I want to talk about something special today. Its name should be familiar to old-timers: Forbidden Forest. The C64 title was ground-breaking for its time, often regarded as one of the first horror games. It had very atmospheric music (that SID chip was put to good use by Paul Norman, although the infamous dance came up way too often) and creepy sound effects (the dying ghost's scream will haunt you all night long, and the bee's buzzing sounds way too realistic). The graphic death scenes impressed many, and it was one of the first games, if not THE first, to have animated blood (this was a big deal in 1983, guys). It was followed by a sequel which upgraded the graphics, made the death scenes even more disturbing, and featured some incredible artwork (the four-headed Hydra takes the whole screen), but was somewhat killed by difficult controls. Anyway, the original game is nothing less than a masterpiece, and well deserving of a spot in the pantheon of the greatest games ever.
... but it's not the object of this review. Nope, sorry. What I'm going to talk about is an extremely obscure 3D remake that was published in 2003 by the original company that made the C64 game, Cosmi. I'm not sure of the circumstances that brought to its development, but I know Norman wasn't involved. That could explain a lot. For example, it might explain why it's one of the worst games I've ever played.
The setting has an archer entering the titular Forbidden Forest in order to hunt the monsters inside. Except the forest isn't quite forbidden this time. There are houses, and even other archers roaming around, and you can shoot them for coins! It's not very creepy either. Everything feels so calm and relaxed. If there's a sequel that ruins the atmosphere of its predecessors more than this game, I have yet to see it. It should have been called "Tranquil Countryside".
In order to advance further, you'll have to roam the (very small) map, searching for coins and items, and engaging in shooting missions against different monsters from the original game. The more missions you clear, the more monsters you'll fight every time. You can go into aiming mode by pressing a button, but for some reason, the aiming buttons are different from the movement buttons, even though the two moments are separate. Whatever. It doesn't play well, controls are slow and imprecise, and monsters are very unbalanced. It's not very clear either. What's your objective? Who knows. The manual says "get all 20 coins to unveil the forest's secrets!", so I tried to do exactly that, but nothing happened. A further read highlighted the line "100 missions". So do I have to clear 100 missions to get to the boss or something? But the game becomes nigh impossible at 50 missions or so, there's no way one could ever reach 100. Maybe there isn't even anything at the end. Maybe the objective is just to get as many points as possible. Not that you'll want to play this game for long.
Graphically it's pretty bad. The map looks like it was done from someone approaching 3D Studio Max for the first time. Monsters aren't much better. The day-night transition is so unrealistic, it must be seen to be believed. And animations are terrible. You know something's wrong when a 2003 game runs smoothly on a Pentium 2 with a measly Riva TNT Oem. It would have been primitive even in 1998. Music is the only kinda acceptable part, since it reuses some of the original game's tracks, but it somehow manages to make them sound worse. Even the archer's dance looks bad. What a disappointment.
The first playthrough was campy fun for me. After the second one, I already wanted to throw the disc out of the window. But wait, you can't. In what was arguably the only intelligent move by the developers, the disc contains a folder with several goodies about the original game and its sequel. There are sound effects, music tracks, gif animations, docs, covers and even two playable roms (yeah, I know, but this is kinda like having the original game!). Interesting stuff for a fan, it could probably be found on the net for free, but it's a nice thought, and one that actually makes me think those $5 weren't a total waste.
You owe it to yourself to play Forbidden Forest if you've never experienced it. But this remake is better left untouched. The extra content is the only good thing about it. Think of this as a fandisc, more than a game. It's probably worth more as that.
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Feb 21, 2011
Aug 5, 2011 03:33 PM UTC
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