Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fushigi no Yume no Alice (Alice in Wonderdream)


With horrid controls and a fantasy-land setting that belies its devilishly unforgiving nature, Wonderdream reminded me at once of the Genesis dud Fantasia. Fantasia's own creators ultimately admitted that their game was a regrettable, unfinished rush job, an abomination so clunky and unpolished that players couldn't help but feel they were fighting a losing battle as they haplessly bumbled into one beating after another. Whether Face had neither the time nor the resources to shape Wonderdream into something playable or simply were content to release what they might've proclaimed a "high-level challenge" is something we may never know, but their "efforts" led to a debacle that brought back that "losing battle" feeling for me. Alice is a stumbling, incompetent heroine who struggles to perform even the basic mascot-platformer bounce-on-their-heads technique, resorts to a terribly weak and silly-in-concept "howl attack," and slides about a land that contains no shortage of thin columns and bottomless pits.

While Wonderdream's dreadful gameplay reminded me of fear-inducing Fantasia, the environments it had me explore called to mind a number of superior 16-bit titles. Faussete Amour's pastel-shaded countryside, The Legendary Axe's log-laden rapids, Rastan Saga II's distant woodland structures, Chiki Chiki Boy's dense jungle, and Castle of Illusion's cake-and-candy realm all have drab counterparts here. (Castle even lends clownish foes to Face's atrocity.)

The allusions might as well have been dashed completely, as, ironically enough, you'll spend a great deal of time traveling through a shadow-blotted rendition of the Wonderdream realm, the darkness brought on by a magic spell that allows you to spot otherwise-invisible goodies. Why Face couldn't simply have placed these very-typical items out in the open (but perhaps in hard-to-reach locations) rather than resorting to this "secrets in the dark" nonsense is yet another mystery that will likely go unsolved.

Solving the game itself actually shouldn't be beyond the capabilities of most decent players; incantations that grant Alice temporary invulnerability and super-human leaping ability make even the toughest boards mere poorly designed formalities; and while the gameplay is anything but smooth, the journey itself is nothing if not short. Despite the low number of levels they created for players to blunder through, Face chose to recycle lame-the-first-time-around ghost and crocodile mini-bosses across multiple sub-levels. Major foes don't muck around: they typically flood the screen with bouncing baubles of peril as Alice attempts to fight back sans her spell-casting ability.

Were someone to request a few words on positive elements that Wonderdream brings to the table, I'm afraid I would be unable to deliver any. Actually, its level-two tune is quite pleasing to my ear. That one track is all I like about it, aside from the alluded-to-earlier brevity of the unenjoyable quest it asks players to undertake.

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