Adv: Kid Mystic [by Hamumu]
Game Review: Kid Mystic
Release: October 2004
System Requirements: 300 MHZ processor, Windows 95+, DirectX 3.0+ (also
available on Mac)
The first thing that I must say about this game is that every time I sat down to write this review I thought about how fun the game was and had to go play it some more. This 3/4 overhead storyless action/shooter RPG is a very playable homage to brainless Super Nintendo-era RPGs. You splat spiders, fireball zombies, surf down rivers, and collect keys to unlock doors and orbs to unlock levels. Each level is a puzzle, and the variety of gameplay packed into Kid Mystic means each puzzle requires a new and creative solution, keeping the player amused and interested.
Kid Mystic is the sequel to Hamumu Software's Spooky Castle, but does not require familiarity with the original to play, although I imagine it would help what little plot there is make more sense. But this game is not abut plot.
The weakest point of this game is its graphics. Monsters and items are often obscured by trees, and it's also difficult to figure out which trees can be walked between and which can't. Some enemy attacks are the same color as the PCs, resulting in the inability to distinguish between harmless 'friendly' fire and deadly 'unfriendly' fire. The color scheme for the game as a whole is drab, with lots of grays, yellow-greens, and browns. The monster graphics were mixed – some were pleasant and humorous like the octopi and the bats, some were appealing but awkwardly made, like the zombies, but most were just visually boring, like the mushrooms, sea monsters, and, most tellingly, the PC and final boss of the game. Boss deaths throughout the game needed some dramatic special effects. Hopefully for this developer's next game they will employ a talented concept artist, because the quality of the rest of the game really deserves pretty graphics to complement it.
The sounds in this game were quite a mixed bag – some were very funny, some were irritating, and some were just boring. More variety in monster noises would have been nice – sometimes multiple kinds of monsters made the same sound. The background music was minimal and uninteresting, although good music would have just been obscured by all the shooting and monster noises anyway. Overall the funny, annoying and boring sounds balanced out to an average sound quality.
Game Play: 9
The play of this game was well-designed (and there was gamepad support, yea!) but it had a few implementation problems. Walls in particular seemed to be the source of a lot of problems – enemies' shots which were supposed to be blocked by a wall occasionally leaked through, monsters were occasionally spawned inside walls, and the heat-seeking AI used for coins, sword fireballs, the missile spell, and monsters running away form the PC when the repelling faerie was equipped did not work well. Also right at the beginning of the game the PC is too weak and gets killed by most monster encounters until you level him up some. Another problem was that the escape key, which is required for gameplay, was not mapped to the gamepad nor was it remappable in the options menu, so you couldn't play with only the gamepad. And I hated the @*%! trees, just in case I did not make that abundantly clear in the graphics section.
On the other hand, this game is mostly well balanced and fun to play. There are a variety of alternative spells to experiment with, sneaky tricks to discover, and different monster AIs to devise counter-strategies for. This game is an assemblage of all the best gameplay elements of this genre of games. The game has dual systems by which the PC can deal damage: specific spells that use up manna, and fireballs that don't use up any resources but require collecting in-level power-ups. There are also orbs to collect, switches to switch, buttons to either press or maneuver monsters into pressing for you, crates to push, secret passages, teleporter pads, healing potions, item upgrades to buy, invisible walls, targets to hit with trick shots, rivers to surf down, and faeries to buddy up with. These elements, in a brilliant display of level design, have been combined to form a huge number of unique challenges which keep the player entertained puzzling out new strategies for solving seemingly overwhelming situations. In addition, the game contains surprise mini-games that use regular game objects.
That should be enough to please anyone, right? Oh, but this game has more! When you complete the game the first time you start over in Madcap mode, with some new items in the shop and the monsters cranked to be really hard and drop tons of coins. You can also unlock a Challenge mode, which dares you to solve levels under various time-constraints or handicaps like no magic use. All in all, and despite the fact that I usually dislike storyless RPGs, I am thoroughly impressed with the solid and inspired design that went into this game concept. Although it would have been nice to have a description of all the features and what you have to do to unlock them.
$20 for the full version seemed reasonable to me, especially since the game is phenomenally replayable, and the developer provides a nice online forum in case you need to ask for help with one of the puzzles or hidden items in the game. Also you can a 20% discount if you buy more than one game – I thought Dr. Lunatic Supreme With Cheese sounded... interesting.
When Kid Mystic starts, the splash screen displays the slogan, “Hamumu Software - It Just Doesn't Get Any Dumber Than This.” Something like Scary Movie and Not Another Teen Movie, Kid Mystic is an intentional homage to old brainless top-down action RPGs, with a humorous collection of
cliché monsters (zombies, skeletons, spiders, bats, octopi...). Several times I laughed out loud when I first encountered a particularly witty monster name, item description, level name, or bit of NPC dialogue lampooning the absurdity and obviousness of game conventions, such as the tutorial starting village, and blocked passes that magically get unblocked when all the prerequisite areas have been conquered. It's a pity the graphics and sound didn't do a better job of reinforcing the humor of the concept.
Funny sounds (Zombie: “Uhhgggg!” Bat: “Meep!” Save Command: “Save!”), cliche monsters, clever names and other text, exciting fireball shooting, silly mini-games (whack-a-zoid!), and brain-teasing puzzles along with good playability added up to a game that was a lot of fun to play.
While not particularly aesthetically pleasing in terms of graphics or sound, and despite a few annoyances in the gameplay, this is a solidly fun and very replayable game, and is well worth its purchase price if you long for the good old SNES days, or just like blowing away spiders and zombies and raking in all the gold coins that fall out.
Added: January 31st 2005
Reviewer: Mare Kuntz
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