Pandemonium Hands-On Impressions

Crystal Dynamics' old polygonal platform game is being prepped for release on the N-Gage, and we've got details on how it's looking so far.

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Originally released on the PlayStation back in 1996, Pandemonium was one of the first "2D/3D" platform games. While it used polygonal graphics to display its colorful characters and worlds, the game still had the same style of control that you'd expect from a 2D side-scroller. Now, around seven years after the game's original release, this forgotten series is making its way to Nokia's new cell phone game system, the N-Gage.

Pandemonium lets you play as two characters with slightly different abilities. Nikki can execute a double jump, and Fargus can unleash a spinning cartwheel attack. Both characters can jump on enemies to defeat them, as well. The game's levels take you through a series of castles and various outdoor environments, and the game usually runs at a tolerable frame rate. There are still a few rough spots where the game runs unacceptably slow, but hopefully this problem will be fixed before the game's October debut.

The game's sound and presentation are very no-frills. The audio consists mostly of the "boing" of your jumps and the ring of your character collecting coins. The game's story is conveyed through a couple of dull pages of scrolling text at the beginning of your adventure.

The game's multiplayer mode lets you play a few different ways. Via the N-Gage's wireless Bluetooth connection, you can play two-player races through the game's levels. Using the GPRS connectivity of the unit's cell phone capabilities, you can connect to what Nokia is calling the "N-Gage Arena" to download and race against other players' fastest times. Like in a console racing game's ghost mode, you'll see a shadowy character on the screen that represents your opponent. The coolest feature of the game is that it has a pretty nice score and ranking board that lets you see how you stack up against the other racers. You'll gain points for a win but lose points if you fail to beat the time of the player you challenge. At the end of a match, you can send a text message to the opposing player to taunt or admire the player's performance. These messages pop up when you log in, and we've already received a couple of curse-filled missives from the players we've beaten. Unfortunately, the game seems to have no built-in penalty for turning off the N-Gage midrace, so any obvious losses can be avoided by a little unscrupulous activity.

We'll have more on Pandemonium for the N-Gage as it approaches its early-October release date.

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