Reviewed: August 3, 2002
Reviewed by: Mat Houghton
Released: June 12, 2002
Hereís something nice to get your niece for her birthday. Donít let the cover fool you, or even the back. This is a nice harmless little fantasy game. If youíre looking for decapitations, hot chicks in chain mail, gore, violence, and some swearing just for good gritty measure then PRYZM Chapter One: The Dark Unicorn may not be for you.
Here you get a troll (which except for the staff and magic wielding looks remarkably like a Dwarf - but letís not quibble) and a unicorn riding around through four different lands trying to heal them of a plague that infects everything and turns people into evil monsters.
There are four worlds, each with four lands (or levels) and a boss to fight, and then the big man at the end. It wonít take too long to get through them all, but like I said, this is a great game for younger gamers, or parents who are concerned about the violence of their childrenís games. Itís nice, itís light, and no one dies, though there were a few times that just turning some creature back into a cute fantasy creature just wasnít satisfying enough for me. Even if you run out of life you donít die - you just have to start over from the last checkpoint.
Digital Illusions managed a strong interface for something that rapidly could have become unwieldy. You have two characters to control; the nice thing is that one is riding the other, so all you have to worry about is ride and attack. After the short and surprisingly useful tutorial you are ready to venture forth into the real world without too much trouble.
Control is very simple and the only thing I was really disappointed with was backing up, and swinging the trollís magic staff. The problem is that sometimes it comes out a little counter intuitive and that can really screw you in a few places, but otherwise itís really good. Riding controls are excellent, and feel very close to how a horse is really controlled including the awkward reverse. That is about all there is to this game. You ride around, you shoot or whack things on the head and jump every so often. Thereís nothing very complicated to it really - again, perfect for kids.
I will say that while the majority of the game is pretty simple there were a few places where I was ready to put my controller through the floor in frustration. Most often things are easy, but about once per world you will run into a spot that is just agonizing to complete. Usually it only took me about a dozen tries to do it, but just the repetition and frustration were enough to drive me mad.
This whole game pretty much exudes quality, so thatís why I can only assume itís for a younger (and excuse the non PC faux pas here, but female) audience. The levels are well themed for each of the four worlds, and they are each varied and intricately constructed. You tackle forests, marshes, hills, and mountains all in an effort to rid the world of this plague.
Take the Troll Mountains for instance. You do a couple levels of running through caverns and over stone bridges and the like then you come to a big mine/factory works level thatís all over lava. All the levels are similar in that they bring out a real feel for the type of world youíre in and the nature of itís inhabitance just by placing you in interesting backgrounds.
The character designs are good, but the lighting not always so and the graphics are overall a little grainy, so sometimes itís hard to make things out, especially when running by at high speed on a unicorn, which is pretty much required to stay alive.
What makes things shine though is the visual effects. The dynamic lighting and particle effects are plentiful and look great. There are so many sparkles and colorful glowing effects you feel like its 4th of July all over again. You get attacked with fireballs, glowing boomerangs, sonic rings, and even demented mutated sheep.
The cinematics are good, and they look almost like they were trying for a cell-shading look but then tried to make it look like they werenít. They chracters look nice, and Iíve never seen quite that much expression on a horseís face before. The movies are really short though, and there is a movie player included even though thereís not much reason for one. The movies are either a flythrough of the level youíre just about to play, a shot of it after itís been healed, or a very short and mildly disjointed scene to advance the story - none of which you would particularly care to rewatch.
This is probably one of the best and worst aspects of the game. It is the best because the music for each level is different and usually one or two at least is groovy and worth the price of admission. They also do a good job of matching music to environment to create a good mood and again a feel for the kind of people you are healing. I have to say I really dug most of the music and wouldnít mind seeing other game companies making the same effort.
The absolute worst part of this game was the voice acting, partly because of the juvenile script - and I realize Iím not who theyíre trying to sell the game to, so thatís fine. What makes the dialog so bad is that while the acting is alright for some characters, others are just terrible and the delivery sounds a little condescending from time to time.
Also, your characters have a catalogue of about three phrases that they run through repeatedly, and by the time you get to a level where they change to the next three you feel like strangling our heroes. Despite the repetitiveness, it was nice to see the characters actually develope and change their attitudes as the game progressed. Itís a nice touch and something that I havenít seen before in a game. Now if only there were a story that I liked backing this quality detail work up - some more grit and a little mayhem and Iíd be raving.
Hereís where the twenty-dollar price of admission comes in. If you are an experienced gamer or have played at least one or two other platform games then you can complete PRYZM in about six hours - thatís all 16 levels and five bosses. Again let me reiterate that this game is designed and marketed for younger kids. I cannot say this enough.
Some one younger would probably take a lot longer to complete the game and would be a lot more satisfied with the plot. I donít hate the game; Iíd just be a little disappointed with the outcome and the time it took me to get there had I dropped the $20 on it; especially when I can go and get one of many PS2 titles for the same price that offer greater game value.
There are a few extras to keep you occupied though. There is the movie player and a section of conceptual sketches for the game. They all unlock as you complete levels, and are ok for the most part but donít add that much to the over all experience. It was nice to see some of the sketches and early concepts, but itís not much compared to what they could have added, and thereís really only so much you can do with a horse.
Iím not really dissatisfied with PRYZM; it just ended up like cotton candy. It was sweet and light and not very filling. So if youíre looking for a bit of fluff to lighten up your gaming days, or if you have a younger sister or brother then PRYZM will probably be an enjoyable experience. Just donít expect to invest a whole lot of time in it for yourself because it wonít take you that long. Your mom might thank you though.