Ah, this is the nostalgic part of the site where I get to talk about games that most people never heard of, but I was a self-proclaimed hipster at the tender age of six, complete with beady glasses and a misguide sense of self-entitlement. But here’s the kicker: Pandemonium! is a game not many people know about, yet is one of the most nostalgic games ever made for some.
“But, Sam,” you may ask. “Isn’t that a contradiction?”. Why, yes it is, my fellow reader, because I’m a Gemini and half the time we can’t make up our mind about anything. But this statement holds some truth to it, as most people know what the game is, but don’t know that it’s actually called Pandemonium.
As I kid (and even to this day), I find the story of Pandemonium! quite endearing. Two bumbling thieves, one a feisty red-head and the other a creepy jester, decide to steal a magical book from… some place magical, I don’t know. They decide to screw around one night and recite incantations from the book, only to summon a gigantic floating fish that swallows their entire city (no, I’m not on any sort of drug. I wish I was making this shit up). Now they must traverse the twisted world they have inadvertently created in jolly good ol’ platforming.
Now I’ve had my fair share of pretty messed up fantasy settings in games before, but Pandemonium sits pretty high up on that podium. At first glance, it actually looks like your standard, typical platformer complete with plants that try to eat you and secret wormholes in big pipes you can exploit (a certain Italian plumber may protest to that), but beneath all that “look at me, I’m a video game!” style is a deep-rooted psychological theme of neglect. Yes, these two protagonists are neglectful half-wits who neglected the one rule about stealing magical books that scream “you’re going to neglect this”. Also, you play as thieves. And it’s not like these guys are the Nathan Drake archetypes who actually just steal from assholes. Their little act of theft isn’t given much history, so they could’ve stolen it from some poor bastard in the middle of finding the cure for cancer. Who knows.
Goes to show you how important backstory is in video games, but I don’t want to pretend like it actually affects Pandemonium in any way. It’s a barrel of fucking fun, regardless of how nonsensical the “plot” seems to get. I’ll take my fair share of twisted fantasy worlds over a giant fish than can eat entire cities, thanks. Chalk this one up for the one game that you didn’t expect would give your child nightmares for the rest of his life. I now have a confusing fear of blowfish.