Pryzm: The Dark Unicorn Review
It's not a typo in the first paragraph -seriously, a troll and a unicorn team up because the world is being taken over by plants that in turn take over the villagers turning them into monsters that are fond of killing. Pryzm is a unicorn that for some reason or another is the only one that can save the world, so she goes off to kill bad guys. For whatever reason, the trolls don't trust the unicorns - you know how the unicorns can be, so the troll has to ride on her back. This means she can't fly and apparently makes her controls pathetic as well, but there's nothing you can do about it. To save the world you've got to kill plants and then set the villagers free by killing them so they aren't monsters. It's a horrible premise for a game, and it's a horrible game, so it's a match made in heaven.
Pryzm all comes together in one spectacularly bad package when you throw in the stunningly bad gameplay. The controls are arranged in an interesting manner, but they are extremely poor when actually applied to the game. The left analog stick moves your little horsy around, and the right stick lets your troll swing his magic stick thing around to kill bad guys. Each character can cast some uninteresting spells and Pryzm can do a charge attack that is for some reason is mapped to L2. All the controls are a moot point because once you get in combat you find yourself flailing about trying to find the bad guy and then repeating the same attacks over and over again.
The level structure and objectives that you must accomplish on your quest do nothing to help this game play any better. The goal of the game is to brin the sacred flowers that are now poisonous back to their original state by attacking the monsters that protect them and then shooting the flowers until they are back to normal. Lame platforming elements that are a challenge only because of the controls and camera don't help matters much either. It's amazing that such boring and tedious objectives are the purpose of the entire game, but then again, after seeing everything else that's gone so wrong here, it's not too shocking.
Pryzm's graphics are as boring and drab as anything seen on the PlayStation 2 to date. Granted, the levels are huge -- but huge, ugly levels are still ugly. Textures are blurry and repetitive, and there's very little scenery to distinguish one area of a level from another. Killing an evil plant only raises a couple of little flowers out of the ground, making the level just as heinous as it was before you "saved" it. One can't help but wonder why you've got to save such an ugly inhospitable place to start with.
The camera system is horrible, and it is made worse by the unwieldy control scheme, which will be touched upon later. Basically, the camera follows the not-so-dynamic duo around, swinging rapidly to stay behind if you make a quick turn. This often sends the camera behind walls, through walls, or some other position that's not conducive to gameplay. Since the main method of killing the creatures is to run around them slashing at them, the camera ends up spinning around like it's caught in a tornado. There's also no way to look behind you to see the lame and quite stupid creatures chasing after you.
Other visual treats are: creatures that don't fly yet somehow levitate off the ground and get stuck in walls, pop-up, clipping, poor draw distances, FMV sequences that are poor in both visual appeal and content, and lava flows that are solid as the ground but are lava because someone slapped a lava texture on them. The only good thing Pryzm's got going for it are the lighting and particle effects when you use magic, but even they aren't that wonderful.
It doesn't get much better than the "witty" banter between your little troll and your unicorn. They've got two lame insults that they hurl back and forth about the troll being sore from riding and Pryzm saying how heavy he is. It's painful to hear these "insults" the first time, much less 500 times before the game is over or you hurl yourself out a window.
The music has flashes where it's not bad, but then quickly repeats itself endlessly as you scramble for the mute button. Voice-acting achieves the same low standard as the rest of the game with what sounds like a couple programmers reading the script that their children got together to write.
The game is only made difficult because it's so hard to force yourself to keep playing the boring levels and same objectives over and over again. There's absolutely no replay value since you're not likely to even want to touch again it to trade it in, much less play it again. It's only $20, but you'd be hard pressed to spend $20 any more poorly if you just closed your eyes and picked a random game off the shelves.
I almost forgot, a short comic printed in the back of an instruction manual does not count as a free collector's comic. You've got to be kidding me. Be afraid, be very afraid.
6/26/2004 Aaron Thomas