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Mad Paradox (PC) artwork

Mad Paradox (PC) review

"To play Mad Paradox is to step into a world of mediocrity. It’s an RPG that skimps on all the ingredients that can make an RPG great. The battles are neither unique nor exciting, you’re given only an excruciatingly tiny area to explore, and there isn’t any engrossing story or character development. The makers of this title decided to forego all those amenities, instead placing an emphasis on pleasing the viewer’s visual receptors. To captivate its audience, Mad Paradox reli..."

To play Mad Paradox is to step into a world of mediocrity. It’s an RPG that skimps on all the ingredients that can make an RPG great. The battles are neither unique nor exciting, you’re given only an excruciatingly tiny area to explore, and there isn’t any engrossing story or character development. The makers of this title decided to forego all those amenities, instead placing an emphasis on pleasing the viewer’s visual receptors. To captivate its audience, Mad Paradox relies on its one and only asset, numerous naked women. Without a doubt, players will perpetually be tempted by the rare combination of naughty pictures and role-playing elements provided by this old DOS game, but they’ll be forced to deal with the many shortcomings of the latter for those fleeting rewards of the former.

The brave soul you control in this game is Mash, a young man who has spent his entire orphan life in the six-building town of Dorah, a location with only a few more residents than structures. Some of these villagers are kind enough to our hero, offering warm greetings and friendly advice. Others, though, will completely ignore his presence, so much so that they allow him to walk right through their bodies. This bizarre treatment has led Mash to become a socially stunted youth; he doesn’t seem to care that the loveliest (and only?) girl in the village is completely infatuated with him. Hell, he doesn’t even know her name!

However, that state of blissful ignorance is stripped away in Mash’s seventeenth year when his guardian, Ol’ Samos, summons him in for a talk. The aged sage proceeds to relay almost all he knows about our hero’s past. It seems Mash’s parents were actually the benevolent rulers of Dorah until an unknown wizard appeared. This stranger, Gorgus, possessed the enormous power required to control fire, but he had evil ambitions. Knowing that Mash’s parents would oppose him, Gorgus quickly slew the pair and continued on his path of total domination. Now, so many years later and with his dream finally realized, Gorgus has implemented his policy of pain and suffering on the entire land.

But there’s more, as Ol’ Samos informs Mash that Gorgus has also kidnapped a particular young woman, identifiable only by a cryptic symbol on her body. The guardian cannot reveal any information about the girl’s mysterious origins; he only knows that she is of vital importance, and Mash is the only one who can save her, and the entire world, from perpetual misery. Eager to take revenge for his parents, save the fair maiden, and escape the crushing boredom of his hometown, Mash instantly resolves to take action. Wasting no time, Mash retrieves his father’s sword from the abandoned family castle at the edge of town, sleeps with what’s-her-name (guess he didn’t want to die a virgin), and sets out into the great wide world.

Unfortunately, there’s not much adventure waiting outside of those village walls. Mash’s journey is entirely straightforward; he won’t be tramping through long mountain paths or exploring expansive plains. Instead, he spends most of his time strolling through several claustrophobic towns, only one of which exists outside of the conglomerate that contains Gorgus’ hideout. The towns themselves are not impressive, either, as each mirrors tiny Dorah in size. You aren’t allowed to enter many buildings, and there’s a lack items waiting to be found. It’s no accident that the jewel amongst the bunch, notable only because its inn doubles as a house of ill-repute, bears the inauspicious title of Krapp. It’s impossible to immerse yourself in this world, as the inhabitants continue to ignore our hero unless they have something to directly contribute to his quest.

Two of those people will actually join your party, which at least makes the fighting easier. The first is Elle, who is trying to uphold her father’s legacy of protecting her village from ghouls, even if it means following him in death. Later Fugg joins the crusade; he’s a pure fighter seeking to rescue his sweetheart’s sister from the clutches of evil. Unfortunately, after engrossing introductions, these characters revert to the flat interactions more typical of the game’s non-player characters. Elle is afforded only a couple of scenes to showcase her fiery attitude and determination, while Fugg never reveals any sort of personality.

Failing to deliver any memorable characters or situations, the game has to rely on the action to hold the player’s interest. Unfortunately, it’s not up to the challenge, as Mad Paradox provides a completely mechanical experience thanks to the balance of its battle system. The deficiency is not because the fighting it turn-based, it’s because magical attacks are rendered virtually useless. This is a shame since Mash and Elle are equipped with some impressive spells: a notable one summons a fiery phoenix to engulf an enemy in flames and another unleashes a strike of lighting as if from the gods themselves. However, no enemies, not even the bosses, have any particular weaknesses to these elemental charms. Additionally, physical attacks always do a comparable amount of damage to magic, and the cheap healing magic so boosts the longevity of your party that only a stubborn fool would divert resources from it. With a system in place that so severely squelches creativity, Mad Paradox removes the burden of any sort of strategic thinking from the player and leaves you with a rudimentary, grinding experience. Moreover, past the driving background beats there’s never any sense of real danger in these fights. The battlegrounds are most always close to a friendly inn, meaning you can casually skip right out of a heated battle and into reenergizing comfort.

Unfortunately, the tasks in this game also require little thought and can better be described as errands than as puzzles. Nothing illustrates this like the task where Mash’s ally, the Wise One, instructs him to seek out the Great Crystal and Crystal (obviously the economy model). To retrieve the Great Crystal, Mash must cross the infested land of Foxfire and infiltrate a subterranean lair to defeat Geir, one of Gorgus’ lackeys. This takes time and effort, as the heroes must train to defeat a variety of new enemies and navigate through the underground labyrinth. Once the task is accomplished, though, they return to the Wise One to learn the location of the second important item, the Crystal. So where is it? About twenty feet from the Wise One’s front door, unguarded and ready for pickup. Once again, the player isn’t expected to expend much mental energy, as most of the missions fall closer to the simplistic latter example.

With the bulk of its less than impressive qualities laid bare, Mad Paradox can only fall back on its last resort: naked anime girls. Every so often, Mash has to rescue damsels in distress, and of course they are more than willing to reward him for his kindness by posing for several enticing pictures each. Actually, the graphics are fairly tame by most standards; sex is rarely even implied much less explicitly depicted, and objects usually fortuitously block any view of the naughtier bits. What really should amaze you is the extraordinary quality of the pictures. In contrast to the muddy character sprites and drab environs, the adult cuts are remarkably sharp and detailed, putting the usually sloppy efforts of contemporary games to shame. Quite honestly, avid fans of this material will likely rejoice at receiving these treats in exchange for navigating an otherwise lackluster experience.

Those who decided to translate this game surely realized that fact. Judged solely for its role-playing elements, Mad Paradox is trite and forgettable. You’re placed in a shallow world with nonexistent interaction. The simplistic battle strategies remain the same even though the enemies change. The missions you must complete are often insultingly easy. However, since it features an interface other than the traditional text-based systems of most adult games, Mad Paradox will continue to be remembered. As long as the exquisite mature pictures are the only aspect you expect to thoroughly enjoy, you won’t be disappointed.

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Community review by woodhouse (July 28, 2004)

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