Legend of Pandora
Thieves. You hate thieves. When you were young, your parents died at the hands of miserable arrow-tooting thieves. Your early start into misanthropy thus initiated, you holed away in the mountains, rather dark knight-like with no intent to ever leave. But, as with all things, adventure bites you on the rear when you least expect it and the smallest things—like a missed morning newspaper—can change a life forever, birthing myth and Legend of Pandora alike.
Your first quest is a humble one but, with it, you're thrust into Francisco Ferreres' nostalgia-induced top down action adventure RPG, a world where chaos reigns and monsters are spawning like...something that spawns a lot. Zombies perhaps. Use fully-customized keyboard commands to navigate, fight and interact. The mouse is used when spending your coins at the shops or your experience points on your character stats page. Like all youths suddenly thrust into the hero role, you begin rather weak and armed with just a wooden sword so it's good that the first foes you encounter are likewise weak. Battle wins equal more experience which means leveling up and new stat points to improve strength, dexterity, vitality or luck. You'll also earn skill points to build specific weapons knowledge, scholarship, or activate special abilities acquired in your questing.
As you discover hidden treasures, complete quests and succeed in battles, you'll gain more riches. Use them to upgrade or change your weapon type, buy accessories or helpful potions. If you die in battle, though, it is game over; computer terminals scattered throughout the lands will allow you to save frequently so you can avoid lost progress. Plus, they allow you to teleport, for a fee, to any other portal where you have saved, which comes in handy toward the end as your journey sends you all over the map.
Analysis: A reverent fandom of Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda inspired Ferreres to create Legend of Pandora. If you have fond memories of old school Link or any other NES or GameBoy Color RPG hero, prepare for a hefty swig of déjà vu. On one level you'll be remarkably charmed by the familiarity. On another, some haven't I already done this, like, a bazillion times before? thoughts might start interceding on your joy. It's best to shrug them off and just let the inner child in you (the one not jaded by all these newfangled gaming devices) run amuck with abandon.
Story-driven quests help keep that abandon from feeling like simple random killing even as your main point of action remains hack-and-slash combat. These quests, on the surface exercises in altruism, provide narrative entertainment and have the side benefit of training for the exhilarating final swarm. While zombies, slimes and other monsters are abundant, nothing pops up unannounced. After hacking and slashing through a square of landscape, it's safely cleared until you've ventured far enough away that the defeated foes can regain their populations. This makes Legend of Pandora well-tuned to players who want to get through as quickly as possible while also providing a ceaseless means of training to those who prefer the grind-and-conquer method of adventuring.
Exploration is well rewarded although there seems to be shortage of treasures to discover in the dungeon crawling moments. It's a great rush to find them but of the occurrence of chests is rare and random enough to make their discovery less than beneficial. Smart training and money management make it possible to purchase the best sword in the lands before the half-way mark, so subsequent chests or quest rewards seem redundant after that. A variety of weapon training pathways—swords, axes, or bows—is appealing for diversity's sake although swords tend to be the easiest, most rewarded path while magic is virtually overlooked and not well-explained. Yet these quibbles also mean Legend of Pandora is designed for immense casual gaming enjoyment. Leveling up, acquisition of new skills and new quests happen frequently, giving a constant buzz of achievement to keep enthusiasm high.
Playing a game like Legend of Pandora in the browser is a treat. Ferreres' passion for RPGs also transmits over to the player; you can't help but get caught up in this nostalgic love of 16-bit graphics and questing zeal.