Fun for the whole family (except the children)

My recent Saturn binge has been interrupted by one inescapable fact: a lot of old games just weren’t that good.

Take Pandemonium, for example. Password save? Check. Limited lives with a long distance between checkpoints? Sure. 2.5D camera that screws you up every chance it gets? You can bet on it. I’m surprised someone could consider this a cult classic. Even worse, I remember enjoying the demo for this game. The only obvious explanation is that the demo level was the only good one. Either that or kids will just gobble up whatever.

pand1
Surprisingly, there’s almost proper transparency. I say “almost” because the transparency only applies to 3D objects, not the 2D background. Perhaps someone with better knowledge of the Saturn’s internal will know the reason for this, because I sure don’t.

Mansion of Hidden Souls (no, it’s not the same game) manages to be a lot worse than its Mega CD counterpart. Not that the original was a bastion of ingenuity, but it was at least an enjoyable short ride. This Saturn version is a horrible short ride.

mhs1
While the quality of the scenery is obviously a big step up from the 1993 version, the compression just kills it. They don’t even use regular frames when you aren’t moving, so you still get results like what you see here. The Mega CD version didn’t seem to use compression at all, so stills and videos had the same quality (albeit at 5fps).

I still don’t know why it was billed as a horror game. Perhaps the original had a few creepy parts, but really only a few. Well, this sequel doesn’t have anything of the sort. The ending is more ridiculous than creepy, even if you are spending most of the time saying “what the hell am I watching?”. It’s that bad.

mhs2
The original duckface. Ok well, maybe there’s something scary in the game after all.

Instead, you can find horror where you wouldn’t expect it. Remember the good old Swagman?

swagman1
I’m not sure I needed the nightmares, Core Design. Could you at least not have such a jarring difference between the styles of the artwork, game assets and CG videos?

I swear. The cover and intro sure don’t look like a game for kiddies, especially the Swagman’s ugly mug. Then you start playing and suddenly everything is bright and colorful and like a cartoon. Hey, maybe kids can play this after all!

But then you play more, and notice there’s something really wrong with this game: death comes swift and relentless, sometimes in the most unfriendly ways (an enemy turns you to stone and then shutters you to pieces!), some elements are pretty morbid (descending into crypts to kill zombies?), and the difficulty is sure to make everyone but the most hardened player throw the controller out of the window. Unless you are using an emulator with save states. Otherwise, enjoy those restore points that take you a long way back (and force you to watch several loading screens again).

Now there’s something I would like to see remastered. The game could have been good, instead it ends up being pretty frustrating due to the many questionable design choices.

swagman3
Hey, the Swagman doesn’t look so scary in the game proper. He even has Mickey Mouse shoes!
swagmanend
… I take that back.

That ending tho. Yeah. If they won’t remaster the game, they could make a horror movie out of it, and it would be actually scary.

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