Pandemonium Review

This may make you sit up and take notice: An entire Sony PlayStation game is now available on iTunes, for just $2.99. Unfortunately, it’s the lackluster relic Pandemonium, a game featuring an obnoxious jester and his saucy sorceress friend bouncing through 18 levels of widget-collecting madness. The iPhone is only nominally capable of running this game, and the frame rate chugs along weakly. Even a perfect port of Pandemonium would be a little bit of a letdown, as this game contains few inspired moments.

Originally published in 1996, Pandemonium is not one of those games that people tend to look back on fondly after 13 years of video game progress. The themes for each stage are cliché, the boss battles are laughably simple, and grabbing every last shiny object feels like a pointless waste of time. The main characters aren’t even well developed, except for CG intro and ending movies that feel like a bad TV show for kids.

According to the story, the jester Fargus and sorceress Nikki have accidentally doomed their village by summoning a giant fish monster and must run and jump all the way to a “wishing engine” to undo their spell. Fargus can cartwheel through enemies, while Nikki is far more useful with a double-jump that can help you stick those landings. A two-dimensional platformer with 3D graphics, most of the game involves simply running to the right, jumping onto hovering platforms and bouncy trampolines.

Only a few of the levels stand out for their creativity. A “Wile E. Coyote” desert-scape and a lumber mill set within a fortress are the unique exceptions in a world with more than a few boring grasslands, caves and forests. The enemies are nothing interesting, and the coins scattered through every stage are just collectibles for the obsessed, unessential to the main quest.

The iPhone port of this average Playstation game has its problems, most notably a frame rate that can’t always keep up. This can make the timing of certain jumps problematic. Also, the music has been cut down to just a few annoying beats that loop endlessly. On the plus side, all 18 of the game’s levels are kept intact, and this iPhone version even adds regular checkpoints to keep you progressing quickly.

Pandemonium was sort of a dud back in 1996, when at least the frame rate was smooth and platformers of this kind were in high demand. While Pandemonium is not an exceptional game, the novelty of running a mostly intact PlayStation game on your iPhone today may be worth the low price of admission, at least for some old-school gamers.

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