Pryzm Chapter One: The Dark Unicorn
Developer: Digital Illusions
Release Date: 6/11/2002
Pryzm Chapter One: The Dark Unicorn is a story with roots deep in fantasy lore, featuring such well-known personalities such as trolls, nymphs, elves, and gnomes. You'll play the part of a young unicorn who was born bearing the sunburst marking, a prophesied sign that this would be the unicorn that would save the vast lands of the world. You see, a plague infested four of the five lands of the world, mutating them into a shadow of their former glory. The inhabitants of the land who could not escape were transformed into terrible monsters. The various races whose lands had been taken over by the plague began to get suspicious of the unicorns; theirs was the only land that the plague did not touch. As Pryzm, you'll set out to heal those who have been turned to monsters and cleanse the lands of the plague in 20 different stages spanning four unique lands. Karrock, an arch-mage of the trolls, will accompany you and provide help while riding atop your back.
Graphics are creative and colorful but at times a little rough around the edges. Character models could have benefited greatly from a few more polygons. Animation is adequate, the way Pryzm moves around, galloping across various lands looks realistic and pretty cool. Draw distances stretch out far across the horizon but little objects abruptly pop up once you get closer to them. The various magic spells you can perform boast striking particle and colored light effects. In between levels you'll be treated to pre-rendered animations which will slowly unfold the story and give you an idea as to what the unicorn’s relationship is to the plague.
The music is whimsical, enchanting and very much fits the fantasy theme of the game. Consisting of a lot of stringed orchestrations that are uniquely tailored to each area, for instance when you are in the land of Nymphs you'll hear subtle angelic voices mixed in with the instruments. TDK did a great job in the music department. Sound effects are plentiful and appropriate, When Pryzm gallops on different types of ground the sound will change accordingly. At times the dialogue between Karrock and Pryzm can be excruciatingly annoying, however. For Every few minutes Pryzm will say “for an old man you sure are heavy” to which Karrock replies “for such a young unicorn you sure are an old nag!”, which was amusing the first few times I heard it but after the 100th time it became jarring and annoying serving no purpose outside of getting on my nerves.
Each land has a certain amount of plague-flowers that you will need to destroy in order to progress. These flowers feed the land’s mutations and control it’s inhabitants, but before you can destroy them you'll first have to heal those who are under it’s control, literally tethered to the plant by a visible red energy. In an effort to help you find the location of these plague-flowers Karrock’s melee staff also doubles as a homing device that lights up red when you point it in general location of a plague-flower. While using this ability you can press in the R3 button and in the upper left hand corner of the screen a visual representation of the location of the flowers will appear. The levels in the game are laid out so that you'll have to destroy the plague-flowers in a specific order, finding the location of the plague-flowers is usually reasonably simple but getting to them can sometimes be easier said than done. There is only one way to get to them and it is not always clearly evident, in fact in some instances you'll find yourself aimlessly wandering around the general location of a flower trying to find the correct path to it. Once you manage to heal the plague-flower it will transform into a healing-flower and the land around it will magically sprout back to life, transforming the withered plant-life to lush-green surroundings.
In order to keep track of your health and magic there will be two amulets displayed at either side of the screen that will gradually diminish as you are injured or use magic spells. The only way to refill your amulets is to go back to a healing flower at which point your health and magic will be fully restored.
Moving Pryzm around is easy enough, just push the direction you want to go on the left analog stick utilizing all the offensive maneuvers is another story altogether however, expect to invest around an hour just to get a hang of the controls. Keep in mind your controlling two characters simultaneously here so its no surprise that becoming comfortable with the layout may take some time. There are quite a bit of offensive moves and magic spells at your disposal including the wind attack which is performed by hitting the jump button twice and causes a circular gust of wind to appear below Pryzm as she gently floats back down. Karrock will also help you out with melee staff attacks by pressing any direction on the right analog stick. The most devastating attacks are known as Major Magic, each land you visit will allow you to perform different types of major magic. For instance when in Lum-mas, Przym will be able to use a freeze spell that can attack enemies from afar and immobilize them. Where areas, Karrock will use an expunge spell that creates a flame, dealing damage to all enemies in the vicinity. Other Major Magic attacks include the Dust Devil spell, which creates a swirling vortex pulling enemies towards you, and the Spirit Flame spell which dispels a stream of fiery energy pushing the enemy away. There are many such spells like this throughout the game, some of which look exceptionally cool.
The various enemies in the game are fairly original, each land has it’s own unique monsters. You'll have to figure out the best way to deal with them using different combinations of weapons which effectively adds a bit of strategy to the game. Though, you'll find yourself relying on the particularly more powerful spells in the game and foregoing the lesser spells altogether in some areas.
The camera perspective is somewhat clunky, and the only way to look in a specific direction is to rotate your character. Which, if you’re on a steep cliff or a thin piece of land, can cause you to fall off and have to start all over. The included first person mode does nothing to help the situation either.
Pryzm Chapter One: The Dark Unicorn is an interesting, if somewhat boring, adventure game. The frustrating level design coupled with the annoying camera perspectives hinder what could have been an extremely entertaining experience. And the lengthy learning curve doesn't help matters either. But if you can look past its glaring faults and enjoy fantasy novels than I’d certainly recommend that you check this one out, if only as a rental.