"Nikki? Is that you?"
I have to say that I loved the first Pandemonium, and although this game isnít all that different, I like it a lot too. Itís a game that plays in 2 1/2 D, not 3D. Essentially what this means is that the game looks like 3D, but you are stuck really in 2D, only able to move either forward and backward. The camera angles shift around so much that you will get a 3D feeling, but donít be fooled. Strangely enough though, this method really works for this game. In fact, even though you are limited in movement, I feel much more open and free then when playing Crash Bandicoot 1 or 2.
You can play as either Nikki or Fargus. Nikki has grown up a lot since her last adventure. Sheís actually completely unrecognizable. Very mature and busty. Arenít all video game gals? I think they should have left her the way she was in the first game; a gawky teen. But thanks to Lara Croft and her Poly-gonzolaís, Crystal Dynamics figured they needed a sexy star too. Will it ever stop? Fargus is now a Ďdemented psychopathic" jester who wields his look-a-like puppet as a weapon. The differences between the two are slight; Nikki has a double jump that enables her to reach higher places, and Fargus has Sid as a weapon. Sid has been upgraded though. He can now be controlled while flying through the air, which allows Fargus to pick up hard to reach coins, powerups and whatnot. Both characters moves have also been improved with the abilities to pull themselves up onto ledges, climb ropes and swing hand over hand while hanging below certain objects.
Graphically this game is a treat. Vibrant colors accentuate every level and detailed characters and animationís make everything look and control smoothly. Just as in the first game you will feel the height in this installment. Some of the views are breathtakingly high.
Gameplay wise, Pandemonium 2 is a platformers dream. Mega Jumps, Rope Climbing, Clothesline swinging, Ice levels, Mine Cart levels (without the mine carts!) you name it, itís here. As this game is very "verticalí as well as "horizontal" the game play mechanics are always providing new challenges which makes the game fresh every step of the way. Control is very tight and even though some jumps make take you a few hundred feet in the air, itís not hard to position yourself while falling. The camera which isnít controllable, rarely puts you into an awkward position. Even when it changes camera angles on you, which may disorient you momentarily, no enemies will be waiting to take unfair advantage of your situation.
Enemies are dispatched by either a jump on the head or by one of the many powerups that are found in the levels and can be used by either Nikki or Fargus. P2 brings new weapons into the mix while dismissing some like the ice freeze and the shrink ray from P1. Fargus has acquired the Pump-a-Sid weapon which turns enemies into blow fish or Dig Dug rejects. Nikki has her Lightning Jab which does pretty much what youíd imagine. All in all, I do miss the old weapons from P1. The bosses are big and imaginative and have to be dispersed with some strategy. If you havenít played this game, think of the Witch Doctor boss from Crash Bandicoot and youíll get the idea. The difficulty isnít too frustrating, although there are parts where you will die over and over again not knowing exactly how to cross a particular chasm or complete a jump. However, the solution will become apparent and will make you curse yourself, not the game, for not trying the obvious.
Lovers of platform games like Crash, DKC and the old Super Mario Bros. would do well to check out both P1 and P2. They really offer an experience that is not available elsewhere. Great old fashioned 2D gaming in a supped up 32 bit package. This is definitely a quality game from start to finish. If you havenít played it, then you should rent it today if platformers are your thing. Rent both games! There is very little chance youíll be disappointed. Honest.