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And& vs. Pepsi Ranger
Download: 385 KB
Pepsi Ranger
Review # 4 for Pepsi Ranger
Them's Fightin' Words
    And is the story of a young forgetful girl named Ampersand who forgets everything about her, from where she lives, to how she lost her memories, to why her name is Ampersand. In order to regain her memories, or at least a set of random memories, she must kill a wise and clear-headed monster, in effect taking its memories and making them her own. Of course, this may mean having pleasant memories of maulings and digging holes, but they're still memories, and the in-game narrators and shopkeepers tell her that it's the only way to discover something about herself, or at least think she's discovered something about herself. So, for the entire game, Ampersand fights increasingly difficult battles to reach that one monster who will have the memories she needs, meanwhile remaining to be the epitome of the world's worst blind date by only responding "Okay," "Maybe," and "Why?" to other people's questions and answers.

So, that's the plot, but not the true intents of the game. Rather, the game is designed as a leveling-up adventure, in which the player must keep leveling up and gaining money if he or she wants to finish. I think it's a neat idea to try, but looking from a distance, I don't know why a game should be just about leveling up. Fortunately, when I started playing the game, I realized that when made by the right hands, a game about leveling up can be pretty fun to play. And so is And, a leveling up paradise. So, how is a game about leveling up a good thing? Here's the breakdown--the battles are designed painstakingly and perfectly. The player starts with practically nothing and must set out into the forest to kill stuff. The first battles are weak enough to help the player gain some experience, but strong enough to let the player know that he or she is in for a rocking as the game goes on. As the player progresses, literally step-by-step, the battles get gradually tougher. Eventually, the player will find that the enemies lurking near the forest entrance are total pansies compared to the enemies in the depths. One may think that this is no big deal since the main character will naturally get stronger and keep up with the pace of the fights, and in many ways this would be true. But, the game was not designed to blaze from one end of the map to the other and make it into the next area. It's designed in such a way that the player must keep returning to the item shop at the start of the area to buy the latest available sword (4 in the first area, 2 in the second). What this means is that as Ampersand gets into higher levels, the weaker enemies at the start of the map won't help her experience grow all that quickly. They'll still attack, and she'll still use spells on multiple enemy groups, but it will take longer to get to the next level, meaning her stats won't reset any time soon. Even though this wouldn't make a difference to her health, since there are two types of cure potions to help her, it makes using her spells a difficult task because once it's depleted, it's depleted until the next level up. That adds up to trouble for anyone who thinks they're going to win the game by doing mass single-hit destruction. It also adds a new challenge to leveling up. Frankly, I think the method of the game works, and it works really well...up to around Level 30-something.

Which brings us to the downsides of the game. Even though the game is designed very well, keeping the difference of battles balanced near perfectly, it starts to change pace near the top of the second map. Here'e why--the enemies are way too strong. That's okay because Ampersand hits as much as seven hundred points a swat when she finds the last sword, and can defeat most enemies, even the strong ones, with a maximum of three hits. The part where the problem arises is that Ampersand's health does not grow as quickly as her strength, and the enemies she must face in the later part of the game attack in groups of eight, and
Final Scores
Graphics: 7.5/10.0
The maptiles are decent, and the walkabouts are nice, but the battle graphics are incredible. The only drawback to the graphics is that the forest battle background looks more like a desert than a cluster of trees. Impressive enough to win some kudos.
Storyline: 7/10.0
Even though the story is very thin, the underlying relation to the game's purpose is clever, not to mention it sets a ground for something deeper, should the authors decide to expand on it some time. Therefore, it's worth a decent score.
Gameplay: 9/10.0
The map designs are nice, but the battle design and layout is what makes the game shine. There is so much challenge in something made so fast that to say the gameplay is horrible would virtually be punishable. The only reason why gameplay would not deserve a top score is because of the annoying factor that the game freezes when attacks get too strong. Other than that, what's not to like about it?
Music: 8.5/10.0
The music comes from a variety of different games, from Zelda to Ecco the Dolphin, but sets the mood very well. The music from the first stage is especially haunting in that the player first learns of Ampersand's amnesia as a saddening melody orchestrates in the background. It's almost heartbreaking. Of course, then you remember that the game is about slaying monsters to a rocky soundtrack, so you get over it. Still, the music is nicely chosen.
Overall Grade: B
Final Thoughts
    A fun game is a fun game, whether there's depth or not, so play this game if you want some fun. Also, play this game if you want to control a hero named Ampersand.  

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