I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the Enix office as they tried to decide exactly what sort of game they were trying to make in ActRaiser. I can only assume that there was a complete impasse over what they were actually aiming to do. I can also only assume that the traditional tiebreaker in such a situation – a quick round of Soggy Biscuit – also ended in a score draw. Hence the resultant cut and shut, a Frankenstein’s monster of game design.
If you’ve never actually played ActRaiser, it can be described as being a platform game (albeit one in which you clonk things with a ruddy great sword, rather than by jumping on them) until it isn’t. At this point, it becomes a god sim, in a very literal sense, with you controlling an angel with a bow, which you use to defend the population of your newly created town from evil creatures such as bats, demons and the Republican Party.
If it sounds a bit bizarre, that’s because it is. The platform/slash ’em up bits aren’t really all that interesting, being mostly a trudge from left to right (or bottom to top) while whacking anything that moves with the aforementioned large sword. While they’re not terrible, a game made up entirely of this would be pretty uninspiring – imagine Super Mario World with all the ideas taken out or the current series of Doctor Who.
Luckily, however, that isn’t the case. And the god sim bits are genuinely quite interesting, if not particularly difficult. After all the trauma associated with playing Mega Man X and Plok! over the past couple of weeks, it was nice to actually sit down and play through something a bit more straightforward, without having to worry in case word got out that I was actually a bit shit at games.
In comparison to other god sim games, you don’t actually have much control over your town; you just point the population in the appropriate direction and let them get on with it. If you can persuade them to expand over to the monster lairs they can be sealed shut. Do this three or four times on each level and you’re done. Like I said, it’s pretty simplistic stuff.
There is a bit of a story that takes place on each level but it’s very basic and shallow (again, I’m looking at the current series of Doctor Who here). As your town expands, there are a bunch of minor events that will take place, such as the people mastering mountaineering, getting the plague or just losing their children. Basically, it’s the Madeline McCann story, but with added mountaineering and plague.
In many ways, ActRaiser is perfect for anyone approaching SNES games in the way that I am (i.e. not actually paying for them, looking to put a few hours in and get a few hundred words out). It’s easy to get into, fun to play through and has a couple of really interesting and varied ideas (and apparently extremely good music – I didn’t really listen to any of it). And yet I was able to bomb through the whole thing in just a few hours, reaching the end just before boredom set in. At the very least, it’s inspired me to check out ActRaiser 2.
Before that though, I tackle the horrific mangling of the English language that is
this website The Firemen.