Something new has awakened on the game pages of Adult Swim, something that fans of Manuel Fallman's Mindscape may enjoy. Schizo-Phrenzy, from Smashing Ideas Inc., is a self-consciously surreal platform adventure with an art deco look and a discourteous attitude towards gravity. It will fill your shoes with spider eggs during the
night. If they hatch, you are in real danger of having your privacy invaded. I suggest you write your congressperson. But think carefully about your alias before you sign the bottom, for it may be the only thing left when they take you. You play John K. Facey, a private investigator with extremely long legs, and yet they are the least of his problems, considering the worm-things with flaming eyeballs that roam the streets. Schizo-Phrenzy offers 9 levels of action across 3 different areas, as you quest to defeat the mysterious "Mayor" and his army of hallu
cinations. It is possible that all of this takes place only in John's mind, but then it is also possible that you are taking place only in my mind. So I try not to assign blame.
Also there is a floating baby wearing a bunny mask.
Control your noodly hero with the [Arrow Keys] and jump with [Up]. Your sanity level and health bar are one and the same (as you always knew they were), so as time (if you believe in time) passes or you sustain damage, your grip on reality wanes. Collect pills by searching for them or by crushing monsters with your feet, and swallow a pill with [Space] to restore some small, temporary sliver of normality. The lower your sanity, the more disturbing creatures will attack you, and the more often subliminal pictures of a
bear and some bloody hors-d'oeuvres flash violently on screen. You can't tell which parts I'm making up, nor will you ever hear that sound frequency again, since the ringing in your ears stopped.
Analysis: Allow me to breathe with my mouth open for a moment. My nostalgic fondness for psychedelic console platformers such as Pandemonium and Skullmonkeys doesn't blind me to the fact that they often focused on stylistic flourishes at the expense of solid gameplay. Schizo-Phrenzy falls prey to the same issue, with sometimes awkward controls (especially when climbing or swinging on a rope) and some strange wiggly glitches that occur when opposing gravity fields vie for control of your hero. It is also a special pet peeve of mine when a spikey creature can, nay must, be jumped upon.
Still, the game's indifference to regular physical laws keeps it feeling fresh for a while after the novelty of the presentation wears off. Some simple but intimidating clashes with the titanic Mayor give you something to look forward to, and the rainbow-festooned bonus areas give you motivation to explore.
The relationship between your sanity level and the number of monsters onscreen proves to be unfortunate, since the worse you are doing, the harder the game tries to overwhelm you. This is not a recipe for comfort. But then, "comfortable" is low on Schizo-Phrenzy's list of attributes, below "arch" and "nonsensical".
The game is worth playing just for the main character's animation, somehow both sinuous and staccato, a platform hero with refreshingly honest legs. The enemies are chunkier but always inventive, and the art deco backgrounds are an underused choice and an appealing choice of playground.
Even though Shizo-Phrenzy runs out of ideas quickly (does there really need to be a giant Powerpuff Girls monster in the background on every level?), it also doesn't outstay its welcome. You should be able to face down the Mayor's final form and discover the full extent of John K. Facey's madness within an hour, and then move on to other, less colorful things. I recommend playing it, if you don't mind some occasional violent imagery (it's Adult Swim, remember), and I think my opinion carries some weight since I discovered all my molecules are made of music. Now if you'll excuse me, there are some hungry faces visible in my wallpaper, and I should really feed them before they notice the cat.