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Devil World (NES) artwork

Devil World (NES) review

"Dante was wrong. Hell only has three levels."

Devil World is one of the handful of Nintendo-published Famicom games that never made it to North America, despite securing a European release. Designed by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka, with Koji Kondo acting as composer (for what little music is present), Devil World is perhaps the most remarkable casualty of Nintendo of America's strict policy prohibiting religious icons in NES games.

Devil World stars a tiny dragon named Tamagon as he explores a scrolling maze in the eponymous “Devil World,” which is definitely just Hell and you can't convince me otherwise. It's not clear what horrible thing Tamagon did to wind up in Hell, so let's just assume he committed genocide and move on, shall we? In this primitive version of Hell, the Devil sits at the top of the screen, pointing in various directions, commanding his minions to move the maze in whatever direction he points. The sides of the screen are solid walls, meaning Tamagon can be crushed to death if he gets caught between the screen’s edge and a maze wall.

Devil World is divided amongst two standard stages and a bonus area, all of which take place in the same maze and repeat until you lose all of your lives. In the first stage, Tamagon must collect all of the dots in the vicinity (like Pac-Man, except with more Satan) while avoiding demons and being crushed by moving walls. Tamagon can't do very much besides move around unless he's holding a cross, which he can pick up at various spots in the maze. Crosses will disappear after a short period, but they also re-spawn within the maze an unlimited number of times. Holding a cross allows Tamagon to collect dots as well as shoot bolts of cleansing fire at enemies, causing them to turn into strange little orbs that resemble fried eggs which can then be eaten for bonus points. After all of the dots have been collected, the stage ends.

In the second stage, Tamagon has to collect the four Bibles from the corners of the screen (which don't move with the maze) and bring them to the red square in the center of the area, placing one tome in each side of the block. Once this is accomplished, the Devil flies away and you gain access to the bonus stage. Despite the absence of the Devil in this final stage, the maze will continue to move in directions determined by arrows on the floor. Walk over an arrow to make the maze move in that direction. Your ultimate goal here is to collect the six bonus boxes scattered around the screen, which is easier said than done thanks to the strict 20-second time limit. Since it’s merely a bonus stage, failure in this area simply means a missed opportunity for extra points.

After the bonus stage has been completed, the game starts over at level 1 and features only minor differences, with the most noticeable one being the enemies that materialize. Each stage contains a team of two or three enemies, which consist of one or more of the three total different types. They all behave basically the same way: pink cyclops enemies will chase you and red devils will chase you more persistently. The most remarkable of the three enemy types is the “mini-Satan” type, who can't be defeated but otherwise will behave similarly to the other two.

That's about as much variety as Devil World offers. The set of available enemies will change once every few trips through the three stages, through round 10, after which point there will always be one of each type of enemy present. The stage scrolls a little faster each time through, but other than that, you’re in for basically the same experience until you die.

As far as early Famicom games go, Devil World looks decent. Visually, there's almost no variety between stages, beyond the colour of the background. Enemy sprites don't have many frames of animation, either, but they are clean and colorful and easy to discern from one another. The game has very little music, with any songs mostly being limited to the title screen, the bonus stage, and brief fanfare when you complete a level. You'll spend most of the time listening to Tamagon's walking and eating sound effects, the former of which is subtle enough to add ambiance without getting annoying, while the latter serves as a great example of a simple sound effect that is always satisfying to hear.

Unfortunately, Devil World simply doesn't feature enough content. Though the levels take place in the same maze, they do at least offer some variety, but there still are only a total of three of them. Devil World can essentially be seen as Pac-Man with a twist, and it's interesting enough to be worth playing for that reason, but you'll run out of things to do too quickly. You can drag a friend to Hell with you for some two-player simultaneous co-op, but that doesn't add much to the experience beyond the inherent fun of playing games with friends. You’d probably expect more from the dream team that would go on to bring us classics like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda. If you ignore its failure to live up to its pedigree, though, Devil World is a satisfying enough game, one worth checking out if you've ever played Pac-Man and found yourself wishing it had more hellfire.


Roto13's avatar
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (June 01, 2013)

Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.

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