Guardian of Darkness, The Download (1999 Puzzle Game)

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Cryo Interactive, the company whose goal is "to bring the best in French Creativity to the world" has already released a bundle of French games, none of which have yet really made it as a classic, but all of them full with French originality for a refreshing change from the norm. "The Guardian Of Darkness" is, like most games from Cryo Interactive, bursting with French originality.

The Storyline seems to be rather well thought out and complicated. It is rather complex, but I will try and briefly describe it in the best manner I can. First of all, there is the earth as we know it, then there is "The Beyond", some place that is never really described at all. In this "Beyond" there are entities (Ghosts and Phantoms and the like). Now sometimes one of these entities escapes from the Beyond, through "The Gate" into our world, earth. Then these entities do bad things like killing people or just making a nuisance of themselves. You, being the Gatekeeper, have to answer calls of supernatural occurrences, seek out the entity creating them, and solve the problem. That's the basic gist of it.

The graphics in the game are quite good. The main character, resembling a monk, is well animated and the spells, he uses, have some really cool effects. The rooms and scenery all look quite good too, and the other characters are also full 3D models. The downside is that these other characters look rather like a Mr. PotatoHead sort of affair, with the head never seeming to match with the body.

The sound is rather average. The spells you cast all have appropriate little mystical effects and your attacking spells all have the whiz bang noises you would expect. The speech is decidedly average with characters sounding rather boring and dull, and on my Sound Blaster Ensonique I experienced continual sound glitching after every spoken line, it wasn't bad, just a bit irritating.

As I stated before, this game is rather original. So upon starting out in your home base (Tenedral) your mentor, an older Guardian, will advise you on the effects of your spells and other useful information and you will have to get accustomed to your controls and spells. Your character moves around quite normally, but strafing is done in quite a cool way. He sort of "Ghosts" a meter to the left or right, which looks nice and turns out to be just as useful as a sidestep. One thing I noticed immediately, is that your character can walk and run forward and backward, and that's it. He cannot jump, he cannot go down stairs, instead he's just instantly transferred to wherever it leads (stairs or what not), and he cannot do a normal sidestep. This is not really a bad thing, but it shows the limitations of the engine.

Like any game, there will be plenty of baddies (in this case mainly ghosts) to take out. There are actually only a few offensive spells to take out these bad guys with. In the first few missions (there are 10 in total) you will only have the "Positive Charge" as a real offensive spell, you can upgrade this throughout the game though, looking better by the upgrade. There are two types of spells, Warrior and Medium spells. Medium spells are spells like "Trance", "see Energy", "see Spirit" and "Exorcism". These are spells that need some time and only need to be used once or twice per mission, if at all, you cannot upgrade these. The Warrior spells contain "Positive Charge", "Erase Tendril", "Create Gateway", "Heal" and the like. There doesn't seem to be many defensive spells at all, which is a pity, because many times I wished for *something* to beef up my defenses.

Entering the first mission, the Museum, you will have to follow the instructions of your mentor if you want to successfully complete the mission. Stumbling across another person, he tells you nothing in particular, but refers you to somebody else. You find the referred person, who gives you a hint as to where you should be looking for "clue's". Wandering around you find a clue, which can range to anything from a cook book to a vase, something similar which seems to have no relevance to your mission at all. The headquarters will handily contact you and tell you anything they have discovered from the clue's you picked up leaving you no option to try and examine the item for yourself and draw your own conclusions. Basically its an adventure element of finding items, giving them to other people, getting hints, being able to suddenly access previously inaccessible areas by handing in clues and so on.

Now, talking to people consists of walking up to them and patiently waiting for them to stop babbling useless comments and tell you something useful. The "hints" these characters give you are subtly repeat endlessly just to put all of you gamers, who might be seriously sight and hearing impaired, on the right track. Now, to continue on, once you have collected some items and talked to some people in the first mission, you will start seeing some action. By casting the "See Energy" spell, all the "Tendrils" will become visible to you. Tendrils look like colored blobs of gooey stuff on the walls with a mouth and big teeth. Oh, and they shoot out small balls of....stuff....that hurts you. These tendrils signify the presence of an entity's power in that room. Spooky stuff. Now, you can try an exercise in utter futility and try to waste all these evil looking things with the "Remove Tendrils" spell, or you can ignore all of the buggers and continue on with your mission.

I won't say anything more about the first mission, except that it's only going to get weirder. Up to this point where you enter a small room, and find yourself facing a floating cheeseburger, a carton of cold milk, and a frozen chicken. This isn't your ordinary McDonald's pathetic little cheeseburger, this is your entity empowered almighty, floating around like a streak of lightning, firing painful energy things at you while you gawp and die, sort of cheeseburger. It's rather funny for a little while, until you start to notice it's rather impossible to kill three of these almighty food products in one cramped room. The main part of the game is the fighting. Utilizing your one offensive spell, (in the beginning at least) "The Positive Charge", the general tactic of killing bad guys is to first run into a room, pray there is no bad guy, get disappointed and most likely get killed. Being a patient and persistent person of course, you merrily reload your game (you have, of course, remembered to save often) and prepare yourself better to kill your opponent, which is usually restricted to one at the time. The main strategy is to equip yourself with your Positive Charge, run in, shoot at the ghost, strafe around to evade any retaliation shots, and repeat. You could of course use hand grenades (a bit fiddly to use) or a big bad PK Gun if you are equipped with one, or any other weapon you might have. Combat can also be rather frustrating at times when you are fighting in a small area, leaving you almost no room to avoid return fire. Or perhaps just a medium-small area with quite a few objects scattered about, making it very hard to hit your opponent (although they seem to have no trouble hitting YOU)

The general layout of the missions is quite good. Every mission, there's a completely different theme to it, Museum, Brewery, Fast Food Cafe, and many more. The atmosphere this game creates is very nicely done, and you'll find yourself immersed in the plot of the current mission at times, which is a rare occurrence with games these days. The game keeps this up well and doesn't slack off or play all its cards in the first mission, as some games do.

All together then, it makes for quite a fun game. Of course, you have to be able to adapt yourself to a new, original game. This game could be described as a Tomb Raider game with atmosphere, although not quite as good. You see, for all the originality it can muster, and all the graphics, it can still get rather frustrating and a bit dull. Some parts of the game might be quite impossible to pass, whilst others are easier. The difficulty level sometimes fluctuates, which can leave you in frustrating shambles as you wonder where on earth that difficulty curve has flown off to. It's tough when you're killing ghosts who, however much you upgrade your spells, still seem far to powerful to kill. Another thing which might lead you to boredom is the fact that almost all of the bad guys are ghosts in different shapes, although there are sometimes different enemies (the mighty Cheeseburger comes to mind) there is still not enough variety. Of course, once you find your long searched for key, you can think of what the imagination of these French programmers could have dreamed up for you in the next area. There is no multiplayer in this game, which is understandable seeing as you would probably all just end of strafing around the place firing X level Positive Charges at each other. A good attempt then, but it falls short of the mark.


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