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Endless Saga vs. Pepsi Ranger
Endless Saga
Download: 476 KB
Pepsi Ranger
Review # 5 for Pepsi Ranger
Them's Fightin' Words
    When one thinks of the power and strength of a sword, it's usually associated with visions of slicing and dicing. When one imagines a quest to obtain the mighty blade, it's usually followed by a desire to wield it. When one sets forth to grasp the weapon of war, it's usually followed by mass destruction. But, when one reveals that he's a total lunatic, he's usually followed by a power hungry opportunist. In the game of Endless Saga, such an unfolding of events takes place.

It began with a mission. The mission was simple. Climb up the mountain, take out all the guards, and steal the sacred sword. No big deal. A couple hours would've been more than enough time. But, then it happened. At the foot of the treasure site, where the sword lay dormant, Stragus, the Dude of Evil, decided it was time to use it's power. Leo and Terry, adventurers by day, slackers by night, knew their time to act was short. What this madman planned to do was anybody's guess. But what they had planned to do was even more questionable. So, to prove their total insanity, they jumped out and attacked the crew of soldiers who guarded the sword, and stole it for their own. And the rest was a breeze.

Or so it should've been.

The story really doesn't go very far at this point in time. What happens once the boys reach town is left for the player to discover, but what happens after certain dramatic things unfold is left for everyone to guess. And the direction that this game heads is certainly up for grabs. That's what makes the uncertainty about the future such a plus for this game. It sets up just the right amount of plot and characterization to make the player wonder why it has to end now. But, it doesn't give so much that there is nothing left to be surprised about when a future update comes out.

However, in spite of the appropriate pacing of the story, I'll still have to say that's it's a bit of a cliché. Certainly the idea of making a game where the world is endangered will always be a cliché, but that's not specifically what I'm referring to. As of now, the deeper story elements, which can be found in the character development, seem to have been done so many times that to sit through this story is like sitting through a Steven Seagal film. It's not so bad, but it would be a long shot to expect something unique. Let's run through the basic breakdown to find out what I mean:

1. Heroes embark on quest to obtain the sacred treasure--sets up the plot and is needed for the most part.
2. Heroes face adversity on the path to their goal--game may be pretty boring if there's nothing to stop them.
3. Heroes face an ultimate foe at the foot of the treasure--as always the heroes cannot be the first to uncover the mystery.
4. Heroes must fight to free the treasure from the enemy's evil plans--because walking away with the sword in hand would be too easy.
5. Heroes must escape a terrible trap once the treasure is obtained--a lot like Indiana Jones and the Bowling Ball of Doom.
6. Heroes escape safely and head back to town--because McDonald's is asking for too much attention already.
7. Heroes walk through a cave to reach the town--which effectively serves as the town's defense (a good quality).
8. Heroes enter the town to show off their prize--because their mission would serve no purpose otherwise.
9. Heroes talk to citizens who complain that nothing exciting ever happens--and why should anything exciting ever happen?
10. Heroes split up briefly to get their personal affairs in order--which includes the need to show a childhood flashback that reflects failure.
11. Heroes are revealed to have dead parents and weak minds--which makes them the perfect pawn to be used for evil.
12. Heroes are forced to do things beyond their control--because their minds are weak and their parents are dead.
13. Heroes end up fig hting each other--because one is still good, while the other is now bad.
14. Heroes knock sense into their friend's heads, just in time for their town to get destroyed--because nothing exciting ever happens.
15. Heroes run away from home--since they pretty much failed their friends and family.

And that's the basic gist of things. By my count, there are maybe one or two elements that feel original about this game. The one quality I particularly appreciated was the idea of using a cave of monsters and a lake of Hydrates (whatever they are) as a defense for the town of Reiko. Actually, that's pretty much the only original thing I remember in this half-hour long game. But, I wouldn't dare go so far as to say that a lack of originality is a bad trait for such a project as this. Frankly, I think the execution of events is rather impressive. Even the cheeseball flashback where Leo imagines himself as a child trying to protect his mother from fake evil, and then discovering an undying flower inside the house was still hauntingly memorable. If anything, this game shines on recreating the same old-same old in a very nicely structured way. Even though a deeper uniqueness would be really, really nice, I don't think this game will suffer too badly if it just stays true to its characters.

And what about the characters? For all the cliché they're riddled with, they still have enough of a deep-rooted psychology to respect where they're coming from. Or, at least Leo is psychological enough to care about. The verdict is still out on Terry and Lynn, but I'm sure a future update will reveal that they have a couple extra dimensions to their characters as well. However, the only drawback to revealing such depth in the characters so quickly is that the dramatic overtones are choked for the most part. It would be nicer if the burden that Leo carries around is revealed a little more slowly so that the player has time to prepare for it.

And that's pretty much all there is to say about the upsides and downsides of the story. As far as everything else is concerned, graphics are very nicely done, the gameplay is okay, but not awesome, and the music sounds original, even if it also sounds like popcorn popping from time to time. To elaborate a little more on the gameplay problems, the only thing that's terribly unnerving right now is the fact that the cave has too many random attacks. There are actually so many fights under the stalactites that the player doesn't get a single second to enjoy the dull cave music kicking in before having to dish out his axes and swords again. It's almost worthy of a headache.

And that's about all I care to talk about. All in all I think the game is certainly worth spending a half-hour playing, even though I can't say anything, other than the childhood flashback, is worth remembering once the game is over. Maybe the next release will have a stronger presentation, but so far what it offers is not that disappointing. It's a really good start.
Final Scores
Graphics: 9.5/10.0
The graphics have all the elements needed to wow and amaze OHR visual junkies everywhere. It has pictures, and colors, and shadows, and lighting, and metal surfaces, and plotscripting special effects for everyone's fancy. I'd say it's the game's strongest point. It's also a great bonus that I can't see the insides of other people's houses from inside other locations. Check it out to see what I mean. It's good. Oh yeah, it's all good.
Storyline: 7/10.0
The story follows through with its character and plot setup, even though it's not the most exciting thing I've ever read. However, other gamers can at least learn how to stay true to their own stories by checking out how this one is developed, so I'll still agree that it's attempt at story line fits the positive bill. I just hope that the update will provide a few creative surprises.
Gameplay: 6/10.0
I'm not as impressed with the gameplay as I am with everything else. I think it has mostly to do with the constant attacks from random enemies, and the expectation that the player must make it to town on only a few potions and a screwed-up level-up health restoration. Frankly I think the health limitations are nice for the challenge, but it gets kind of old when you have to start running away all the time because one of the heroes died as a result of chugging down the last potion about two hundred feet away from the cave's exit. Maybe when the level-up bitset is fixed again, the difficulty won't be so bad, but I still don't want to fight monsters every third step when I'm practically standing on the closest treasure box because that just gets old real fast.
Music: 6/10.0
Although I'm not a big fan of listening to popcorn pop while I'm hacking at bad guys, I will admit that the childhood flashback is perfectly in sync with its very nice music. I think it's all original too. Don't quote me on that, but I think ripped music actually sounds ripped, and this stuff sounds mostly original. For that the points are inaccurately tipped in favor of the track or two that have melodies.
Overall Grade: B
Final Thoughts
    I'm not yet ready to claim this game as an outstanding piece, but I am very impressed with what it's starting, and I highly recommend giving it a try for the plain and simple fact that so much can be learned about game design in just a matter of thirty minutes or less. If that's not a reason to check out a game, then nothing that gets a decent overall score is really all that great. So check it out if you're ready, and look both ways before crossing the street.  

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