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Daze Before Christmas

Genre: Platformer Developer: Funcom Publisher: Sunsoft Players: 1 Released: 1994

Daze Before Christmas is a super-generic platformer only released in Australia. The company behind it is Funcom, a Norwegian company with some Swedes in it. They are also responsible for the game Anarchy Online. The publisher for this game was a western division of Sunsoft, which closed its doors around when the SNES port was released the next year. Sunsoft obviously had some financial troubles throughout the whole 16-bit era. That may be a reason to why many of their games had very low print runs and are rare today. While western Aero the Acro-bat 2 doesn’t have nearly as much game value as Japanese Panorama Cotton, Daze Before Christmas is indeed quite special. But is it worth the price?

It is the first day of December and Santa Claus is sleeping in his house. An evil mouse called Louse set up a plan to scare away Santa’s toy-making elves. Louse and his fellows also decided to steal all the presents the kids were supposed to have the 24th. When Santa wakes up he realizes he is in big trouble. He must save his elves, find the presents and defeat the evil-doers behind this before the whole Christmas is ruined.

As the game plays, there is hardly anything new to be found in Daze Before Christmas. There are twenty-four levels presented in a Christmas calendar divided on about seven level designs and four bosses. Except for getting a high score, there is actually no point in collecting presents or saving elves, which are in presents. You simply have to go from the beginning to a shining star at the end of each level. You attack with magic, similar to Michael Jackson’s in his Moonwalker game, or with the famous butt-attack like Mickey Mouse in Castle of Illusion. The controls are very responsive and well programmed, so there is nothing to complain about in that department. If you drink tea, you become Anti-Claus, a Satanic version of Santa that is invincible and doesn’t save any presents. There is nothing special about him, except you need him to destroy a Golem-like enemy sometimes. Something ironic is that during the ending, you see Santa sit in his chair, drinking a cup of tea (!). It’s like he wants to be his alter ego. Four levels consist of flying over a country and dropping the collected presents in smoking chimneys, but there is no deeper point of that either. There isn’t anything really wrong with the gameplay, but not much to celebrate for either. While Daze Before Christmas plays like so many other games, it at least does it pretty well.

The game is very easy. I played on normal and beat it in my first sitting the day I got it. Santa has six hits, five lives, passwords and unlimited continues to help save Christmas. It is like the developers wanted it to be impossible to fail. Luckily, there is a hard difficulty setting. I don’t really mind that the game is so easy, as it is a seasonal game and it fits having a relaxed playthrough with it during Christmas. That is pretty much how I see it, a game to pick up once a year when the time is suitable, beat it and absorb the atmosphere of it with the rest of the holiday. I remember playing James Pond II during Yule, as we say in Sweden, many years ago and – ahh, what a feeling it was! There is just something special about playing certain video games due to similar events in real life.

The grapics are barely average for a 1994 game. The backgrounds are very lacking, with few colours and detail. The sprites are repetitive and not very imaginative. What raises the grade are the segments you recognize such as reindeers, snow, Santa’s house and the sleigh-riding over Big Ben, the Statue of Liberty and Saint Basil’s Cathedral (that Tetris castle, you know). Overall, I would have wanted even more of that, such as more toys, Christmas trees and rice pudding. A nice extra are the level introduction screens, with comic pictures looking as good as those in Phantasy Star IV. Santa is fitting as a comic character, rather than a fat old man drinking Coca-Cola.

It would have been impossible to embody the Christmas spirit without the right tunes and sound production. Luckily, Daze Before Christmas has some renditions of classic Christmas songs such as Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and the Swedish Hej tomtegubbar, remixed to fit the game. The YM2612 does the songs great justice with those really Christmas-y keyboard sounds, but unfortunately the bass can be extremely heavy, like in Streets of Rage 3. The sound effects aren’t anything special and hardly worth mentioning. We are served a ‘ho-ho-ho’ and ‘Merry Christmas’ recorded through a tin can. Something ironic is that ‘ho-ho-ho’ is getting banned in – you guessed it – Australia! I must say that the music saves Daze Before Christmas from being mediocre, as it grants it more feeling than the disappointing graphics.

An interesting aspect is the buggy level select code, which instead of choosing levels lets you invite nineteen friends to play with you (no, I am not joking) – the problem is you have to do it one at a time. The code (B, A, Right, Right, A a the title screen), when abbreviated refers to the Swedish word of when Christmas trees are losing their needles. I would say this buggy level select code along with the simplistic nature of the game smells like a rush-job.

Although it plays like gazillions of other platformers, the general feel of the game remains unique and joyful. The Christmas theme could have been better expressed through the graphics, but it is still quite fun to jump and run through the game and hum along with the cheery music. A negative side about it being seasonal is that it just doesn’t fit as well during summer, but hey, that’s just something that has to be the way it is. I think they could have put more time into making this game more original, harder and pretty-looking. Being as decent as it still is, Daze Before Christmas doesn’t annoy me with bad hit detection or poor jumping dynamics which is so common in platformers. So it is suitable to pick up and play at least once per year, even though its company sibling Panorama Cotton undoubtly remains as the favourite rarity and should be the premier choice for all the collectors out there.

SCORE: 5 out of 10

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