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Our Review by Bonnie Eisenman on May 6th, 2009
Rating: starstarhalfstarblankstarblankstar :: UNINSPIRING
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Pandemonium is a port of an old PSone game, and it shows. It's fun at first, but there's nothing special in this 2.5-D platformer.

Developer: EA Games
Price: $4.99 (Sale: $2.99)
Version Reviewed: 2.1.4

Graphics / Sound [rating:2/5]
Game Controls [rating:3/5]
Gameplay [rating:3/5]
User Interface [rating:3/5]
Re-use / Replay Value [rating:2/5]

Overall Rating: starstarhalfstarblankstarblankstar

A wizard, a court jester, a stolen spellbook, and a botched summoning...tell me if this sounds old already.

Pandemonium is an old game; there's no questioning that. Originally released for the PlayStation, it's essentially a 2D platformer wrapped around a 3D world. (More on that later.) The barely-present storyline aside, Pandemonium is a decent title, and as far as I know it's one of very few PlayStation ports for the iPhone. Unfortunately, it's just not polished enough—or unique enough—to justify its price tag.

Pandemonium starts with an introductory video in which the court jester, Fargus, urges Nikki, a wizard-in-training, to use a "tenth-level spell." Naturally, things go horribly wrong, and a monster swallows the town.

Let's be perfectly blunt. The storyline is a joke at best, and beyond the minute-long video in the beginning, the plot (thankfully) plays absolutely no role in the game. The voice acting was pretty bad, too. Moving on.

[img id="img_00022-300x200.png"]Gameplay
Each "world" had multiple levels, and the goal of each level is essentially to make it from Point A to Point B. Sounds simple, right? A typical collection of enemies conspires to block your path (naturally) and you have to either kill or avoid them to make it through. I really enjoyed some of the level designs, straightforward though they were. Run, jump, kill things...that's just about it, but Pandemonium does it pretty well. Using the environment to your advantage is key, whether you're jumping on bouncy watermelon-like things or riding a geyser to the next platform. Hearts, jewels, coins, and other random items can be found floating in the levels to aid you on your quest for Point B.

You can play each level as Nikki or Fargus, which adds some variety to the game. Fargus can use a spin attack, while Nikki can double jump. Either way, you kill enemies by jumping on them...usually. Each enemy is unique, and there's a fairly large range of them.

[img id="img_00032-300x200.png"]Pandemonium is a 2D game in disguise. Don't be fooled by the 3D're strapped down to the rails here. Moving "left" and "right" can translate to "backward" and "forward," but it doesn't matter.

As such, your controls are simple and straightforward. Semitransparent buttons are used for everything. Three arrows in the bottom-left portion of the screen let you move "left," "right," and crouch, while the bottom-right portion hosts the A, B, and (if you're playing Fargus) C buttons. A is jump; B allows you to fire a long-range power beam if you've picked up a certain power-up. C is for Fargus' spin attack.

Overall, the controls work...okay. They're far from perfect, and jumping while holding an arrow, for example, can be difficult; the buttons aren't what I'd call responsive. But overall, they do the job fine. I wish that the B button disappeared when you didn't have the power beam available.

Graphics and Audio
It doesn't look like Pandemonium's graphics have been given a major overhaul since the days of the PlayStation, but they're decent. You'll encounter plenty of jagged edges and odd-looking character models, but I didn't really mind. The audio is similarly "just okay." Nothing stunning, but nothing that annoyed me, either.

The Problems
Pandemonium's main faults lie in its simplicity. Now, don't get me wrong; many of the levels are quite complex and there's no doubting that there are plenty of foes to tackle. But eventually you feel like you're pointlessly grinding through the game with no incentive to continue. The plot is gone, and there aren't any achievements to speak of. I know that old fans of the game (was it even that popular?) will enjoy it no matter what, but as a newcomer, I don't see anything unique here.

Oh, and the game lags. Yes, I've rebooted. Yes, I'm sure. It was very noticeable for me in the first world, and while it's gotten better, the lag still pops up at random intervals. It's frustrating to watch as the game stutters and Fargus freezes in midair, only to crash back down to earth a second later. Sloppiness like that is not what I like to see from a good game.

Pandemonium does have its redeeming features. It's arguably a "real" game, and it's got all 18 worlds from the original title. I enjoyed it at first...until I began to get bored. If you're a fan of these old-style games, go for it; it's your prerogative.

But personally, I couldn't see myself spending five dollars on a game like this when there are so many great titles available in the App Store. There just isn't any innovation here—with a game this old, how could there be? But if you want a classic, simple 2.5D platformer, this is as straightforward as it's going to get.

iPhone Screenshots

(click to enlarge)

Pandemonium screenshot 1 Pandemonium screenshot 2 Pandemonium screenshot 3 Pandemonium screenshot 4 Pandemonium screenshot 5
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