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Developer Crystal Dynamics Options
Distributer BMG 1 Player
Game Type Platform Password Save
Review Date November 1997 Standard Joypad
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Setting the Scene
I find it hard to believe that a year has passed since the original Pandemonium game hit the streets. It seemed to quietly sneak out from under the massive promotion and hype that surrounded Sony's flagship platform character, Crash Bandicoot, and in my opinion, turned out to be a far better game. The plot is as strange as the pairing of the two main characters and goes something like this.

It is the Year of the Cheese. As was foretold by the midget prophet Nosewasinit in the Book of Condiments, the Comet of Infinite Possibilities has returned to the skies of Lyr, peppering the air with a certain je ne sais quai.

Encased within the comet is whispered to be a rudimentary force of nature, a source of magic so elemental, so unlimited, so oozing with creamy nougat, so finger-licking chocolicious, that to possess this magic would be to wield supreme, infinite, everlasting power.

It is this power that the young Sorceress Nikki craves. Nikki is no longer the limpet-eyed young knave. She has grown, blossomed, 'leafed-out and sapped' as it were. And as she has sprouted, so have her desires... and her means to achieve them. Additionally, Nikki is just too darn busy to hang out in some draughty library pouring over dry, dusty, worm-ridden tomes of magic. Instead, she decided to cut some corners on her way to becoming the Sorceress Supreme and snatch the comet's legendary powers.

Sadly, the years haven't been as kind to Nikki's bosom buddy, Fargus. Being a few eggs short of an omelette, Fargus' maturation took a downturn after several laboratory 'mishaps' and the infamous Pancake Incident. Fargus got into the habit of spending his days, and nights, riding his hobby-horse Big Ernie and cackling uncomfortably. He also looted a new outfit from the Liberace collection.

As Nikki explains, "Fargus is a freak, but in a good way. He's proud of his violent, maniacal side. He can't even tie his shoes, but he can build a thermonuclear bomb from common household items and set a fortress on fire before you can say Werner von Braun. He may be an idiot savant, but he's got great hair."

Fargus' sour sidekick , the armless, legless, buttless Sid, is reportedly the lost sole of an ancient warrior. Whoever's boot he dropped from, he forgot the laces and shinola and ended up with the tongue. Sid can cross verbal wits with the best of them. Sid would like to dump Fargus and get closer to Nikki.

Back in Lyr, the Goon Queen Zorrscha with her evil seductive charms has enslaved the entire Goon Empire. She is using this cheap, expendable, non-union labor to construct a fleet of rockets to fly her to the mystic comet in her personal quest for the mythical power.

"That red-haired trollop and her moronic, tastelessly dressed lap-dog are only going to find death and torture if they follow me, "she was heard to hiss." Don't get too big for your spandex, Nikki."

The race is on to stop the evil ruler from plundering the comet's magic and perverting its power to her twisted desires of bringing freedom and happiness to the land.

It's up to Nikki and Fargus to put an end to the odious, hateful, despicable and hair-color challenged Queen's unwanted benevolence.

Pandemonium is often cited as being the inspiration behind the recent spate of 32-bit, 2D gameplay set in a 3D world and although Crystal Dynamics' medieval platformer wasn't the first title to pioneer the pseudo 3D technique it was certainly the most successful. As we all know in this industry, success warrants a sequel and true to form Crystal Dynamics have recently released Pandemonium 2, the second on-screen outing for the Odd Couple, Nikki and Fargus.

The characters have been changed since we last saw them. Nikki and Fargus appear older, wiser, and more experienced than before, and to reflect this Crystal Dynamics have given them both a new look and amazing new abilities to help spice up the game.

The game opens with yet another lengthy intro that oozes quality. Fargus looks as mad as a hatter but is probably only being himself, while the transformation of Nikki is as believable as accepting that Batman characters Adam West and Val Kilmer are the same character. Let's be truthful here - Nikki has been sacked, made redundant, disposed of, only to be replaced by a sleek and slender goddess who has a twinkle in her eye. I think that Crystal Dynamics have taken a look over their shoulder at a certain Tomb Raider character and then sharpened up their act. This could be an interesting game if the intro is anything to go by.

Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? I loved the graphical style of the original game and have praised it loudly from the highest rooftops for over twelve months, so why has it been tampered with? Some things are best left alone. Nikki and Fargus appear to have been transported into a cartoon world, and who is that featureless little broad bouncing around the set? It certainly isn't the gorgeous chick on the cover, that's for sure. Look, I'm not a male chauvinistic pig but the promise of adding a little bit of glamour to the proceedings simply fails to materialize. Even my partner couldn't resist a wry smile at this rigid blob. Hold on for a minute, I'm off for a stiff whisky to calm down.

Right. I'm back.
After the initial disappointment I begin to accept the new look of Pandemonium 2. I have to admit the set is certainly bright and colorful although the opening section reminded me Actua Golf 2. The collectable coins look as if they are made from real gold which actually entices you to hang around until every single one is in your grasp. Before too long your character will be sliding down the rapids, abseiling from great heights and bouncing on the heads of those pesky enemies.

The camera once again tracks the character and if anything, is a little more extreme while the design of the levels are some of the most psychedelic 3D environments ever consigned to silicon. If you thought the levels in the first Pandemonium were surreal wait till you get a load of these, they defy description!

Nikki and Fargus' foes appear in many guises. The purple 'doh, doh, doh' beasts will bring the memories flooding back but this time they are armed with deadly spears. As you progress the enemies begin to take on a more mechanical guise. Tin robots, patrolling spaceships and automated firing guard towers will all attempt to block your path.

Sounds and Effects
To accompany these insane visuals Crystal Dynamics have plumped for a 'double-heavy drumscentric jungle-techno soundtrack' that mixes medieval with industrial for some truly bizarre hard-core tracks.

The sound effects are splendid and seem much more defined and crisp for this sequel.

Nikki's popular double jump and Fargus living weapon, Sid, remain to the forefront but both characters can now climb, grip on ledges, swim, grapple, fly through the air and even pilot vehicles when the need arises. This adds diversity to the 2D platform action of the original and opens up the level design to a wealth of new gameplay possibilities. You'll no longer be just jumping from platform to platform. You'll be swinging, dangling, sliding and falling too.

This becomes apparent during the early stages of the first level. When Nikki leaps she can grip onto a hanging ledge and then haul herself up. This also removes one of the original games frustrations where your character was constantly slipping off the edge of a platform as now they will grab hold of the ledge and simply climb back up again.

Further improvements are noticeable when they leap up in the air and grab hold of suspended framework allowing them to move hand over hand across hazards that dwell down below. Ropes can be climbed to reach higher levels while grasping a washing line will catapult your character high into the air collecting masses of gold coins on your ascending flight.

The old 'two hearts' system that represented your health status has now been replaced with a less frustrating method. A small icon appears at the top of the screen and is divided into four segments. Take any damage and you now lose only one quarter of a life. This can be topped up again by collecting one of the ruby red heart power ups that are spread across each level.

The characters also have new attacks to play with, such as Nikki's lightening strike or Fargus' power-up which allows him to expand enemies till they pop. The lightening strike is a strange one to get to grips with as it may cause more damage to yourself than it will to the enemy. It is not until you realize that some of the creatures carry a shield which will rebound the power of your strike straight back in your direction. Check out the enemy before you unleash this weapon.

The bosses are as tough and varying as they were in last years game. However, once you work out the system of their movements they should pose little problem if your reactions are quick enough.

When you reach level eleven the gameplay receives an almighty twist as a giant mechanical monster begins chasing your character over a series of obstacles. On reaching a dead end you begin to wonder how you could possibly escape this predicament. Then you notice a vehicle is parked to one side. It's a tank. In you jump and merrily blast the approaching monster to smithereens. You stay inside the tank for the remainder of the level blasting the enemies, avoiding moving obstacles and smashing through barriers that block your path. Left and right directional buttons move the tank along, R1 and R2 spin the gun turret while up and down raises your gun.

Value for Money
Pandemonium 2 begins where the last game left off, so don't expect an easy ride. There is virtually no learning curve and if you are new to the game then expect to be thrown in at the deep end. To the regulars it will offer a fair challenge.

GRAPHICS: Average After my initial disappointment concerning the graphical changes it was pleasing to see that there have been vast improvements to the gameplay. You now feel that you have more control over the characters and the new actions allow you to investigate the surroundings without fear that the slightest mistake will return you back to the start of the level. Pandemonium 2 should be every bit as successful as its predecessor.
VALUE: Excellent

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