Year released: 1988
Company: Hudson Soft
As far as I can tell, an adventure game's first and predominant goal is to get the player involved in the atmosphere. It doesn't really matter where your spaceship blasts off to or what crime boss your protagonist aims to put behind bars, but if a game uses a fantasy setting, the designers absolutely have to get their audience sucked into the game. If they succeed, it enhances the experience and makes players more willing to stick with the game to the end. If they fail, you probably won't follow through on many of your campaigns. Faxanadu, as hard as it tries, falls well short of the expected level of player interaction, and the whole game suffers for it.
The game starts with you as a lone traveler returning home after a "long journey". Something seems amiss, though, and trouble is especially evident as you're accosted on the way to the king. The initial conflict has to do with the Elven springs having stopped, and it's your job to get the springs back into working order again. After that, it's something about dwarves and a meteorite - I never really got a whole lot further than that.
And therein lies the problem: I have officially given up on this game. After the fountains are restarted, there are almost no clues as to where to go next, or what to do when you get there. I managed to get to the second area and pick up a pendant in one of the dungeons, but nobody's telling me where to go with it or what I need it for in the first place. There is one possibility I haven't checked out yet - there's one ladder out of reach if you don't have Wing Boots - but they're two towns away and I seriously can't be bothered at this point.
Technically, this game could really use some polish. First off, I seriously hope you like brown and sea green - that's all you're gonna be looking at in this game. The townspeople themselves, although detailed and varied, do look awful flaky when they speak, as they tend to blink more than they move their mouths. Speaking of blinking, that's exactly what you don't do when you take a hit. There is a period of invincibility, but there's no way to know when it's stopped. Credit is due, however, for depicting the armor and shield that the hero is using. At the beginning, he's a guy in a tunic; at the end, he's decked out in full knight gear.
There are a couple good musical tunes in this game, and they serve to be the game's real saving grace. The music to the first town is a nice mid-tempo deal that has a feel of jadedness. When you get out in the open, the music you hear is actually pretty good, and the tower music works pretty nicely as well. Some of the themes employ a pretty unfavorable tactic, though: using the bass track as the harmony. I admire the thought, but the triangle wave has no business being anywhere above middle C.
One of the most interesting things about this game is the way it handles. Rather than using an auxiliary button to run, your protagonist starts walking in one direction and soon works his way up to a bit of a trot. Does it work? Kinda. It definitely takes some getting used to, but jumping isn't as bad as I once thought it was (although I do have some peeves in this arena), and by and large the hit detection and response is accurate. They could've come up with a better way to use items, though, and I see no reason why this guy can't duck.
Challenge-wise, I really can't say a whole lot, since I surrendered about halfway through this game, but if the first half is any indication, you should expect the game to get easier as you progress. I found myself having a very hard time in the early going with a dinky little knife and no armor, but once I got the longsword and a decent suit of armor, I was having no trouble at all. I was taking a lot of hits, but there was so much food around that it didn't really matter. The real challenge, though, is just what I explained above: figuring out the next item on your itinerary.
If you're willing to stop playing at the fountains, Faxanadu is playable enough. The beginnings of a feud between the Elves and the Dwarves was an interesting idea that I would really love to have seen developed. It never goes anywhere, though, and as a result the second part of the game feels as if it was kinda stapled unceremoniously to the game. Maybe things do pick up later on, but as far as I'm concerned I've had enough with this game.
Don't get me wrong: Faxanadu is a fun game to play... for about an hour and a half. There just isn't anything to hold my interest longer than that, and that leaves this game in a pretty weak position.
|Play Control: ||
|Technical Score: 12
|Aesthetic Score: 11
|Overall Score: 55%|