"I donít think Boo was lying when he told me there were review scores below 5/10. After years of only reviewing games I actually liked, delving into rubbish games territory wasn't the smoothest of transitions. I greatly credit reviewers who are prepared to spend the time just to finish these monstrosities of titles; as I just discovered there was a bloody good reason why I never reviewed bad games in the first place. Labouring through only part of this was a severe test of endurance, will and mot..."
I donít think Boo was lying when he told me there were review scores below 5/10. After years of only reviewing games I actually liked, delving into rubbish games territory wasn't the smoothest of transitions. I greatly credit reviewers who are prepared to spend the time just to finish these monstrosities of titles; as I just discovered there was a bloody good reason why I never reviewed bad games in the first place. Labouring through only part of this was a severe test of endurance, will and motivation just to get through a title I never voluntarily chose to play.
Guardian of Darkness is just one of many trash titles that journalists of the PSone era had to wade through heaps of every month. Youíre playing the role of a monk named Ekna, who was minding his own business in monistic school before he could take over as king. However, grave disaster struck! Students were being killed from unexplainable phenomena, causing the monks to call their brothers, who detected an occult presence. Ekna, impressed by the phenomena he saw, decided to tag along and subsequently joined the exorcism organisation oh-so-mysteriously-named ďThe GateĒ taking the role of an exorcising monk. Do you care? As far as you need to know itís using spells to destroy evil spirits, uplifting curses off inanimate objects and performing exorcism spells on corpses. Just about every mission follows the same thesis of strange events or deaths occurring and being up to Ekna to deal with. That unfortunately means you, and allow me to explain why the game can't even perform those rudimentary RPG elements properly.
Each of the ten missions involve aimlessly running around poorly designed levels and blasting enemies through a haplessly cumbersome weapons interface. In levels that are predominantly indoor rooms youíre presented with an active third person perspective thatís better suited to an outdoor landscape. Consequently the camera here is absolutely appalling, as it constantly gets caught on an endless clutter of obstacles form walls to statues, obstructing your view, and just to make matters worse there's an enduring five second loading interval between every room. The graphics engine is incapable of even letting Ekna stand still as he appears with a constant spinal spasm when he oddly defaults to standing with his arms folded. But while the levels at least attempt to demonstrate some varieties, from a burger chain to a mansion, each are marred by ugly pseudo-lighting effects that appear as an explosion of ugly colour bands scattered throughout the level. The FMVís also arenít anything ordinary PSone graphics canít do, yet possess the same compression quality as an Uzbekistani propaganda broadcast being picked up from Fiji. The soundtrack sounds like a chaotic compilation of looped samples from rejected horror Z-movie soundtracks, barely more than background screeching and failing miserably to set any sort of atmosphere.
Once you've overcome the glitchy visuals youíll have to pit your wits with an uninspiring gameplay concept thatís executed poorly. The combat system is essentially blasting balls of magic at ghosts, plus using other magic spells are used to dispose if energy tendils littered on walls or using the Gate teleporting spell to occasionally transfer to places and bringing corpses to life. Aside from this distinctly ordinary combat, scouting around levels is painstakingly boring. Thereís barely a hint of puzzle here, just roaming around increasingly frustrating level maps trying to find the required objects needed. The objects themselves serve no purpose apart from allowing you to progress throughout the level; itís just a matter of getting from A to B. Cryo couldn't even get that right with unorthodox controls that resemble that of a remote-controlled car rather than conventional RPG control. Instead of pressing left to move left for instance, you must rotate Ekna anti-clockwise then press forward to go left.
While combat shouldn't sound too hard, the combat interface is a mess and is accompanied by bugger-all guidance from the manual. Spells fall under warrior or medium categories, the former to attack enemies or heal oneself whilst the latter is for sighting spirits, energy points (to replenish MP) or use exorcism spells. However, you are left to cycle through all your warrior spells with the L1 button to select one, as with the R1 button for medium spells. Consequently itís needlessly much harder to fight an enemy when cycling through other warrior spells to heal Ekna whilst an attacking enemy spirit is obliterating him. It makes the otherwise mediocre combat system further flawed when trying to take on a mass swarm of enemies at once with an erratic combination of poor controls and an awful menu system. At least Cryo got the main menu right.
There is barely any saving grace from this waste of plastic. All I can say is that it just about functions as a game; itís possible to get to the end without any obstructing glitches, and the visuals could have been worse. But this aside this title is just another one of those PSone titles that no one cared about and sits there unloved in an Oxfam near you. Itís plot is dull, the battle system is nothing exciting, and is developed poorly with a less-than-stellar combination of a poor camera that clearly doesnít suit the layout, controls that donít suit the style of play and the sheer blandness of the level scouting when youíre not about to get annihilated in face-to-face combat. Browsing through levels is even less exciting than staring at the disk itself; just to play this game took more motivation than it needs to revise for my college exams. One suspects that this Guardian of Darkness needs to spend more time keeping this game in the dark for humanities sake, unless I decide to glue this to a wicker basket and set it alight. The important thing is that at least I now know how much EmP and Boo do hate me.
Community review by bigcj34 (July 28, 2008)
Cormac Murray is a freelance contributor for HG and is a fanboy of Sega and older Sony consoles. For modern games though he pledges allegiance to the PC Master Race, by virtue of a MacBook running Windows.
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