Pandemonium! really takes off in the second half.
In this PlayStation adaptation, two bumbling, amateur wizards miscast a spell that brings chaos upon their land. You must guide them across the kingdom to restore order and lay to rest the Pandemonium! they have unleashed. With this premise, the designers are allowed a great deal of latitude in their choice of successive environments and monsters, making Pandemonium! a monumental adventure. While the point is not always clear, the gaming is rich with variety and pulls you forward with a curiosity to see what will come next. There are 18 levels, all fairly unique, as well as two final rounds with nefarious bosses Shroom Lord and Goon Honcho.
At heart a basic 2-D side-scrolling platform jumper, Pandemonium employs a little 3-D technology to give the game a more modern feel. The first six levels hold pretty true to the Dungeon Master's guide standard: forests, caves, acid pools, roving thugs, and poisonous insects provide the topography. There is treasure everywhere, allowing you to earn bonus lives when you collect enough coins. Opponents are picked off when you either pounce on their heads or power up with a formidable fireball and hurl it at the meddlesome beasts. As the game progresses it becomes two-tiered, with a more rewarding upper platform that may be accessed via springboard or escalator. In one of the more overtly narcotic levels, Fungus Grotto, you bound across the tops of gigantic mushrooms and are eventually transformed into a frog. It is the more sinister aspects, like mad hatter toads and killer fungi, that elevate the game from a mere bad trip to a nightmare worthy of Lewis Carroll.
Pandemonium! really takes off in the second half when the action moves from the interior landscapes of caves and castles out into fierce deserts and infested forests. New creatures and obstacles are provided at a refreshing rate and the character morphing kicks into Dada. When you finally earn your wings as a dragon, the whole axis of the game shifts from horizontal to vertical, allowing you to fly through an extended field of play. In this fashion the action moves in a steady line of ascension from its cavernous beginning to a spectacular showdown at the Storm Temple in the sky.
Perhaps Pandemonium!'s greatest achievement is that it overcomes a cliche-ridden idiom through the sheer force of its design. The graphics are exceptionally rendered and crisp, giving Pandemonium! an appeal that may extend beyond the standard platform-jumping demographic. Some will take exception to the Windham Hill cum Jethro Tull score and some creepy initial animations, but few will deny the quality of the game itself.