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Puzzles a plenty, Alundra is not for the weak in the brain.

Jess gives Alundra some advice.

One of the more feared bosses of the game.

The opening cinemas have nothing to do with the game, but are a nice touch.

Our hero swings his mighty sword.

Alundra

Since the dawn of time, there have been all sorts of RPGs for all systems that did not really require brain power, but rather relied on great story elements and sometimes even snazzy graphics. Enter Alundra. The first RPG in years that actually tests the gamer's mental power and reflexes ... and boy does it!

Alundra's story is not exactly the game's highest point, but it is effective enough to relay the major events that take place in the game. At the start of the game, you are shipwrecked onto the shore of Inoa, the primary town in which the game will take place. After you are taken in by a light hearted man named Jess, you will soon find out that Inoa is plagued by devilish nightmares that actually are starting to become fatal. What great timing for our large-eared friend, for he just so happens to have the ability to enter dreams, dispose of the evil that lurks there, and of course, make the victim live happily ever after. Naturally, it does not always work out like that, but that is the plan. The story actually does get pretty detailed and engulfing, but not nearly as much as other recent RPG ventures. My number one problem with Alundra's character is that he has what I call "Chrono syndrome" in that he is the main character but he doesn't talk. Not a lot of room for character development there even if the world around him is lively and unique.

Alundra's graphics are cartoony and extremely simple, but they work for the game in a good way. Quite frankly though, the animation sucks, and some of the generic level designs are boring and unimaginative. There are some cool lighting effects though, and some of the enemies are very unique in look and in execution. Not to mention that some of the bosses are massive and fun to fight. And to make sure to go over everything, the FMV sequences in the intro (although they are nothing in the form of storytelling) are a nice touch if not a little choppy.

The music in this Working Designs' epic is a mixed blessing. Most of the time the music is average and very pleasant, but once in a while you run into a tune that makes you cringe. But just when you're ready to grab your radio, a totally fresh tune will refresh your ears. That is basically the cycle that you'll be put through during gameplay. The sound effects are very basic, but strangely not worth complaining about. Once in a while a person will laugh, and as most people think that it is a cheesy effect, I found it rather mood inducing. Other sounds are rather obvious (you've got your sword swings, enemy groans, yadda yadda).

By far, the most appealing factor within Alundra is the pure level of insane, mind-bending, and incredibly tough puzzles that you will be forced to endure. I am an avid gamer, and honestly this is the most complex brain teaser that I have ever played. They start you out simple: hit a switch here, run through the door there. But pretty soon they have you running all over the place searching for answers, and let me tell you: It is not easy! You will most likely be taking some week-long breaks from this game just in order to regain some sanity. But it is a good thing! Who wants to buy a a game and beat it in a weekend?

The game's mechanics are very simple and easy to use. Perhaps too simple for their own good, but very nice for this type of game. Using items is fast and easy, as is switching weapons on the fly. The whole item system is VERY similar to the SNES incarnation of Zelda. In fact, it would be foolish to say that Zelda was not a huge inspiration for Alundra's creation. Even down to the horribly repetitive shopping, and the limited item supply, Zelda is reflected (And don't forget the little bombs that you hold over your head). Not to totally be an imitation, Alundra is very diverse in its jumping and switch hitting abilities.

Overall, Alundra is a very addictive and incredibly fun game that will bring you back over and over again. It is a great buy for established Action/RPG fans, but it may be a tad frustrating for the casual gamer. Give it a try! -Andrew the Game-Master


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