Review | The Legend of Vraz
Format: PC | Genre: Platformer | Publisher: Zatun Games | Developer: Zatun Games | Release date: 22/02/03 | RRP: £12.33 (link)
Coming from a country not known for its videogames, The Legend of Vraz looks to lead an era of Indian gaming. Lewis Anderson picks apart what could be a new dawn…
Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy braves a world of cheeky monkeys and flying platforms to prove his love for her. A classic tale, retold in The Legend of Vraz, an indie game from Indian developer Zatun. It depicts a day in the life of the eponymous Prince Vraz as he quests for the hand in marriage of a princess he meets serendipitously one day in a jungle.
The message here? Stay well clear of jungles. Because of that fateful meeting, the prince has the herculean task of navigating his way through endless foliage, palaces and ancient ruins. In standard platformer fashion, he has to collect a fortune of gold coins, solve simple puzzles and avoid traps. In his way stand a plethora of bad guys wanting to gore, maim and disfigure him, so this girl had better be something special.
Vraz is moved around the world by mouse, keyboard or a combination of the two. Controls can’t be customised so if you’re uncomfortable moving with the mouse or arrow keys, then you’re stuffed. A variety of enemies stand in his way and it’s up to Vraz to dispatch them with his trusty bow and arrow or a well timed jump. Sounds simple enough, and it would be if it weren’t so awkwardly implemented.
Vraz clumsily aims his bow by gradually raising or lowering the angle at which he shoots with the keyboard arrows, or by clicking on him and pointing in whichever direction you want to shoot in. Considering a lot of the opposition you face are small moving targets, it’s exceptionally difficult to hit them, as arrows fly along specific trajectories and frequently fly uselessly above or below your opponents.
So crushing enemies with Vraz’s feet seems a better idea. But this is no easier. Thanks to the game’s clunky collision detection, jumping onto a lowly ant will either mean death for the ant or injury to Vraz, and he’ll lose one of his five hearts in the process. Whoever comes off worse is totally unpredictable, so sometimes it seems best to just avoid attacking altogether. Doubly so when facing the wretched stone-throwing monkey. Not only are his near-invisible stones more lethal than anthrax, but once besting the creature in mortal combat you’re bizarrely penalised by having your life-meter reduced because, apparently, the princess likes monkeys. That just about makes sense, but one level early in the game requires you to defeat every enemy including the monkeys, which means you have to kill the princess’ favourite animal. Repeatedly. Which doesn’t make so much sense.
Luckily the game isn’t too punishing in other respects. Lives are effectivey infinite – lose all your hearts and you merely faint before waking at the last checkpoint you reached, essential in a world where standing on thorns is as lethal as a spear in the face. Checkpoints are frequent enough so fainting isn’t too frustrating, although replaying a section of a level over and over because you’ve run out of arrows and there’s too many enemies to cope with is frustrating.
More frustrating, though, is the oft-failing double jump feature. Countless times I carefully negotiated through collapsing platforms and spiked floors only to be beaten on the very last jump, with Vraz inexplicably deciding not to jump twice despite my franticly ordering him to.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN INDIA
Described as “Mario meets Prince of Persia in India”, the lattermost part is certainly true. Sitars ring out in the background as Vraz wanders about bright, ornate landscapes clothed in traditional gear. It’s quite a surreal Indian experience, made doubly surreal by the bizarre way nothing in the game casts a shadow.
Although looking bright and attractive, flawed game mechanics make it less enjoyable than it could be. Nonetheless, it’s at least a mildly entertaining romp through a unique world, and deserves some credit for taking inspiration from a culture videogames rarely visit.