Pandemonium! (PlayStation) Review

By Athanasios 29.05.2020 1

Review for Pandemonium! on PlayStation

Developed by Toys for Bob in 1996 for a variety of systems, and published by Crystal Dynamics, Pandemonium! was one of those early, 3D-ish titles that one could find in the Fifth Generation of Consoles. While somewhat unremarkable, both in terms of gameplay and looks, it actually became a favourite of many people back in the day, with most being gamers who grew up during the 32/64-bit-era. It even managed to have its own sequel, which, in the eyes of this critic was far better, although many fans of this tiny series found the original to be the better of the two. Right before taking the acid trip that's called Pandemonium 2, Cubed3 checks if that claim has any merit.

Fargus, the pyromaniac Jester, and his partner in crime, and friend in mayhem, the playful acrobat/amateur-sorceress/tomboy, Nikki, are watching the festivities of the local medieval fantasy town from afar, experimenting with an old tome of DIY spellcasting. Oops! Nikki made the mistake of listening to the advice of her psychotic buddy, and a demon was summoned, swallowing the town in one swig. Now the pair must reach a certain magic fountain to fix things, which, as expected, will be done by going from level to level, collecting coins along the way. Because, why not?

Screenshot for Pandemonium! on PlayStation

You can forget about the plot, of course. Pandemonium! is just a platformer. In fact, the phrase 'just a platformer' says a lot about it, as it's really just that - just a platformer. There's no innovation or brand new mechanic to talk about here. You pick a character amongst the two, enter the level, and then start jumping around, avoiding all sorts of hazards, stomping on enemies, and collecting coins while at it, with the occasional power-up, like a fireball that disappears the moment Fargus or Nikki gets hit, a temporary invincibility, and so on and forth.

The difference between these two characters is just that Fargus has an - annoyingly quick - spinning attack move, making him better at dealing with enemies without having to stomp on them, whereas Nikki has a double jump, which definitely makes the best among the two, as the majority of levels are about jumping from platform to platform, and evading danger, without that meaning that Fargus doesn't have his use every now and then. Then again, that's just a gimmick; one almost customary to early '90s games, when just one character with both moves would be a much more preferable design choice.

Screenshot for Pandemonium! on PlayStation

The other "unique" thing about Pandemonium! is that it belongs in the family of 2.5D platformers, with the action taking place in a two-dimensional path, which happens to twist and turn in a fully three-dimensional world. Yes, the visuals are clearly not the best that one can find on the PlayStation, with the characters being a bit too low-poly, even for the time this was developed. The game's environments are much better, though, mainly because of how colourful they are (both literally and figuratively). Sadly, this is also the perfect opportunity to start talking about the flaws at hand.

Pandemonium! is a challenging game that needs more than one try before players manage to reach the end of the majority of stages. That's not a problem, of course. The problem is that most lives will be lost due to things that have nothing to do with one's skill. For starters, the camera angles are very bad, and very often, result in the fast running hero or heroine ending up hurt or dead, just because a projectile was coming towards them, but could not be seen, or because there was some sort of trap of endless pit that demanded Spider-Man reflexes or foreknowing.

Screenshot for Pandemonium! on PlayStation

Remember what was said about Nikki? How she was the better choice? Well, yes, she definitely is, but there's also a problem with the way she controls. More specifically, how her double jump works. In pretty much all video games, a double jump move simply requires pressing the jump button while on air. Here, you need to press it before starting to fall, which makes it surprisingly hard to get the hang off, something that will lead to plenty of mistakes along the way. Couple that with a frame rate that's far from decent, and you're bound to have tons of fun at some tricky spots.

Generally, while this definitely has its charm, after so many years the cracks are visible to the naked eye… as long as said eye isn't behind a lens of nostalgia - something that the critic is guilty of when it comes to Pandemonium 2, although, to be fair, the sequel is objectively much better. It's the same game, sure, but it doesn't have the aforementioned issues. In the end, however, unless really passionate about platformers, or an aficionado of all things retro, the whole series is hard to recommend. At least you can find this dirt cheap on GOG right now.

Screenshot for Pandemonium! on PlayStation

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Pandemonium! can definitely be fun, and it can occasionally have that cult classic feel, but it's mostly a product of a bygone era; one that wasn't as polished as it could in order to be less frustrating, or as unique as it should so that it wouldn't be so forgettable. Better go straight for the sequel.

Developer

Toys for Bob

Publisher

Crystal Dynamics

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Our member of the week

I never tried the full games but both were on various demo discs of the day, and I do remember thinking that they seemed fun. I can still remember the music of the demo level in the back of my mind. Those demo discs got a lot of use XD.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

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