Great level designs
When young Tina becomes extremely sick and no-one can help, her older brother Tela sets out on a journey to the far end of the world where Paradise lies. There are rumours claiming that in Paradise there exist a magical water that can cure any disease. After talking to the Village Elder, Tela learns that in order to get access to Paradise, he will need to harness the powers of the five Spirits of the worlds. Luckily Luca, the Forest Spirit, dwells just east of the village.
But Tela soon discovers that all is not as it should be, Luca has been sealed away from his altar of power, and lies helpless on the ground. In addition, the Forest Emblem, which is one of the keys to open the door to Paradise is being guarded by a huge monster. Sensing trouble, Luca decides to accompany Tela to the Water World. As feared, things are not much better here. The Water Emblem is also guarded by a dangerous monster. Tela, along with his newfound Spirit friends travel across all the different worlds, trying to sort out the chaos in all of them, until they reach their final destination; Paradise with its healing waters.
Guardian of Paradise is a really wonderful game, that both looks and feels like a NES classic. Everything in the game, apart from the cut-scenes, is expertly pixeled and fluidly animated by Buster. A real treat for any pixel fanatic, such as myself. It features several different thematic worlds, each with their own characteristic monsters and matching music. The music, in particular, adds a lot of life to the game with its perfect mix of joyful jingles, tension-filled dungeon scores and dramatic music for the boss fights.
However, my personal favourite aspect in this game has to be the gameplay. As I have mentioned earlier, there are five different Spirits in the game. These grant you three magical powers each, which means that Tela has a whopping 15 different special abilities ranging from jumping and running to flame and ice attacks. All of these powers will make it possible for you to solve the many puzzles and obstacles that basically make up the game. Most puzzles will be sokoban inspired, where you need to push blocks onto switches in the floor, but often with a twist. You'll often find that the blocks can only cover a few of the switches, leaving it up to you and your powers to cover the rest. Perfect timing will be the key to solve these scenarios, and of course having the correct Spirit summoned.
Summoning Spirits is done in a rather unique way in Guardian of Paradise. Every monster in the game drops magical Spirit coins corresponding to their element, and by picking up these coins Tela summons the appropriate Spirit. This means that you will sometimes need to plan ahead, so that you will be able to jump that chasm when the time comes. There will also be times when you will need to let certain enemies stay alive, while you use one Spirit's power to solve the first part of the puzzle, then kill the last enemy and change Spirit for the second part.
In addition, while you will constantly get more life points, your magic meter never increases in the game. You are stuck with the nine points throughout the entire game. Something Buster has planned out way too well. Very often, Buster's sadistical side gets the better of him, and you find yourself forced to get everything right down to the last point of magic in order to solve a puzzle. There are even some places where you need to use all your magic points to solve part of the puzzle, while being under direct attack, as killing the enemies first would leave you at a loss gasping for that last precious amount of Spirit coins to complete the puzzle. Some puzzles also features Hint Mints. These are plants that you will need to grow with your Forest Spirit, and then gives you hints about the dilemma at hand. If you get stuck, these might just give you the revelation you need.
When that is said, the levels are masterfully created. They keep you on your toes, and your mind is constantly racing trying to solve the current problem in your way. You will need to use every power in your arsenal several times to progress the story. The different bosses in the game fits nicely in, and some of them will definately be a handful for the unprepared.
So, what could possible go wrong with a game like this? Sadly, there is one thing that pulls this game down from a perfect five point score. Bugs. The game's readme file tells you to close any and all other programs that you have running, and you would do well to listen to this warning. Also, you should save often. Luckily this is not a problem, as you can save the game anytime and anywhere you please. For some reason the game sometimes semi-freezes. I say semi-freezes, due to the fact that all the buttons work, and you can exit the game by the standard means (pressing Esc twice), yet the actual screen refuses to continue. I had this happen a couple of times, but every time it would be solved by loading a game, and do the scene again. Every time, but once. My first freeze encounter. When you have completed both the Forest and Water Worlds, you will find yourself in the desert that makes up Wind World. Here you will have to enter an underground temple by inserting two slabs into a pillar. This is not the pillar located left of the Archeologist, but the second such pillar. The game would freeze when I went to look at that pillar, forcing me to start the game over from the beginning (I had not saved the game up to that point). Needless to say, I was pretty annoyed at that. Once I managed to get all the way back, I saved the game, and tried again. However, no matter how many times I re-loaded the game, it would continue to freeze at that exact point; just as I looked at the emtpy pillar.
Luckily there is a way to get past it. What you need to do is to first go to both the left and right of the temple and collect the slabs first. Then you can look at the pillar and insert the slabs, without the game freezing. I would still recommend saving first, though. Save often, because you never know when something bad might sneak up on you.
In any case, this is more an annoyance than anything else, as it can be easily bypassed by the player, and I only had the game freeze a total of three places throughout the entire game. I debated how much I should detract from the overall score due to this, and I ended up giving the game a total of four and a half points. It is an excellent game well worth playing, and you quickly forget about the semi-freezing once the problem is over, and you start enjoy the addictive gameplay again.
Buster has done it again. A brilliant game well worth downloading!
Review by: Tom Henrik
Safe for all ages
16B colours videocard