If Monty Python and the Holy Grail taught us anything, it's that you never build a castle in a swamp. It sinks. Sure the third time it burnt to the ground and then sunk, and maybe you even get lucky and the last one stays up, but the fact is, you built your home on a shoddy foundation. Page Chronica is a castle built in a swamp.
Psycologist: Imagine being able to only walk and hop. You know how to run, but the ability to run is locked in your mind behind a barrier made of words. Same with jumping, you know how to jump, hell you know how to kick off in the air like some mad double jumping fool, but it's also locked behind a barrier.
Brian: Ok... I'm not sure where you're going with this, but I'll play along. Ok, so I have barriers in my head that prevent me from running and jumping. How do I unlock the barriers?
P: You have to spell words.
B: Like on a sheet of paper? What the hell kind of barrier is this?
P: Never mind that. No, not on a sheet of paper. All around us, floating in the void, are letters, a mystical word soup, so to speak. Take your letters from there and make your words. And then jump.
B: Um.. word soup huh. Well, what do I-
P: You're being timed, by the way.
B: Timed, is this a test or-
P: Oh and shot at. Did I mention you were being shot at? Did you activate your double jump yet?
B: Wait, what? Shot at? I'm still checking the word soup.
P: You should hurry up. Times ticking and these enemies won't kill themselves. I did tell you that you get to shoot back too, right? And that those words unlock the barrier for your weapons as well.
B: Hold on. So I have to run, jump, and shoot, and apparently kill things, but I can't do any one of those things until I spell a word, locked in some mystical word soup, while a timer is ticking down?
P: Oh, you're double jump barrier is back.
B: That's on a timer too. WTF! I am out of here. Keep the money, just let me leave.
P: You need to shoot the door lock in order to open the door. Which means you need to spell a word to activate your ability to shoot. Please do so now.
B: Is this a doctor's visit or a nightmare? How is this helping with my anxiety?!?
P: You're being timed.
You'll notice scattered throughout the review are screen shots of what could be any number of fantasy-style PS1 games. They're not. This is brand new, released on the PS3 on 12/4/2012. I'll let them speak for themselves.
Page Chronica commits the cardinal platforming sin. It knowingly robs you of momentum, the very life blood of platformers from Mario to Meatboy. You have to stop moving to spell a word. You have to stop pushing forward, stop the timing of jumps, the dodging of dangers, the luck of the moment, to spell a W-O-R-D. Take away the muddy graphics, take away the abysmal soundtrack, take away boss battles with a bean stalk giant armed with floral-homing-missile-toe-fungus, and at it's core, at that stage just beyond concept, this game is simply, fundamentally, broken.
This betrayal of basic mechanics robs the platforming of anything even resembling fun. There is no reason, absolutely no reason, why platforming basics like movement and jumping, skills which are needed to even begin to play this game competently, are locked behind a mechanic that stops my forward momentum and is set on a timer. I am already having to worry about making complex maneuvers, I don't need to add “can I jump or shoot the monster in front of me, or do I need to stop all forward progress and spell something?” tacked on to absolutely everything I do.
Oh and did I mention you were being timed? That every level has a timer, and that timer is always running. Even when the world around you has slowed to a crawl, because that's what it does when you enter the mystical word soup, that timer keeps ticking away. Even when a boss who has an move that can leave you unable to attack or move for upwards of 10 seconds. Even when that boss can randomly, and repeatedly use that move, forcing you to try and scrape together enough time from the already dwindling 5 minute clock, of which the a fore mentioned boss is only vulnerable for less then a fifth of that time.
Eventually, when all of our GOTY podcasts are out, you'll have the chance to hear that I said One Piece: Pirate Warriors was the worst game I had played this year. I was wrong. I want to take this opportunity to apologize to all of the Straw Hat Pirates. You're not the worst game to come out this year. At least your castle, propped up on the backs of thousands of Dynasty Warriors, wasn't built in a swamp.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!