"It's such a genuinely zany concept that one wonders going in just how such a thing couldn't provide a quick burst of amusement. And it does. I actually chuckled at the wonderfully contrived story describing a prince and a princess turned into paddles by evil magic. The problem is that if you've played Breakout, you've played this, and while such things as zombies and boss fights add a little to the gameplay value, Bad Omen runs on its novelty. Once you get past that, the experience quickly loses its lustre."
There was once a happy time when princes and princesses could get together and take the 'live happily ever after' route without being accosted by devil-faced demons with names like ~|. Back when kids respected their elders and you could leave your house without locking the door, such couples had no fear from monstrosities with names that look like an ASCII hiccup randomly showing up and turning them into stone paddles.
But those days have passed, and the unfortunate young couple in our tale fall foul to such a demoralising fate. Cursed to spend the rest of their lives looking like a slightly more solid version of Pong's infamous paddles (but with sex-identifying colour coding!), hope was lost. From the demon world came the sniggering of ~|, but from the heavens fell a solitary blue orb. The blue orb of hope and rapture!
Step away from the Engrish-inspired intro, and no one will get hurt.
Translation: The intro tells you -- with no explanation -- that a jealous demon turns a royal couple into pong paddles and then a blue orb drops out of the sky.
Bad Omen is the bastard love child of Castlevania and Super Breakout!
To try and reverse this rather randomly-infected evil, the sovereign paddles of yore decide to bounce their newly found orb at the denizens of the underworld in a clearly pissed off fashion. Housed in a horizontally scrolling geoscape, you need to guide your orb past destructible obstacles such as crumbling gravestones, rocky outcrops that border the screen and locked gates that need to be bombarded before they can be bypassed. Bounce the orb between target and paddle, always keeping it on the screen. Slip up letting it bound off-screen, and lose a life.
The royalty are revolting! Send for the fire-belching skeletons!
Such stationary targets are but cannon-fodder to your bouncy blue bomb of salvation, and it takes only a trained eye and respectable reflexes to keep your orb in the play-area, safeguarding your lives and dialling up bonus points gained. Being a naughty devil, ~| sees fit to fill the arena with nasties. Vampiric blood-red bats flutter about the screen looking to derail your ball, ducking into its path to sabotage angles and force defensive blocking. Skeletons line the earthen walls vomiting flames that serve as a barricade, one that knocks the orb away despondently.
Soon, the dilapidated stone tombstones that serve as obstacles are replaced by sturdy bronze ones that withstand several stout shots before falling; a cornucopia of pyro-obsessed corpses line bonus-block infested walls, daring you to take on their collective might in order to bolster your score. The sun-bleached bones of a mighty serpent lay forgotten by the wayside with just enough room for the daring to try and squeeze a well-placed orb down its throat.
These are just distractions until you come to a circular pit filled with the shadowy silhouette of something sinister. "Defeat the boss!" prompts the screen and the shadows stir, shifting from black to crimson red until finally a serpentine demon emerges from the pits and bids you to do battle!
Pong only asked you to beat another paddle: it said nothing about the denizens of Hell!
But then, Pong never had you control two paddles simultaneously; here you can have one surge up the screen and have the other hang back, or even sit a paddle up straight and make an L shape handy for directing the orb around pesky corners. All of these traits you'll need to defeat the smirking demon who will routinely snatch the orb out of the air and palm it straight off the screen. Bash the scaly swine right in the face! Or bounce your ball behind him and cave the back of his skull in. All you need do is avoid his snatches and be wary of him throwing a shielding arm across his mug.
But as wacky as all this is, and as insane as the clockwork-themed next level is, with its cogwheels, gearshifts and fruity wizards clad in shiny pink robes, once the quirky veneer of novelty wares thin, gamers might find their interest waning. Let's ask one:
Dragoon of Infinity: It's such a genuinely zany concept that one wonders going in just how such a thing couldn't provide a quick burst of amusement. And it does. I actually chuckled at the wonderfully contrived story describing a prince and a princess turned into paddles by evil magic. The problem is that if you've played Breakout, you've played this, and while such things as zombies and boss fights add a little to the gameplay value, Bad Omen runs on its novelty. Once you get past that, the experience quickly loses its lustre.
And there we have it; the first level will have you giggling like a deranged schoolgirl snuggling her pikachu plushie but even if you enlist a second player to take control of the other paddle, things get stale quick. In Bad Omen we find an off-the-wall game best played in short doses.
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