There’s only one reason I know of this game, and that was a slightly off-hand mention in a podcast when the topic of god awful games cropped up. So I did a quick google and spotted the menu art above for this Genesis quasi-RPG. How can you not want to play a game that looks as terrifyingly awesome as that? Well, I actually kind of like it, but that wont stop me giving you more than enough reasons why you shouldn’t.
Everything you have heard about this game is absolutely true. It’s horrible. The very first screen you start in has an instant kill trap on the one interesting looking part of the floor. If you get killed by that or any of the other instant death traps in the rest of the level more than three times then you restart from the beginning of the game. There is a password system, but again why the hell doesn’t it just let me pick what level I want to start on if it’s perfectly fine with me continuing from the start of that stage anyway? The worst part of this is that the game is actually mostly an adventure game, which means your exploration will be significantly truncated if you aren’t checking every nook and cranny for that one item to open the door to the next area. And in this game, every nook and cranny is fully equipped the kill you all kinds of dead.
Slimes that dissolve you from the bottom up dead. Fire traps dead. Dragon breath dead. Crossbow bolts dead. Lightning bolts dead. Even Death dead as the grim reaper appears to sever your head from your already several times dead already carcass. Interestingly most of the time it is in fact avoidable, but you will definitely learn most of the time through dying. I’m actually okay with this, but I realise I’m in the minority. The continue system is a major problem that persists throughout the entire game, but luckily we do have the modern convenience of SAVE STATES. This actually makes the game mostly enjoyable, as you can tackle each level piece by piece, severely lowering the frustration factor.
This is great because actually the death scenes are remarkably well animated, whether its in the midst of one-on-one combat or in the isometric dungeon map seeing your avatar savaged in numerous ways is wonderful to see, especially since the game was actually released in 1991. The best death scenes thankfully aren’t your own, but in fact those of the orcs and trolls you’ll encounter in the dungeon. Every time you win a fight it’s finished in a glorious display of blood lust. One of the best is where the main character smacks the enemy over the head with his staff, causing it to you’re-already-dead all over the place, accompanied by a distinctly squishy sound effect.
Unfortunately, this is also linked to the reason why ultimately I can’t love this game past its flaws. You will have to do one-on-one fighting a lot in this game, and the mechanics behind it are absolutely horrible. I still don’t understand how it’s supposed to work. Allegedly, you have to attack using the D-Pad and defend using the D-Pad in conjunction with A, only none of it works. The best way to attack is to perpetually hold backwards to slash, or just move the pad side to side. The best way to defend is something that completely eludes me and I die, unable to keep going. This is the part where I wholeheartedly admit that I haven’t finished the third floor out of apparently eight. It’s ludicrously difficult.
This is a pretty major disappointment, as jokes about the difficulty aside I really like the ideas behind it. Including your own checkpoint system makes all the cheap deaths into much more of a Limbo style affair where half of the enjoyment is the gruesome spectacle of your own cheap butchery, and I like how it pretty seemlessly blends an action-rpg around the core of what is essentially an adventure game. That said, it’s too bloody difficult, and that’s from a veteran of I Wanna Be The Guy. It just isn’t designed with a control scheme conducive with success. To think that players of this game originally had to re-enter the password each time they wanted to retry a level on top of all of this aggravation is utterly ridiculous.
It’s a game you should definitely play, although reliving it here has me questioning how the hell I was positive at the start of it. I guess the help of save states stopped me from trying to find out if we actually do award games a ‘D’ grade or lower. I did forget to mention there’s a fatigue system if you attack too much. Just in case you thought relentless onslaughts would stop orcs wiping wizard gore from their face with your own damn beard. Yet still, the animation saves it from being a total failure. Just. Only bloody just.
Much to our chagrin, this immortal hellspawn isn’t going anywhere. C-. Or if you prefer a score uttered from the very mouth of madness itself; One Sam Neill’s OUUUUUUUUAAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!