Having unwittingly destroyed their hometown after dicking around with a spell book, friends Fargus, (a court jester and his wise-cracking Sceptre, Sid), and Nikki, (a circus acrobat), set off to find the Wishing Engine and obtain a ‘boon’ so as to restore the town.
Developed and published by Crystal Dynamics, Pandemonium is, for my money, as entertaining as any platform game you’ll ever play – even if it is as straight forward as they come and completely derivative.
However, unlike nearly all platform games of the time who were attempting to ape a particular Nintendo game on the N64 that featured a fat plumber and the glorious 3D world he now inhabited, Pandemonium worked from a pseudo-3D platform, (or 2.5D to be pedantic), where everything, although rendered in 3D, played from a semi-two dimensional plane.
What this gave Pandemonium was a much more tactile, speedier paced style of gameplay more akin to the 2D platformers of old and, in truth, it was all the better for it.
Not obbessed with levels within levels or endless hub worlds the players’ goal was to simply get from one end of the level to the next and, thanks to some very clever level design, have an absolute riot doing so.
Visual Pandemonium was a real treat; from the opening level of Skull Fortress, the scorching deserts of the Branky Wastes, to the depths of the Lost Caves, big, chunky, wonderfully saturated polygons filled the screen from beginning to end.
At the end of each level players could choose to switch between characters depending on how they wish to to tackle a level, whether it was using Nikki’s ability to double-jump or Fargus’ spin attack. Sensible players though would always choose Nikki simply because even though she begins with no weapon there are several types scattered throughout each level ranging from fireballs to shrink cannons.
At several points in the game, after passing a certain area players would turn into a unique animal; a frog who can jump extremely high, a rhinoceros who can charge through walls and enemies, a turtle who can become invulnerable and a dragon who flew and breathed fire. Again nothing new in the world of platform gaming, but as is common with these types of games it added that extra dimension to the games already wacky premise while serving to break things up nicely in the process.
If enough treasure was collected during each level the player would be awarded with one of two bonus levels depending on how much treasure one accumulated. The first consisted of speed race, aptly named ‘Speed Greed’, where players had to conquer a roller-coaster type track as fast as they can while being pursued by a vortex. The second was ‘Full Tilt’, which was essentially a pinball based game.
Pandemonium is as simple as game design gets, but it’s in it’s simplicity and a combination of colourful visuals featuring blue skies coupled with a cracking sound track that makes it work so well and an absolute a joy to play.
Crystal Dynamic’s Pandemonium is one game I simply cannot recommend enough.