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It's got old-school DOOM play, scary clowns, and the famous glam metal band - Third Law's KISS: Psycho Circus brings all these things into one PC game, but is it a good one?

By - Caryn "Hellchick" Law


LSD-inspired Kabuki

When the news was announced that Third Law was making an action game based on the original glam rock band KISS, many people couldn't believe that a game company would take a risk with such an odd franchise. But not this reviewer. Come on - we're talking about four guys in LSD-inspired Kabuki make-up, heavy metal music, and one inhumanly long tongue. These guys were MADE for video games.

Known for their impressive stage shows, the band was transformed into superheroes in Todd McFarlane's Psycho Circus comic series, and it's this series that the game takes its premise from.

And that's what Third Law has done with them in their recent release, KISS: Psycho Circus - the Nightmare Child. Using the Todd McFarlane Psycho Circus comic series as the basis for the game, Third Law aims to bring DOOM-style game play to the PC combined with a bizarre setting in a title that provides some nice action, but unfortunately still falls short of being a great game. However, it did provide me with a few subsection titles, shamelessly ripped from the KISS discography.

Kissin' Time:


For those that either lived in a cave or weren't alive through most of the seventies, KISS was the quintessential metal band that took the glam rock idea and covered it with acid and heavy make-up. Known for their impressive stage shows, the band was transformed into superheroes in Todd McFarlane's Psycho Circus comic series, and it's this series that the game takes its premise from.

The player is dropped into a bizarre circus-like world divided into four realms - earth, water, air, and fire - and played through by four different characters. Each of these characters, or avatars, must make his way through his realm and hordes of enemies to find pieces of armor that will slowly transform him into one of the four Elders - essentially one of the guys from KISS. The overarching story is the coming birth of the nightmare child, which has to be stopped lest its evil spread through the world.

Larger Than Life:


Right off the bat, K:PC impresses you visually. The game is a fantastic use of Monolith's Lithtech engine, and the levels are lush and rich with detail. I found the first few levels of the game to be a little bland, but the further I got in the game, the more I found the levels getting better. More than once I found myself just walking around and taking in the scenery.

The enemies are also bizarre and freakish, which helps make the game stick out amongst most FPS's. For instance, there is the Arachniclown, a large, scary clown that walks around on eight metal, spidery legs. There's also the Gas Bags - floating green creatures that explode into a puff of deadly green gas when killed. In a genre where most of the opponents are supposed to be human Bad Guys (tm) or your run-of-the-mill frightening, demonic creatures, this was a nice change of pace.


The problem is, the visual beauty of the levels and the unique enemies are the only things that seems to establish any atmosphere in the game. The majority of the music is quiet and unremarkable, and there's almost nothing that establishes a reason for the player to do what he's doing, and no feeling of purpose to drive the player on through the game. The scripted sequences don't help - for the larger enemies, there was very little to establish any fear or other driving force to kill them. For instance, when the Arachniclown is first encountered, the camera breaks out of the player's control, and immediately you get the sense that something very important is about to happen. Instead, the camera pans over to the Arachniclown, holds for a second or two, and a caption appears beneath it that reads, "ARACHNICLOWN." That's it. It was pretty anticlimactic, and actually kind of took away my enthusiasm to kill it rather than motivating it.

Next: The Doom Days...




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