Pandemonium snuck under the radars of most gamers back in 1996, when it was originally released on the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn. Developed by the good people at Crystal Dynamics, Pandemonium was a fun, quirky, and humorous platformer. While Pandemonium may not have been as widely known as the Tomb Raiders and Crash Bandicoots in its day, it has a chance at winning over a few N-Gage owners with its fun (if not particularly deep) platforming action.
It is arguable whether Pandemonium is a true 3D game because the backgrounds and character models are three-dimensional, but the character's movements are restricted to a 2D path. In other words, players can only move their character left or right (not into the foreground or background), but the camera pans around the twists and turns of the levels to give the game the appearance of 3D. If Pandemonium focused on expansive exploration I would have been disappointed in this "on-rails" style of gameplay, instead I think it works very well with its platform-centric level designs.
Developers Ideaworks 3D have included two-player racing, and N-Gage Arena support in Pandemonium. Players are able to access tips and strategies from the Arena, as well as compete against gamers from around the globe in the fun Shadow Racing mode. Shadow Racing is where people can race each other's recorded level times (like wireless two-player racing), and post their score for the rest of the world to see and admire. The online Shadow Racing mode is similar to Tomb Raider's, but is more fun because of Pandemonium's easier controls and quicker pace. Pandemonium serves as a glimpse at the slick possibilities of online enabled mobile games.
Pandemonium is all about jumping. The satisfaction of jumping on an enemy's head, the excitement of flying high through the air off a springy platform, and the suspense of keeping your balance as you jump from a wavering cliff. It may be a simple pleasure in the world of videogames, but a timeless and invigorating one. Although the jumping action is fun it certainly isn't without its flaws.
More times than I'd like, I found myself at the ledge of a cliff without any indication that it would lead me to a bounty of treasure, or an untimely demise. Such short sightedness is common throughout Pandemonium, from enemies that spring onto the screen without any warning, to its numerous blind leaps of faith. Occasionally a string of treasures guides you to safe landing, but I can't help but feel a look/scroll feature or a broader perspective would have improved the game (but not without sacrificing the nice up-close visuals).
Players are given the option to choose from two different characters in Pandemonium, one is useful and the other is useless. Nikki, the acrobatic redhead has the indispensable ability to perform a double jump, and Fargus, a jester in red Converse All-Stars can attack enemies with a weird cartwheel move that is just plain unnecessary. Trust me, stick with Nikki; her high-flying jumps make the game less frustrating and alot more fun.
Pandemonium is set against some of the nicest 3D backgrounds you will see on the N-Gage. There is a wide range of locations, from forests to deserts, to airships, to caverns, all are vividly colored and impressively rendered. Characters have fluid animations that feature them running, jumping, sliding, and even conveying boredom when the player leaves them idle. Framerate slows down in areas where there is bustling activity, but it doesn't become a nagging nuisance that interferes with gameplay. Pandemonium delivers near PlayStation quality graphics on par with Tony Hawk and Tomb Raider.
While Pandemonium is never short on annoying sound effects, it has no soundtrack. Space limitations on the game card may have prevented developers Ideaworks 3D from including the original soundtrack to Pandemonium, but I would much rather have had a simple soundtrack as opposed to the numerous sound effects. Each jump is punctuated with a cheesy "boing", and enemies constantly drudge through stages with an initially funny but quickly annoying "duh" sound.
Pandemonium has its shining moments when it comes to fun, reflex driven jumping and fun N-Gage Arena play, but is harbored by its limited field of vision. It takes advantage of the N- Gage's graphical capabilities with its array of colorful levels, but left me unsatisfied in the audio department. Pandemonium would be a good choice for hardcore platforming fanatics looking for a little mindless but fun jumping action, but warrants a trial from others.