Review By: Jared
budget titles are budget titles for a reason. Usually, it's
because the title is either being released for a dead platform
(see the PSX's latter releases) or it just sucks. PRYZM
Chapter One: The Dark Unicorn is no different, but in this
instance it's due to the pathetic graphics engine, not terrible
gameplay. Yes, there's actually a good game here.
tells the story of a unicorn chosen to rid the land of a plague.
Long ago gnomes, trolls, elves, and nymphs all lived in their
own lands. Suddenly a plague started sweeping the land, turning
many residents into hideous monsters. Those that were able to
escape fled to the land of the unicorns. Over time these
refugees began to whisper that the unicorns must somehow be
behind the plague, since their land was the only one untouched
by it. A unicorn seer then predicted that one day a winged
unicorn with a sunburst marking would cleanse the lands and heal
the afflicted. Wouldn't you know it, that unicorn is Pryzm.
joined by the troll arch-mage Karrock (who rides on her back),
and their tandem forms the basis of gameplay. Scattered
throughout the land are various plague flowers that must be
changed back into healthy ones. Once they are changed, the land
around them is cleansed. Complicating matters is the fact that
several monsters are usually connected to each flower via a red
beam that feeds the flower off of those monsters, so they must
first be healed before the flower itself can be. Pryzm's magic
and attacks stun the creatures, which can then be healed via
Karrock's staff attack. Different attacks work in various
manners depending on the world the player is currently in, but
generally Pryzm stuns and Karrock vanquishes (healing them).
As you can
imagine utilizing this dual setup takes some practice, but
luckily the controls are mapped out intuitively. The left analog
stick is used for movement, and combined with the L2 button
initiates her charge attack. The right analog stick is used to
move Karrock's staff around. The X button jumps (double tap it
for a stunning Wind spell), the square button casts Karrock's
major magic, the triangle button casts Pryzm's major magic, and
the circle button acts as a lock-on system. R2 by itself focuses
magic on a target (thus increasing its potency), while R3 brings
up radar showing all of the flowers in that world. With a little
bit of practice, the result is a very intuitive control scheme
that is a lot of fun to play.
the land is no easy task, thanks to some wicked enemy AI.
Monsters will chase the player, latch on and suck the player's
shield away. The plague flowers release deadly spores, and can
hurl them through the air over very long distances. The only
sanctuary is the land Pryzm has already cleansed (moving into it
restores Pryzm's shield), but the player must first cleanse that
land and sometimes it can be very far away. Level design is
excellent, with huge sprawling levels filled with interesting
landmarks, multiple tiers, challenging platforms, and cleverly
placed monsters and plague flowers.
really what makes this a good game. Conquering the complicated
control scheme takes practice and at first the game is pretty
frustrating, but once you get the controls down it becomes
extremely enjoyable. You will die many times while playing this
game, but almost without fail you'll see some improvement each
time. Finally conquering a goal feels extremely satisfying, and
it's obvious that winning is the result of skill and not shoddy
AI. For the action/platform game fan, this is one game that will
test how good they really are. The sense of accomplishment makes
it all worth it.
great the gameplay is, the graphics almost kill this game
anyway. This is without a doubt the glitchiest PS2 game I've
ever played. The distant background pops in and out in huge
chunks, literally right before the player's eyes. The draw-in is
hideous, and objects on the ground (such as a patch of grass and
flowers that show up after cleansing an area) pop-up mere feet
from Pryzm. Character models are very simplistic, as are various
objects (houses, carts, etc.) scattered throughout each land.
Textures are plain and low-res, with the ground being an ugly
N64ish mesh of brown and green. The camera also has trouble
keeping up, sometimes to the point of Pryzm being only a vague
figure in the distance before it warps back to catch up. The
only redeeming features graphically are the nice spell effects
and the sheer size of the levels. Large levels would be a
legitimate excuse for such graphic shortcomings during the
previous generation, but in this day and age the PS2 is capable
of so much more. This is nothing more than shoddy programming
and artwork, nothing more.
(but not nearly as horribly), the sound is also a mixed
blessing. The music is just awesome, having a nice fantasy feel
to it with wonderful production values. It's catchy, and
resembles the type of music you'd expect to find in a big budget
movie. My only complaint about the music is that it could stand
to be a bit longer, as it gets repetitive after a few times
through. The voice acting is excellent, but for some reason
Karrock and Pryzm trade the exact same two or three barbs
throughout an entire level. Here's an example of the typical
getting really sore from riding!"
do you think my back's feeling?"
Throw in a
couple more phrases, and then repeat them roughly every 30
seconds throughout the entire level. The first time I heard each
of them, I laughed. The 100 billionth time, I wanted to launch
my PS2 through the window. Surely if they play tested this game
at all they realized how annoying that is, so why it's still in
there boggles my mind. TDK should've either given them more
catch phrases and/or made them say them less frequently, or
eliminated the chitchat completely.
and rewarding gameplay, which is pretty hard to find these
days. This is one game that doesn't pander to the mainstream
with simple goals and mindless gameplay.
control scheme is deep and rewarding.
- The music
has an epic feel.
possibly the worst graphics yet on the PS2.
the same phrases over and over and over and over again IS
NOT a good thing, no matter how good the voice acting is.
are terrible and the voices grow old quickly, but the gameplay
rocks. In the end, that's what really matters most. Well, that
and the $19.99 budget price tag. If you're a fan of the genre or
you've bought the other Greatest Hits games you're interested in
already (which retail for the same price and are typically
better), then PRYZM Chapter One: The Dark Unicorn is a
solid purchase. Just make sure you're ready to take on a