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Core Design



Eidos Interactive

1 Player

Game Type


Mem. Card

Review Date

August 1997

Setting the Scene

The Swagman, Prince of nightmares, and his army of Night Terrors have used a substance called Dreammash to force constant nightmares upon the sleeping townfolk of Paradise Falls. They have captured and imprisoned the twelve Dreamflight fairies in order to begin a deadly invasion of the Real World. Unless Zack and his sister Hannah rescue the fairies and banish the Swagman, the sleeping people of Paradise Falls may never again awaken from their nightmares.


Core Design, the team that brought us Tomb Raider, have been working on their latest adventure game for the last two years. Swagman is as far away from the exploits of Lara Croft as you could possibly imagine, opting for 2D cartoon visuals, a supernatural theme, a top down perspective and not a pair of knockers in sight.

The two main characters are eight year old Zack and his twin sister Hannah, over which the player has simultaneous control. The game is set in and around Zacks house, with numerous puzzles to solve before you can advance to a new area.


The 3D intro is presented in the form of an animated sequence created entirely on Silicon Graphics workstations. Using fully 3D rendered models, the intro sets the scene in a quirky cinematic style.

The game features 16 locations viewed through a forced overhead 3D perspective and is split into two main areas - The Real World, comprising the environs of Paradise Falls (the twins' hometown), and the nightmare dreamlands of the Terrortries which may be accessed via mirror warps.

The Real World is divided into a layout of rooms which are highly detailed and have an individual appearance, so there is no chance of getting lost or becoming confused to your whereabouts. Moving outdoors prepare for atmospheric conditions such as the dark stormy garden area, on the streets where dangers lurk on every corner from the trash kicking scallys and down in the murky sewers where those pesky ghosts hang out.

Zack and Hannah are nicely rendered sprites. Zack, with his spiky black hair struts around in the style of a typical 8 year old boy. Long strides, arms swinging and head down, mischief written all over him. Cute little Hannah, on the other hand shuffles along in a 'keep up' fashion. Her tiny little feet racing to keep up with the top half of her body.

All of the enemies are very well animated from the slow moving wooly hatted Skallys to the mischievous monkeys that chase you around pinching your precious cherry bombs.

Sounds and Effects

Not only do we have stunning graphics but the soundtrack is excellent. Sometimes very Tomb Raider-ish, sometimes reminiscent of Peter and the Wolf, always suitable to the gameplay and scenery.

The sound effects are also top notch especially down in the sewers where the slushing of water from your movements are given a nice echoing touch. Each of the enemies have their own distinct sounds that act as a warning of their approach. The woooh of ghosts, the titter of cheeky monkeys and the snigger of skallys.


The opening scenes show the two eight year old's locked in their bedroom. Initially the player controls Zack who is set the immediate task of releasing Hannah, his eight year old twin sister, who has been shrunk and imprisoned inside a bird-cage. If Zack approaches the cage, he may interact with his sister to hopefully reveal a clue that will allow him to release her from this predicament.

Scattered around the each area are Zacks bug collection that the Swagman has previously stolen. These must be gathered up for your many visits to Limbo. Every corner of the room must be checked for clues and items that will allow you to proceed. First Zack must find his flashlight that acts as the main default weapon. Waving the flashlight at the night terrors will destroy them. It will also break open containers or open up curtained areas. Once the key to the bedroom door is found Zack can proceed through the house seeking clues that will eventually release his sister. Certain rooms contain treasure chests which, when opened, reveal a genie who will provide clues or allow you to save your game.

To make their journey more difficult, the Swagman has stolen the twins' most treasured possessions and hidden them throughout the Real World. When the twins find these items they will be able to swap and use them in a variety of special ways to solve problems and puzzles. An on-screen inventory shows all of the items collected, including the Fantastic Frisbee, Super Sneakers, Cherry Bombs, Hannah's Yo-Yo and Lightening Gloves.

A Dreamdew bar icon representing the twins' energy levels must be kept topped up throughout the game by collecting Dreamdew. Some items also require Dreamdew and may not be used until the bar is full.

Zack and Hannah share a collective life which is measured in Zees. Zees can be collected at many points during the adventure but when a character takes a hit, Zees are lost. When all the Zees are gone, the player will be offered a continue from a reset point. The player will start with three lives and will be awarded further lives upon the completion of special tasks.

The inclusion of a jump button allows you to explore a further dimension as the characters can bounce up and down on the beds and leap on top of the furniture to collect useful items. A push button is available to allow you to move objects while exploding bombs may be thrown at the walls to reveal hidden passageways. The remaining controls are simple to use with the shoulder buttons used to walk slowly while two of the main buttons are designated to your characters left and right hands. Select opens up the inventory screen that displays all of the items collected, so you can simply highlight the desired item to place into your characters hands. The lower shoulder buttons allow you to toggle control between Zack and Hannah.

You must seek out a mirror that will teleport your character to a new world. When Zack and Hannah enter the Swagman's Terrortries they change into powerful Dreambeasts with special powers. Zack can breath fire, punch and head-butt while Hannah has the added ability to fly for short periods. Each location will have several Zelda / Zombies-inspired puzzles to complete and a variety of obstacles and enemies to overcome. The puzzle element involves seeking keys that access you to new areas and standing on floor panels to activate lifts and doors so your twin may advance. Every level features generic baddies such as skallywags, pumpskins, fire slugs, Demons and Zombies but the levels also feature their own specific baddies and a boss such as the Demon Dentist or the Undertaker.

So how does it play? I have honestly never come across a game that mixes emotions in the way that Swagman does. One minute your bounding along solving puzzles, avoiding traps and admiring the scenery. The next you are throwing down your control pad in sheer annoyance because of the frustration caused by so many of the enemies. The little red skallywags that steal your essential stock of bombs are a nuisance but you will soon learn how to deal with them quickly. However the ghosts are a bitch! The ghosts are little shits! I hate the ghosts! A swipe of your flashlight will render them invisible..... only to return to haunt you about one second later. Very early in the game you meet up with about ten of them in a small area. If you run they will follow. If you stand and fight they will gather around you until you submit. This leaves you no time to search these areas for clues and furthermore they appear throughout the entire game.

Allright, get past the ghosts and the game once again becomes enjoyable and challenging. Enter the garden and you come to a well. Jump down the well and your in the sewer, which incidently is full of ghosts. This route eventually leads you to your first visit to Limbo. On entering Limbo you must discard all of the bugs you have collected... one at a time... all 147 of them... one at a time I say. The bugs will slowly lead you a path across Limbo where you will meet the game first Boss. Now I enjoy strategy games, I also enjoy a challenge and I can handle most of the Bosses that games have thrown up at me over the years. Mr Pumpkin Boss... I hate you also. About ten little pumpkins biting away at your ankles is followed by a giant pumpkin with claw like arms and a breath of fire. One touch of his arms and your dead. You are sent back to the start of Limbo where your bugs are released one by one... all 147 of them. You must then slowly follow them across Limbo before once again you must wait for Mr Pumpkin (who I really hate) to reload. If your lucky, you will destroy Mr Pumpkin in under thirty attempts, which is sixty loading times and the release of 4,410 bugs. Unfortunately when you destroy Mr Pumpin his giant friend appears to bounce all over the screen and smash you to bits. So it's back to Limbo.....

Once again the gameplay becomes enjoyable. Further bosses require a little though to defeat them but once you grasp the idea they should be no problem. You eventually reach Twisty Turny Woods. Here you must venture out into the dark forests where behind every tree is a frozen troll. Scattered around the woods are several timed light switches Switch on the lights and you have but a few seconds to reach the next switch. Fail and the lights go out which awakens the trolls. Great idea, but only one single touch from the trolls and your dead. Why are you allowed several ZZZ's for your life when a single touch kills you. More loading times.

I quite enjoyed some of the later levels such as Main Street in a residential area but I eventually gave up when confronted Fiery Footpath. I had to jump in total darkness onto an invisible platform several times and I lost patience. Perhaps there was a light switch somewhere? I will leave it to you to find out.

Value for Money

A superb looking game that is very challenging but became too frustrating for my liking. If you enjoy a real stiff challenge then Swagmans the game for you. Good luck.





I hate ghosts, I really hate Mr Pumpkin and I detest Fiery Footsteps. You must suffer loading after loading time because you die quite often, although there are plenty of opportunities to save the game which in effect gives you unlimited continues. Apart from that there are many goods points to Swagman. It has a wonderful soundtrack, atmospheric graphics and many thought provoking puzzles.











Apart form a few silly puzzles within the game, this top down adventure is one of the best yet produced for the PlayStation.








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