LandStalker (Genesis) review
"Some games have it all. GTA has enough chaos and mayhem to make a life of crime fun. Shadow Hearts: Covenant has everything I look for in an RPG. And Landstalker…ooooh, Landstalker has everything that could possibly irritate me. But oddly enough, I can’t put it down most days. Maybe it’s my strong pride that won’t let me give up or maybe it’s the incredible fun factor wrapped in a “foot-stomping, edge clinging I’ve gotta make this jump I don’t want to climb up here again” annoying package. "
Some games have it all. GTA has enough chaos and mayhem to make a life of crime fun. Shadow Hearts: Covenant has everything I look for in an RPG. And Landstalker…ooooh, Landstalker has everything that could possibly irritate me. But oddly enough, I can’t put it down most days. Maybe it’s my strong pride that won’t let me give up or maybe it’s the incredible fun factor wrapped in a “foot-stomping, edge clinging I’ve gotta make this jump I don’t want to climb up here again” annoying package.
The opening scene is a disclaimer in itself. As the credits unfold, you get brief scenes of our hero, Nigel--an elf with a knack for treasure hunting and a pageboy haircut. Nigel struggles through the dungeon and although the scenes share the same premise of the game, you have absolutely no control over him. Be thankful that you only have to watch him calculate distance and time himself as he jumps from one floating, moving bridge to the other, because it’s not going to last. The tension and sheer panic of this game is evident, because yes that is empty space below our young hero, and one slip up could mean a world of trouble.
But it doesn’t, mostly because the game’s AI is much better at gauging these little tasks then you ever will be. So you’re victorious, ready to return to town with the sought after (and priceless) statue in hand. Your bag, alas, stays empty for only a few minutes before it gets a new occupant--a tiny fairy named Friday, desperately trying to hide herself from an insidious and goofy looking group of bandits. Why are they after such a sweet and innocent creature? Mainly because she has seen the legendary treasure of King Nole with her own miniature eyes. Two problems, though. One, she doesn’t exactly know where it is and two you have to spend the money you just made off the statue on a giant bird to fly you across the continent. That, however, is fine by Nigel. He’s a treasure hunter and telling him about the booty of the selfish and materialistic King Nole would be like telling a trekkie Patrick Stewart is going to be at the next Starcon--either one would stop at nothing to get there.
Okay, so the story has a “Tomb Raider” element to it--minus the bouncers--so it can’t be all bad right? Saying goodbye to your sanity is bad right? Not always. Sane is normal, but crazy is fun. So prepare yourself for a bit of nerve-stomping entertainment if you want to traipse through Landstalker. Aside from the occasional camouflaged key items the most dominant “annoyance” of this game are the puzzles. Maybe “puzzles” isn’t a fair word, though. They are more like tasks; grating, hissy-fit throwing tasks. Sometimes you will find yourself stacking boxes to give you that extra leap up a ledge, other times you may have to hurl one of those boxes across an enormous gap to hit a switch. Sounds simple enough, and for the most part it is. This game doesn’t have extremely grating “ha ha welcome to the end of my dungeon, oopsie I dropped the floor open to plummet you back to the bottom, one of these holes leads you further the other one leads to…duh duh duh certain death” puzzles as most of them only last one room or one screen, but even that can get old when you’re doing it every SINGLE TIME! It’s a toss up really, sometimes they’re so easy you get it on the first try, other times you have to put your shoe on just so you can put your foot through the T.V. without too much injury.
If trying to figure out riddles and get from switch to switch before they’re blocked off isn’t irritating enough, you also have to jump. I’m sorry; you have to make your way up rocky cliffs with only a tiny, floating brick to land your massive feet on to lead you further. Don’t get me wrong, I love 3-D games and I love a challenge. Probably why I got through the game without scarring myself more then once. The jumps, however, aren’t for the faint of heart. It isn’t the jumps that are difficult, but instead on how you gauge them. As I said, this game is 3-D and without the ability to move the camera any platform leap that isn’t directly in your sight is going to lead you anywhere but the platform. It takes a lot of timing, a fair amount of guessing and a whole bunch of readjusting in midair just to land safely. As annoying as the tasks can be, though, they do provide some amount of entertainment--both in challenge and variety. You may find yourself trying a lot of things more then once, but you won’t ever do the same thing twice.
Challenge aside, this game flows forward with a humorous story. I won’t give anything way again, but at one point you’re going to find yourself investigating a “brothel” and who doesn’t have fun at those? The bad guys themselves even have a sense of humor, granted it’s a “hey, I’m all the way up here so I’m going to throw rocks down at your head, I’m going to act like I’m in slow motion just to give you a chance to catch up” taunting sort of humor, but it’s still amusing.
If you aren’t into cliff clutching tasks then you may want to spend your time working through another retro game. Everything else is pretty much mediocre. The graphics are clean and colorful, and if you like the cartoon-style “big head little body” syndrome you may be alright. I like at least some realism, and sadly there is none. Your noggin is huge and so are your feet so it looks funny to me. The sound itself could be dismissible if you were only focusing on the score, but Landstalker has its fair share of annoyances in the ear department as well. Every time dialogue spits out, it’s followed by different sounding tones--quick chirps for Friday and longer, bass blurbs for others. You may be so annoyed with them by the end of the game that you could find yourself wanting to rot in the dungeon just to escape more blabbing.
All in all, Landstalker can be a fun game, if you like a challenge. It’s no “Vagrant Story” or “Tomb Raider” by any means, but it has the same element to it. If it weren’t for the horrid, nightmare-inducing tasks I would say this was a game more directed towards kids. It still has an endearing though sometimes needling quality to it, but in all honesty it’s just “okay”. I couldn’t set it aside until it was over because I have an insane amount of pride and way too much honor, but anyone who doesn’t might not find this game quit the treasure I did.
Community review by True (August 14, 2005)
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