Sunday, May 1, 2011

Jigoku Meguri (Bonze Adventure)


Being that Jigoku Meguri is an old Taito platformer, the fact that its protagonist uses "bubbles" to demolish his foes should come as no surprise to anyone (though the game's designers would have us view these bubbles as "pearls"). And it's hardly shocking that most of Jigoku's stages present players with multiple paths to take, though choices are typically of the basic "high road or low road" variety. But as JM is a tour of the underworld, it's a lot darker than fellow Taito-produced action titles Mizubaku Daibouken and The New Zealand Story. It can't seem to detach itself from its cartoony kinsfolk entirely, however, delivering amusing character animations along with enemy designs that would've worked in the aforementioned "bright and colorful" games--if said games were to have featured "haunted house" stages. The soundtrack goes the lugubrious route, but some of its somber melodies remind me of Takeda Shingen's charming low-key numbers.

The juxtaposition of cartoony elements and a dark-in-theme premise actually doesn't lead to anything unusual as far as level concepts go. You have to deal with typical action-platformer hazards, such as crumbling bridges and slippery ice. You do get to board a little rowboat and paddle your way through a cavern, but the strip doesn't play out much differently from the run-and-jump-based others.

Jigoku is at its best when it forces players to use their heads in order to solve tricky leaping sequences, figure out how to reach item-stocked niches, and identify the correct routes to take through complex mazelike areas. It isn't always as ambitious as one would like it to be, and even its toughest obstacle-laden strips aren't very challenging; but the action it delivers is satisfactory even during straightforward stretches, and almost every aspect of the affair is executed in acceptable fashion, making the experience a consistently enjoyable one. Perhaps the only real downer is that it features few enemies who could even loosely be considered "bosses," and unlike Mizubaku Daibouken's heavyweights, these borderliners aren't particularly shrewd in battle.

However, the final fight does deviate from the style of combat featured to that point in an interesting way.

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