘FMV’, or Full Motion Video, which shows a short computer generated movie that was usually shown at the beginning and the end of the game in these early times to save disk space.

It’s Medieval themed, with a Jester called Fargis and a novice magician called Nikki to choose from.

The story involves the pair discovering a book full of magic spells, and making a village disappear. So its up to the two characters to find a magic ‘Wishing Engine’, and undo what was done.

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There are 20 levels, with roughly four levels having their own separate themes. One stage isn’t similar to another, with stages such as a desert, a spider cave, airships, and many more.

The wide variation in these levels made the game more fun to play, as you were constantly thinking what could come next.

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Along with the double jump for Nikki and a boomerang trick for Fargis, there were also magical orbs scattered across each level. You could freeze, blast, or shrink an enemy down to size, all fun, but one hit and the ability would disappear. Health was represented by hearts. You would start with only two, and as you progressed through the game, more would eventually be received.

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One note to mention of, is that it is challenging, incredibly so. You start with only two hearts for a good quarter of the game, and there aren’t many checkpoints throughout the levels, so you have to be careful throughout.

Once you collect enough treasure throughout a level, you are taken to one of two bonus stages. One is a downward slide, collecting as much treasure and power ups as one can while avoiding what seems to be  ares portal, while the other is a very fun pinball stage reminiscent of Sonic Spinball.

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There are also three bosses which are all set around the boss itself. One may be launching something at them, while another may be to launch in the air. Each one gets more difficult and by the time you face the end boss, you’ll be moving platforms around and aiming it at different points repeatedly.

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Before Playstation’s Memory Cards were accepted as the standard for saving progress, a password system was used instead in the starting years of the 32bit era. Usually you’d come across games with a 16 letter password system, and it would be a pain to remember or note it down somewhere.

Fortunately, these weren’t as long as the passwords in the original Crash Bandicoot, and you could easily place a password in, that was given to you every time a level was completed.

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Since its release, it saw a port to iOS a few years ago, the touch screen controls were surprisingly good. Unfortunately, EA have taken down the game in recent years, and even if a user has the game in their iTunes, it’s very unstable with an iOS device using 5.0 and above.

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A sequel also came out a year after, which was also one of the games I received along with Tomb Raider II and Crash 2 the following Christmas, and unfortunately, it hasn’t improved in 15 years. Its randomness is still too much, with a ‘Buddhist’ theme throughout, but the levels are mostly unimaginative, with only the blast and ice powers that now remain. One fatal flaw of the sequel is that the password system still remained, with no option to use the memory card. With this being at the end of 1997, it was now puzzling to see this save feature omitted. Stay with the original.

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Overall, ‘Pandemonium!’ is a game that you can keep coming back to. It’s fun, challenging, and has great replay-ability. It was good to come back to, and I hope its re-release for mobile devices gets updated soon.

It can be found on the Playstation Store as a PsOne Classic, along with its sequel. At anytime you have some time to kill, see how far you can get, and if you can collect enough treasure to reach the fabled bonus stages.

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