Daze Before Christmas (SNES) review
"All around us, people are heralding the joyous events occurring roundabout the end of December. Families are dragging tangled balls of lights and fragile ornaments from their attics; perennial Christmas movies and specials are already littering the TV networks; the video game industry is gearing up for a projected season of record-setting sales with state-of-the-art new action blockbusters and fantastic RPGs. Me, I've been doing something GameFAQs regulars might appreciate but that the average l..."
All around us, people are heralding the joyous events occurring roundabout the end of December. Families are dragging tangled balls of lights and fragile ornaments from their attics; perennial Christmas movies and specials are already littering the TV networks; the video game industry is gearing up for a projected season of record-setting sales with state-of-the-art new action blockbusters and fantastic RPGs. Me, I've been doing something GameFAQs regulars might appreciate but that the average layperson will find a bit silly - looking around for Christmas-themed games to get me in the spirit of the holidays.
You try to warn me, ''Snow Dragon, don't waste your time! Wouldn't a game related to a holiday be a colossal bust? There's no way on Earth anyone could make a game about Christmas that is good!'' In this instance, I'd have to tell you that were flat-out wrong. Peculiarly released the same year as Tim Allen's break-out Christmas hit The Santa Clause, Daze Before Christmas (Sunsoft, 1994), while smacking of a funny sense of the crass commercialism the December holiday is so well-known for, is actually not as terrible as the very thought of it would lead you to believe. As good old Kris Kringle, it's up to you to stop a host of conniving ne'er-do-wells, such as the Evil Snowman and the Timekeeper, from ruining Christmas for all the good Gentile children of the world. You're given the story and a basic idea of what you'll be encountering in a pre-game poem highlighted by poor writing and inconsistent meter. It generally tells you what I said. If you can forgive the plot for its outstanding lameness, there's nothing keeping you from having a good time with jolly St. Nick.
Your job as the fat man is incredibly easy, giving you reason to suspect that this was really meant for the kids out there. The twenty-four levels are displayed as dotted squares in a 4x6 grid, each one eventually revealing a different icon as you advance through the levels. At first I thought this lent itself to a Bionic Commando style of level progression (once you complete a level, you can access the ones adjacent to it), but it's more like the old 80's fad of sticker albums in that you collect them all one by one until the pages are filled. It's an odd way to design a game, but it doesn't affect the overall feel of it. Once you get into the levels, you find the many gifts that you can collect and the potential dangers or rewards hidden inside each one. There's an item that turns your ability to shoot ice into an ability to throw fireballs, and a cup of hot chocolate that will turn you into Santa's dubious alter ego Anti-Santa for a limited time. This other Santa wears a blue short-sleeved outfit, is a tad thinner, and beats enemies with his bag of toys instead of annihilating them with ice. Rockstar Games could have real fun with a Santa that ran around town doing stuff like that. The items, however crazy they may seem, actually do something to enhance the staleness of this game. Better yet, they actually serve to make it fun.
The graphics are so cartoony as to make for mismatched features from different views, and the sprites have a bit of a jerky motion to them, but the colors are done right and go easy on the eyes. It's dark where you would expect it to be dark, and light enough to see in several well-lit places. Sunsoft displays more than a rudimentary knowledge of primary colors here, enough to keep you going and seeing what the place looks like. While the regular enemies are very standard, the bosses actually display an inkling of creativity, both in the way they look and the methods used to eliminate them. Unfortunately, the levels are not very expansive and there is a mix of caricaturing (Santa) and realism (his reindeer) that clashes at a few points in the adventure. In general, however, the game is well drawn and a pleasure to lay eyes upon. There's not much to say about it other than that. You have a game about Santa Claus that happens to be designed nicely. Odd how I'm at such a loss for words to describe this game that re-defines ''overlooked.''
Controlling Santa isn't too bad a task, considering the jelly rolls he packs on eating Mrs. Claus's cooking 364 days a year. You'll be able to jump with ease and throw Santa's ice bombs so that it becomes second nature in no time. B and Y are the only two buttons that control Santa's physical actions. This enhances the notion that this game was aimed at children being introduced to video games, and will make or break the game for the rest of us. The same basic techniques are used throughout the whole journey with minor variations. Most of the game is well-suited to the controls, but there are a select few areas where you will be absolutely stumped as to the solution and playing around with a few background objects will help you in out in the given situation. Going totally beyond expectations for a title of this ilk, it actually makes you pull out your gray matter for a minute and coax the answer out of it. Will Santa deliver his presents on time? Only if you figure out where the switch is that opens the door to the attic.
Daze's biggest failing is in its sound and music departments. Sure, every now and then you get an interesting (if not dinky) rendition of Jingle Bells or another familiar Christmas tune, but for the most part it's circus-style pipe organ junk that a toddler won't care about one way or another. The sounds feel muffled and quiet, sort of like a fart covered up with a pillow. It reminds me sort of what you hear in the later Commander Keen games. This is really the most disappointing part of the whole game, even if the music does stay pretty closely tied in with the whole Christmas theme. The sound prefers to stay ambient, and you don't hear much from anybody, especially if you mute the volume as I did for a few particularly nerve-grinding levels. The beginning of the game is the worst violator, with a dumb theme song and a badly digitized ''Ho ho ho, merry Christmas'' thrown in for good measure. Maybe it's a product of my bitter disenchantment with everything in the world, but I'm really not a fan of all this upbeatness. I'm going to go crawl into a sock drawer and write a poem now. In black ink.
Fortunately, where these fundamental areas seem, by my relating them, to be lacking so as to make the game unworthy of consideration, there are a few perks that allow the game a standout position from the rest of the pack. The levels where you control Santa in his sleigh while throwing presents down citizens' chimneys are innovative - even more so thanks to the fact that your presents are derived from the number that you collect in levels prior to your sleigh rides. The introduction of this weird Anti-Santa character is slightly intriguing, as is the ability to change the amount of time that you stay in his form at the Options menu. A two-player mode is included that is decent but ultimately useless, since the odds are likely that either one of you will like it and the other won't or neither of you will like it. Without these things, DBC would be the spitting image of mediocrity, but the sleigh levels, power-ups, and at least marginally challenging boss fights make this a platformer you can't afford to ignore.
Daze Before Christmas was only released in the UK, but it's a pretty good game all around set back only by a desire to target children. Surely many things in it are better left to the younger set - the passwords that are cleverly disguised as ''magical access codes'' and the decidedly childish storyline - but it certainly won't sour your feelings of Yuletide cheer. To emphasize my general attitude towards the game, I didn't hate myself or the need to make a commercial product out of everything simply by playing this. It's a good title to pick up to get you into the spirit of the holidays, and worth the two hours or so it takes to complete the entire game in a single sitting.
Ho Ho Ho!
-- Graphics are well done (insert golf clap here)
-- Good first game for a young person
-- The control works with minimal friction
-- Actually a nice play for a seasonal game - it's not like a game based on Arbor Day would be any good, am I right?
Oh Oh Oh...
-- Sound belongs under a big-top tent
-- It's hard to figure out what you're doing sometimes
-- Kiddie enough that a large number of older people will totally disavow its mere existence
-- Seasonal subject matter makes it tolerable really only during the last month of the year
Community review by snowdragon (December 09, 2003)
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