reviews\ Jul 11, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Pryzm Chapter One: The Dark Unicorn - PS2 - Review

I love classic fantasy. Amongst my DVD collection are the newest editions of such great ‘vintage’ fantasy tales such as The Neverending Story, Legend, and the Dark Crystal. I miss movies like that, with more recent fantasy flicks being more tongue-in-cheek than celebrations of the classic battles of goodness vs. darkness. The other thing people seem to have forgotten is that these topics aren’t just for kids. After all, when The Dark Crystal was first released, they advised young kids might be frightened by the villains: the grotesque Skeksis. So upon hearing of Pryzm: Chapter One – The Dark Unicorn, I hoped desperately that this title might restore some of that magic in the form of a console game. The time seemed to drag until the release date, and only a few scant weeks before the release date, it was announced that the game would be released with the unspeakably low price of $19.99. I held my breath: The last few experiences I had with so-called bargain titles had been painful to say the least…. Please, I thought to myself. Don’t let this happen to Pryzm too…

Luckily for me, Pryzm was not one of those games where you start it up and groan almost from the first minute you play. While you’re definitely going to be able to tell that the game’s going to grab any graphical awards, I actually breathed a sigh of relief at the pretty and poignant introductory scene were the dark haired forest fairy falls victim to the plague of darkness that has been sweeping the land. Almost immediately, you are sucked into the turmoil of Pryzm’s land; a land where the normally peace loving citizens are slowly being converted to deformed servants of darkness. Every kingdom but that of the unicorns is affected, and this has not won the kingdom much more than an unwarranted suspicion. Karrock, a troll-mage, is sent by his people as a delegate to the land of the unicorns, not only to see how they can help, but also to keep a wary eye on the plague-free race.

Hence begins your quest to reclaim the land of innocence from the mysterious dark force which seems intent on destroying it. The entire game is structured around this basic principle: Turn the corrupted lands back to their pure form and seek out the reason for the horrible curse. You’ll have several attacks at your disposable – performed by both Karrock and Pryzm. Pryzm as a long range “ice” attack, a charge attack, as well as an attack which can be used in jumping. For Karrock, you will have magic and a pretty neat physical attack that reminds me a lot of how medieval knights would swing their maces on either side of their steed to inflict injuries on their opponents. What’s really cool about this “mace” attack is the fact that you use the right analog stick to administer it. It’s a different feeling, and it makes it much easier to execute several attacks closer together. Also present are a feature that allows you to target a specific enemy and the ever essential (but dreadfully overlooked) ability to move backwards without turning a 180 and losing sight of your target as you back up. Of course magic is a powerful and easy to use attack – but there’s the familiar ‘mana’ system which will regulate just how much magic you can use before becoming drained. The typical life and mana bars have to be monitored, and the only time you can replenish them is when you are standing either in the foliage covered area you begin the field in, or any area which you recover from the darkness.

The gameplay almost entirely focuses on transforming focal “plants” from their corrupt plague-belching forms and restoring them and the immediate area surrounding them to their natural beauty. To throw another twist on the system, the plants will have enemies that are “connected” to them through a bond. In order to convert the corrupted plant, you must destroy it’s symbiotic partner(s) first. This can be very hard since You’ll probably have to get close enough to encounter two or more foes at the same time. You’ll do a lot of running to heal (this game, may I repeat is NOT easy) and what makes it worse, is if you transform the enemy connected to the plant (or any other roaming enemies for that matter) and leave for too long, you’ll find that they’ve transformed back into monsters. The good thing is the “unlimited lives” system which will allow you to be resurrected at the last plant you reclaimed. So make sure you have a lot of time – you can’t save unless you finish the field. The challenge factor really impressed me, and the fields are extensive and interesting to explore. However, hence comes the reasons why this otherwise fascinating title falls into the bargain range.

The entire game, except when interrupted by the reward of cut-scenes, pretty much feels the same – even if the monsters are changing into gnomes in some fields and elves in others. The pleasant music also changes from world to world, but that doesn’t help to break up the monotony. There are four different fields in four different realms: the realms of the Trolls, Gnomes, Elves, and Nymphs – but they all feel scantly populated graphically, even though they have quite impressive loads of twists, turns, caves, and even more obstacles. There’s really nothing wrong with the graphics with the exception of looking a bit outdated. The music is actually quite good as well, although the very creatively composed pieces run a bit on the short side and repeat.

Overall, I found Pryzm a wonderful romp in a fantasy world, the likes of which I have not seen in a long time. I really found the characters lovable and the story a refreshing twist in the gaming world. This game is one that can proudly wear the name: “bargain title” because that’s exactly what it is at the price of 20 bucks. Be forewarned, this is a niche market, and I doubt people who need high-intensity PS2 eye candy action are going to feel even 20 bucks is too much. However, on the flip side, fantasy fans like myself will find themselves adding the name Pryzm to other fantasy heroes such as Falkor, Jack, and Jen. It’s really got a cleverly composed control scheme, a great storyline (with lots of twists – no spoilers) and a really good overall feeling for an incredibly generous price. Thanks guys! You made my day!

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 7

Just because this is a $20 game featuring a white winged unicorn as a lead – don’t think this is an easy or carelessly slopped together game. The controls are remarkably well placed, and the enemies are anything but pushovers. This game is not for novices, it will keep you looking for a better strategy all the time. Probably the main problem, other than a premise that might not fit the mainstream, is that all the fields are basically just variations of one another.

Graphics: 6 
Okay, the graphics aren’t great and the landscapes are pretty drab. But you can’t expect Final Fantasy graphics from a first expedition on a title which can be picked up practically for pocket change.

Sound: 7
The music and sound effects are all pretty impressive. I was enamored of the realistic sounding hoof beats. The voice acting is better than most games I’ve played recently, and the music really shows a lot of effort – although the pieces are painfully short. If only they were a bit longer so their beauty didn’t wear thin…

Difficulty: Medium


Concept: 9
Truth be told, I’ve been waiting for this game to be released since the very first word I heard of it. When I first learned of the $20 dollar price tag, I was immediately fearful that the game was somehow being pushed through quickly rather than discarded altogether. In the end, the game will appeal to those who take a fancy to fantasy stories, even if it’s missing a lot of bells and whistles that the big boys have.


Overall: 7.25
Pryzm is, admittedly a niche market title, as well as a title that was released at a bargain price – therefore changing the standards by which it is judged. Thankfully, unlike most (if not all) other bargain titles I’ve played, this game is actually playable, not too hard on the eyes, and pretty darn fun for those of us who hold to our classic fantasy movies despite the passage of time.


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