February 12, 2002
Overall score:  83 Pandemonium 2 (PSX)
by Crystal Dynamics  Reviewed by: Mark Skorupa

ScreenshotLast year's cult hit is back for a second run and it's as trippy as ever. Pandemonium 2 has everything the original title had plus some. This is both good and bad.

The first thing you will notice is that the lead character, Nikki, has done some serious maturing. Outfitted in a sports bra, spandex, and knee-high boots, she is ready to take on a world that looks to come directly from the minds of Pink Floyd. Also, Fargus is back and has a new addiction to fire. Pick your hero and see if you can't trip your way through some serious psychedelic lands.

The best way to describe this game is by calling it a platform game. You have your traditional coin gathering, jumping on the bad guys' heads to kill them, moving from platform to platform, and facing off with bosses at the end of stages. I do hesitate to call it a platform game—it has all of the characteristics of a traditional platformer, but there is nothing traditional about this game.

Let's cut to the chase: the best part about Pandemonium 2 is that it's original. The first Pandemonium was original too, and this sequel plays a lot like the first game. I can still call this game original because, unlike most successful games, nobody has tried to copy the style. I did not know what to expect next in this game, which is a welcome change from most games that are classified as platform games.

Screenshot It was very refreshing to play Pandemonium 2 as a character that was not some cheesy cartoon character. It does get old playing as a cutesy character. Nikki and Fargus are both humans and have distinct personalities and traits that set them apart from each other. Nikki is more athletic and can jump higher to reach upper platforms. Fargus carries Sid, a quick-tongued head on the end of a stick. Fargus can throw Sid as a weapon and he always acts a boomerang and comes back to Fargus. So maybe this is no more believable than a crocodile or bandicoot running around, but at least these are people.

Another thing I really liked about Pandemonium 2 were the huge levels and the incredible design. Each of the levels goes on for quite a long time and you will be challenged with different types of obstacles and gameplay throughout the same level. For example, in one level, you could be sliding down a water slide, climbing ropes, and jumping from platform to platform. Another level has you hanging from bars, avoiding electrical currents, and fighting bad guys. And these are just the first two levels of the game. It gets even better as the game goes on. Also, the farther you get, the more trippy things start to get. And the levels become more intense and fast paced.

This game is not really hard, but it is challenging. Usually, the bad guys are easy to kill and are just minimal bumps in the road to the end of the level. The game is more challenging in that you have to maneuver through numerous obstacles and traps. This is where the game also really starts to get fun. Some levels have you sliding over ice capped floors requiring you to time jumps over gaps in the floor while sliding extremely fast. The cool thing was that you could always slow your self and even change directions on the ice so you could slide down to the bottom of a hill, stop and check the situation, then climb back to the top of the hill to gain speed to make a jump or whatever is necessary. This is only one example of many obstacles and challenges you will face, but the game is full of others.

ScreenshotThe last thing I really liked about this game was the controls. This game had very precise controls that were also quite simple. It is imperative to have excellent control in this type of game and you will not be disappointed. Nothing sucks more than dying in a game because of non-responsive controls. You are going to have to come up with a new excuse now, because the controls are right on.

Now for the downside. My complaint is that your gameplay is linear. When I say linear, I mean in most cases you can only go left or right and that is it. This game has an awesome 3D environment that was just screaming to be explored. I don't know how many times I tried to go back into the screen or jump diagonally because it looked like I should be able to. No matter how much it looked like you should be able to access other areas, you never were able to. This would have opened up so much more in this game to have total freedom of movement.

I really enjoyed the graphics in this game. I chose the word "enjoyed" because that best describes the feeling you will get. All of the backgrounds are very imaginative and look great. The game has a roving camera that follows the player, zooming in and out automatically depending on your location on the screen. There were some places that shrunk the character down to where they were a bit too small, though. I think this is one of those games that is just as fun to watch as it is to play.

Bottom Line:
If you are looking for a game that has the feel of a platform game but does not go for cutesy, this is it. The level design will keep you playing for hours and since it is not overly difficult, even beginners should be able to catch on to the controls quickly. If there ever was a game that looks like it could have been developed by the masterminds of the '60s, this is it. Make Love not War!

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