Oh, this video game is rather frightful, to chuck it on a fire would be ever so delightful! Yes folks, right off the bat I am not holding back, I’m just letting you all in on the truth of today’s review choice. It was a bad choice. But, we live, and we learn.
Santa Claus Saves The Earth was developed by Ivolgamus and published by Telegames for the Sony PlayStation in 2002, exclusive to the PAL region. It was also released on Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance, of which I was aware enough of to buy Megatron a copy for Xmas 2016. Soz, bud! The PS1 version up for review was meant to have a North American release, yet got cancelled for reasons that I am most certainly unaware of. I’m no encyclopaedia and it’s too late to be listed in Compton’s Interactive on CD-I, so you know…
Following the standard boot-up of companies shamelessly involved in this tragedy, you’re soon greeted by a dull start screen complete with characters from in-game, but the warning signs begin when you soon notice Santa looks a tad different here than on the front of the box. Yes, it’s just some poorly rendered 3D that looks as though it was cast-off from early Pixar offerings and left on the cutting room floor for good reason.
Then it’s followed up when you actually start with equally poorly rendered character animations in FMV cut-scene form complete with running commentary via dialogue boxes – OH SWEET JOY! The quasi-voice over (text over?) also has its own issues in the fact it’s so poorly worded. Alarm bells are jingling all over the place and this isn’t even the meat and potatoes of the gameplay, retrobates. Ugh!
As described on the back of the box, there’s 4 “worlds” and 15 different levels. While also described as unique, they’re honestly repetitively bland and uninteresting in appearance, yet downright irritatingly labyrinthine in design. This all helps to give the game a frustrating lack of pace, which is something you’d assume would be swift considering the plots emphasis on pushing you to rush through Santa’s escape from the Enchanted Land. Hey-ho, can’t have a bad game without some bad design, I guess.
The enemy AI is another major problem here. Some enemies appear ridiculously dumb, while others are pure Santa-hating killing machines. Those awkward looking yellow dog things especially will quickly become a pain in your neck with the way they seem to constantly enter from off-screen and rush you, then have the gall to actively avoid your shots all while being the fastest characters in the game to boot. Bastards! Some of the enemies are just odd looking, too – almost like the holiday theme was an afterthought. Unless, that is, the first thing you think of for Xmas is bumbling cavemen swinging clubs and crazy blue bird-things. I…I just don’t get it.
Graphically Santa Saves The Earth is a Donkey Kong Country-style 2.5D game, but unlike Donkey Kong Country, it looks like crap. On the very same system that brought us Crash Bandicoot, we have this. Hell, that’s not a dig on brilliant 2D platformers for the PlayStation either – look at Rayman, look at Lomax – both absolutely stunning with pixel perfect precision. This is not those titles. It looks rushed, it looks like nobody involved really had half a clue. I don’t think the screenshots even do justice for how under par and unappealing it all is. Trust me on this, folks!
It just gets even worse in the sound department. It’s all poorly looped, undesirable midi sequences that sounds like it was used up samples from an old free pack for a music dev kit. In fact, it really wouldn’t surprise me if that was the case here. I can’t even be bothered to check who is credited for the irritating soundtrack, but whoever it is should feel ashamed. The sound effects don’t fare much better either with a total lack of punch nor even variety, with every hit sounding the same. It irritates me that such a lack of quality in workmanship saw the light of day, it really does.
So, the story that we have summed up to us with the introduction (and y’know, back cover) is that a wicked fairy named Nilam is super pissed off that Santa Claus is doing his thing. Quite literally, as when she looks in to her magic pot (or copper, as the game strangely calls it) and witnesses Santa getting pressies ready she throws a total bitch fit and decides to trap our eponymous hero into a not so enchanted-looking Enchanted Land. This is all on Christmas Eve, giving the jolly red guy very little time to escape and fulfil his gift-giving duties.
As far as the gameplay goes, you (the player) will instantly notice the controls are totally unintuitive and without reading the manual (which, fun for me I don’t have to hand) the game practically drops you in with no real indication of what the heck you’re meant to do. Now sure, lots of retro games had a tendency toward doing this, but this is a game on a 32-Bit system in 2002. Halo was on the market for a year at this point. Just saying. Back to the controls though! If you thought games were floaty on the Amiga, you’ll be praying for the likes of Superfrog after five minutes with this atrocity of game design. You never quite feel in control, which kind of renders the idea of having a gosh darn controller rather moot. X jumps (or rather flails then thuds), the circle button is the attack.
Santa has various attack options at his disposal. These include the sack (to which he bizarrely swings back and forth while himself moves backward, too), tomatoes (which appear the strongest) and snowballs (because of course). Tomatoes and snowballs are projectiles with ammo that must be collected. Thanks to some dodgy hit boxes, you’ll soon realise to break crates, etc. you’ll have to hold down when firing. It’s all rather clumsily implemented but by this point in the review you may have already come to expect that, eh? You can cycle weapon choice with the L1/R2 buttons and the Select button. So yeah, three buttons for one thing. The start button is a necessity as it tells you how many keys you have and what your ammo count is.
Keys come in the form of collectable triangular objects and are needed to be able to advance from stage to stage, as the game is literally an escape. The keys are the only things you really need to worry about here, too. There are other power-ups which include a super jump and has Santa’s sit flash between red and blue.
Besides being one of the few Xmas themed games to crack out on the PlayStation during the holiday season, I really can’t see any real replay value or longevity in this dumpster fire of a video game. Perhaps to some it can be a so bad it’s good kind of deal, which it certainly could be a cult classic in that regard, but I certainly aint buying it. Or rebuying it, at least. Other than a sheer novelty to show your friends in Xmas future, I can’t see any reason to ever come back to this. If I am honest, after the first few levels and it showed me the cut-scene (screenshotted above) I really felt as the bubbled text read. Just wanted to shut the thing down and try and purge it from memory. Instead, I am here reviewing it.
Thus, at the end of the day, this review acts more of a warning than a true review. It’s my warning to all of you out there who feel compelled to experience Santa Claus Saves The Earth for yourself. Just don’t! It’s not worth the trauma, nor the price of the therapy sessions that could follow. Quite possibly the worst of the handful of game Telegames unleashed on Sony’s wonder console, but it only has me wondering who on Earth believed this was a good idea.
Final side note, by the way: Santa Claus saves Christmas, not the Earth. So even the damn title is a lie! Avoid at all costs, folks. You have been warned!!
Verdict:- Unlike the most festive time of the year, this game fails to deliver on practically every front. Whether or not you're big into the Xmas period, this will do very little to shift opinion either way.
Where as something like Daze Before Christmas (which I also reviewed right here on RGG) which somewhat captures the spirit of the season while also presenting a darn good platform game in its own right, Santa Claus Saves The Earth on the PlayStation (no comment on its GBA version) just flat out sucks.
It's a shame as it makes for another missed opportunity to make a cash-in that's actually worth a spot in your collection. While there is few games the lucky Americans didn't get, this PAL territory 'wonder' from Telegames isn't the hidden gem you are looking for.
Second Opinion:- Transbot believes in Santa. As long as we are talking Miracle on 34th Street.
The only miracle here is that this game ever got made, let alone released. Imagine plonking down just shy of £20 on this monstrosity. Bzt. Makes Transbots circuits sizzle, it does!!
Transbot may believe in Santa, but Transbot also believes that this is an awful video game that brings shame upon Transbotmas and the warm spirits of the season!
Transbot Scores:- 3.5 out of 10