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The Legend of Vraz (PC) artwork

The Legend of Vraz (PC) review

"In its present form, the game merely comes across as an unnecessary mess of well-intentioned ideas made only slightly more amusing by the vague cultural undertones from India."

The Legend of Vraz masquerades as an independent darling from the game development community in India, but it doesn't properly execute some of its core concepts and that means that it ultimately fails to deliver on what initially feels like a strong premise. Designed around the XNA framework, the game features a unique cultural slant. A pleasant color palette finely details each distinct area, from the aesthetically pleasing backdrop of a wilderness where the wildlife animates with the accompaniment of lively chirping birds, to the palatial royal castle in which our valiant prince faces off against spear-wielding guards. That visual styling, however, exists as one of the few points of interest in a game that otherwise suffers from some significant technical issues.

As the prince, players are provided the simplistic goal of obtaining a significant dowry in order to win the princessís heart and marry her. The princeís quest unfolds over a handful of neat environments which are organized on a world map. After beginning in the fierce jungle, where he'll spend his time battling rhinoceroses and deadly insects, the prince advances to a castle filled with booby traps and legions of deadly guards, then follows that excursion by working through an admittedly interesting fantasy world before an anti-climatic finale in the clouds. Every area is littered with treasure and the Princessís killer pet monkeys (called Langurs). Those obnoxious, rock-throwing creatures will attempt to impede the prince's progress. Unfortunately, attempting to dispose of those creatures also results in damage penalties.

A mixture of by-the-books platforming and and archery mechanics lie at the heart of Zatun Gamesí attempt to produce a compelling childrenís game. This combination frequently proves tedious, since it forces the player to concentrate on the trajectory of his bow and arrow via the mouse while simultaneously making his way across platforms that dissipate into the air in timed patterns or crumble under the weight of the protagonist. Limited supplies and eventually a selection of five types of arrow provide additional frustration. Oftentimes, an ďArrows OverĒ indicator flashes on-screen long before the player has had the chance to overcome even the smallest group of enemies. Aiming the bow is difficult due to its general inaccuracy. You'll spend a lot of time overcompensating, placing caution on the back burner as you assault every enemy with an array of arrows. Apart from the standard 12-arrow pickups, there are flower arrows (which have no effect on the enemy), 2 particle arrow types with lasting particle effects on impact and fire arrows. However, no amount of special arrows can make up for the broken targeting system.

Thankfully, checkpoints are found at regular intervals. There's no punishment for dying aside from a trip back to a large doorway next to some nomadic dude sporting a turban. Other points of possible interest include holy cows with healing milk and hidden areas filled with large quantities of gold. For gamers who thrive on completion, the challenge of collecting all of that gold is perhaps the game's biggest selling point.

Set to a light and upbeat soundtrack, the game ceaselessly loops a catchy tune that captures the distinctive vibe accurately. Those simplistic and cheerful melodies act as an appropriate side dish to the childish look and feel sported by The Legend of Vraz.

Itís easy to lose sight of the target demographic due to the fiendish difficulty level that the poor level design produces, not to mention the prince's bad habit of glitching off the screen at the most inopportune moments. Children won't have much more patience for any of that than adults would. Still, it's hard to discount the game's appeal entirely given its development within the limitations imposed by XNA. Without becoming an apologist for independent game development, however, itís difficult to wholeheartedly recommend The Legend of Vraz to anyone but the non-discerning child gamer who primarily games on the PC. There are still plenty of other options for obtaining classic platforming games that feature similarly colorful settings but lack the technical mishaps that you'll find here.

If The Legend of Vraz focused wholly on translating an accurate form of archery into a platforming game with more reasonable hit detection and some incentive to fulfill the princessís wishes beyond appeasing her lust for gold, something worthwhile could have resulted. In its present form, the game merely comes across as an unnecessary mess of well-intentioned ideas made only slightly more amusing by the vague cultural undertones from India.


Calvin's avatar
Freelance review by Calvin Kemph (March 15, 2010)

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