BITpast discovers: Alundra

For some reason I was supremely over-confident in my last post when I said “See you in 30 hours”, expecting to actually complete my first PSone Classic title, as opposed to abandoning it in disgust after approximately 4 hours in.

Alundra is like a poor man’s Zelda, and by poor I mean a homeless man in a favela.

It controls like Zelda. The combat consists of slashing and slashing and slashing and slashing something until it dies, and you do this by pressing the X button creatively, i.e. would you like to press the X button in rapid succession, or press the X button then wait half a second before pressing the X button again?

The viewpoint is like Zelda, but different in that they’ve gone for some verticality instead of the more direct top-down approach. This introduces jumping as a big mechanic to the game, which is often a frustration as sometimes the lack of shadows and perspective make it unclear how high various terrain is in relation to others. Mercifully, in the 4 hours I played there were no sections where this could actually get me killed or hurt, but it did force me to start some jump puzzles over again, and caused me to not even realise there was a path to higher ground on some occasions.

The absolute worst thing they could borrow from Zelda, however, was the lock and key backtrack fest. You know the one: where you can explore as much as you want IN THEORY, until you get to a big boulder in your way – we call this a locked door – for which you need a bomb (the key). And when you get bombs, you can go everywhere boulders were, until after that you reach a thorn bush. Our hero can cut down lizards made of rock, but his sword is wholly ineffective up against a thorn bush.

So I wandered round Alundra for a while running into locked door after locked door. The annoying thing is it’s not disguised. There’s no point where you’re stopped in your tracks and wonder “hmm, how will I get over there, or through here”. You just see a boulder, or a bush, or a different colour boulder (bomb proof!) and you think “okay, I need a bomb here”, “Okay, I’ll need some weed killer here”, “Okay, I’ll need some unidentified item to remove those arbitrarily bomb-proof stones here”. Seriously, in Alundra the locked doors are literally as inventive as different coloured rocks. This rock can be blown up. This rock can’t be blown up. This rock is invincible to explosives too, but you can crush it by ramming it with a mine cart.

In Zelda, the locks and keys are a bit more inventive, and crucially – crucially! – the backtracking you must perform in a Zelda world is usually done through varied and interesting environments, so you don’t mind as much.

Allow me to explain why that’s not the case in Alundra: You see, I did like the graphics in Alundra for the first couple of hours I played: they were crisp and very detailed. It’s fair to say that in the first half of my playtime I liked all the shades of green that I saw. And then when it dawned on me that I was ONLY going to see shades of green, I got bored of the shades of green. I’m not joking, look at some screenshots on google.

Even more illustrative, look at the world map: Alundra-World-map

Has there ever been a more uninspiring overworld and colour palette? They could have achieved this game on the Gameboy. By the way, there isn’t even an in-game map of the above, despite being sorely needed (good luck remembering where all those locked doors were). Some research reveals they did include a paper map with the original game though:

Alundra

Yeah, they actually made it that terrible colour apparently, like they were embarrassed their world was only made of shades of green so they thought “shit, just tint the whole map red, they won’t know!”

In summary, Alundra takes all the bad from Zelda to create a game which is a variety of shades of green for you to misjudge jumps and backtrack through for 30 hours. I’m afraid the prospect was too much to bare for me, and I threw in the towel after 4.

Hence, my official review score for Alundra today is: 4 out of 30.

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