KISS: Psycho Circus
In order to kill the 8 billion monsters standing between you and the Nightmare Child, there are 12 different weapons available to use. Unfortunately, only 6 of these are found within any one realm, meaning that most of the time you'll be wishing you had a little more firepower to choose from. The four melee weapons in the game are surprisingly useful and fun, which should teach FPS game designers once and for all not to include melee weapons which are purposely hard to control. A certain "J. Romero" should keep that in mind next time around& no wait, that's too obvious. Let's just call him "John R."
The four main weapons which are common across the 4 episodes are the "Zero Cannon," "Magma Cannon," "Windblade," and "Scourge," which can be loosely translated into "machinegun," "shotgun," "rocket launcher" and "railgun." The four weapons are pretty well-balanced, although I found myself almost never using the Scourge, an Indiana Jones-style whip which was just a little too unwieldy for me (note to self: learn to aim). Unfortunately, the strategy behind the different weapons was diminished by the fact that I could never figure out just what the hell each type of ammo box was supposed to represent. Let's have a side-by-side comparison of two games:
Notice that the box of ammunition is clearly marked "Shells," which are generally used in shotguns. Its purpose and function are quite obvious.
The floating sparkly purple thing is for& er& uh& fuck it, just try and pick it up.
There are quite a few levels to be found in Psycho Circus, with something above 45 in total. While this certainly sounds like a lot, after having just finished Deus Ex (which should be classified as a controlled substance and taxed heavily by the government), I found it depressingly short. Levels can be as large and numerous as you want, but when you're running through them at 75 MPH shooting 60 rockets at everything that moves, they tend to go by quite fast. To break up the action, there are numerous in-game cutscenes, where the camera flies around to show the player a glimpse of everything from a new monster he's going to encounter, to an obstacle in his path, to his brand new platform boots. While sparse use of cutscenes is fine, the level designers went overboard at times with the camera work, as if they were budding Roman Polanksis without the statutory rape and exile part (at least in two cases).
The game's puzzles are nearly nonexistent, consisting for the most part of "where's the key?" and "how do I get onto that ledge?" However, the game does have its share of - all together now - JUMPING PUZZLES. Especially in some of the early Earth Realm levels, the player is forced to jump over tiny platforms hovering above bottomless pits, a task which is not helped by being shot at by approximately 18 trillion monsters and the fact that the controls are about as tight as Newt Gingrich's abs. You will find yourself falling to your depth quite often, an experience not helped by the player's death moans, most of which sound as if he's trying to pass a gallstone the size of my fist.
On that note, the audio in this game is sadly lacking. The game's music, which for the most part consists of generic rock-n-roll styled tunes, is very bland and unmemorable; even more so than the KISS songs sporadically found throughout the levels. The game uses DirectMusic, which allows the intensity and tempo to adjust itself to match the onscreen action. However, when none of the music is good, it doesn't help the experience any. The game's sounds effects are decent but not inspiring, and while the voiceovers for the old gypsy woman are good, the players' voices are not, sounding like they desperately needed a better actor.