Review by TheSpelunker
A dull action game for the Sega Genesis
Gods is a game that is loosely based on Greek mythology. In it you play a man that wants immortality, but because the gods do not give charitable immortality you must complete trials before you achieve it. The game's format is action, but you will find, if indeed the game can motivate you to care, that it has some eclectic twists that distinguish it. It also has many problems. One is that in a few different ways it acts too severely towards the player. Among other things, the controls are an issue, often being unresponsive when you need them. Secondly, the designers did not actively capitalize on the game's singularity, which as I said does exist. The game feels like a dime-store novelty. In another designer's hands, indeed, it could excel, but I am no artist and certainly not a programmer. Overall, it is a unique experience, but for mythology I would as soon read a book or watch a movie. You do not need to look far for a dull action game.
The game is viewed in a 2-D perspective. As you jump up and down and move side-to-side it can scroll horizontally and vertically. Your goal in it is the completion of four different levels, each of which, paradoxically, contains three worlds. That is 4*3=12 worlds, and a guardian protects the third and final world in each level. To complete a world you must find a particularly large and golden key that opens the final door inside. Other keys, and for that matter, other locked doors and even locked treasure chests also exist. You can seek these things out as well. The predicament in the game, beside traps, is that monsters rush and appear from auroras of light beside you, and you have to zap them quickly (you can throw knives, fireballs, spears, axes, maces, and homing spiked-balls, depending how far in the game you are). Doing so, which almost means knowing where a monster will appear or mimicing a tank with too much ammunition, is very difficult without incurring damage. Furthermore you must climb ladders, which have an initial lawlessness about them, and futz with unresponsive controls, which do not improve although for comfort they remain less deadly than falling off of a ladder. The game demands impossible shows of reflex, and your health bar appears big but really isn't, compounding the problem.
After you pass the main menu, the first level 'The City' springs up, which as with the other levels has three worlds that you must beat before you can progress. Pillars, arched windows, and wooden ladders (each level has a different variety of ladder) decorate the level. You find in the first world the exit key behind a door, which takes you to the second world. However, rather than take the long way, a shortcut exists to this key that offers bonus points and currency (in 1-3 you find a shop where you can spend your currency on weapons). Brown monsters stuck in handstands try to stop you, and you meet flying creatures half-way through, with smarter varieties in 1-2. The second level takes you to a temple, which ought to be cool, but it begins a disappointing trend in the game, being similar to the first level. Square windows replace the arched windows, and the ladders become metal rather than wood; but the corridors are geometrically the same as level one's. Predictably you must find keys and so forth here and open the exit to each of the three worlds, but doing so, commendably, for the game at least, is a bit harder than in level one. Also, with respect to these first two levels, I might, for the mythologically-inclined, add that Talos the golem that guarded the end of 1-3 is more mythologically suitable than the dragon in 2-3; if this dragon is mythological, it must be Python--but dragons were a trifling occurrence in Greek mythology at any rate.
Level three is the labyrinth, which fits (Talos the golem was named after Daedalus', who built the labyrinth's, nephew), and it has the obvious boss. The problem with level three is that it resembles the past six worlds, has the same windows as the temple, and the ladders don't appear differently. This is a trend that appeared in level two and continues when you enter level four. The monsters aren't rehashed (for those only looking at surface trends, the game has just enough variety to forgive repetition); but everything is geometerically similar, and the objectives are unsurprising. As you proceed the feeling that certain levels have an inch-thick 'skin' over them, which if you peeled it off you perhaps would not be entirely surprised on finding yourself at the start of level one, is not a foreign one. The final level shows this the strongest; the last boss, which may be one of Typhos' heads, is cool, but you can't look at it and excuse the stuff that came before it, which was already done to death.
So Gods has some repetition. I won't entirely blast it, because it does offset this in two slight but noteworthy ways. For you can visit shops in the game and buy items, and levels have snappy secrets in them that are fun. In the game's favor I found myself stumped by one clever scenario, where I had to trick a 'thief monster' into getting an inaccessible key and bringing it to me. I thought that the trick was a bug at first, and it seemed like it but was neat. Each level's having secrets gives the game durability. Accessing some secrets takes longer, but finding these tougher ones makes you feel clever. However, if ignoring secrets is what you want, some levels have shortcuts, although finding all of the secrets in a level is very fulfilling (bonus items, treasure rooms, locked chests, etc.) By the fourth level you can even get a familiar, which hovers overhead for a bit and shoots when you do. You can also buy different weapons from shops, which are usually found at a level's end, and combine them for extra damage, although getting the best secondary and primary weapons is your main goal.
Two things that drag Gods down, as I have already hinted, are the graphics and sound, which do not evolve as they should. When you enter new levels, you usually expect cooler things, but Gods can be dull about this. The gameplay is partly at fault, but the graphics, which at length show the similarities between levels, can't escape the blame. For example, the worlds and levels could be different, but instead all of their corridors have the same dimensions; even when you are on the exterior of 'The City' level you don't feel as if you are. The progression of levels goes downhill after the first. By the fourth level, which as the last level should be the neatest, you feel thorough disappointment. The sound isn't evolving,, etc. Finally, I dislike how so much of the game is orange and blue. The items are all like this and the worlds also. Seeing a green monster should not mean celebration when you are playing a Genesis game.
Momentary self-indulgence permitted, I recently finished The Odyssey, which was a good book; I enjoy how mythology can tell an epic story and wind along tangents and backstories as it does so. A rich world with plenty of detail helps. When a game like Gods tries to use this literary world as a platform for unique ideas, the possibilities are inspiring, and in a way Gods does have its own backstories and tangents (all of the secrets that you can find). However, the designers The Bitmap Brothers didn't use everything that they had at hand. They use very singular methods; I give them that, and Gods is a unique puzzle/platformer/shooter-type game, so unique that it's like Socrates showing up at prom night. What hurts the Bitmap Brothers is that they didn't take the initiative when they could and develop the game further. I could easily see Gods being the 'Sonic-for-intellectuals' or something. I took the time and saw the potential, but the game being severe, unfriendly, and unchanging, let me down.
Rating: 2.5 - Playable
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