Christmas can be found hidden within a great many video games, especially those of the 8 and 16-bit eras. However, there are very few titles that are completely based around Christmas in their entirety. Daze Before Christmas however, really is a Christmas game in every respect.
Here the festive season takes centre stage, with players helping jolly old Saint Nic in his quest to save Christmas. In short, Santa’s Reindeer and Elves have all been kidnapped by an evil Snowman and the Timekeeper, the presents he spent all year making have been corrupted by an evil Mouse, and The Weather has masterminded the whole thing. This leaves Santa with just 24 days to save the day.
In fact, time is so short he’ll have to unleash the evil within. This is Anti-Claus, a Krampus stylised sadistic incarnation of the the man who comes through the chimney. Quite the chilling thought.
Unfortunately, this is all set up through three pages of text, and most will just want to skip this. Whilst wacky, the plot is a nice set up and stays true to the Christmas theme. Nevertheless, despite the fact that the story sets up Santa to travel far and wide while battling a range of enemies, sadly this isn’t quite how things play out.
That’s not to say that you don’t get to see a variety of locations and enemies. The main problem lies in the lack of variety. In fact, this is possibly the easiest way to summarise this game. You see, Daze Before Christmas isn’t a bad game, it just lacks content. Let’s take the gameplay for example.
The gameplay takes the form of a standard 2D side-scroller, and that’s no bad thing. Santa has two core movements, one button to jump, and one to throw magic. Enemies are defeated and presents are interacted with by utilising the magic button, which leaves the jump button simply for traversing the platforms and pits.
Magic can be upgraded with the power of fire, something primarily used to defeat the Snowmen. However there aren’t any other power-ups aside from this and Anti-Santa. Actually, Anti-Santa is one of the best features of the game. Unfortunately, the developers put limitations on this mode, meaning that despite Santa being invincible, the power up only lasts for 20 seconds, and you can’t grab any presents whilst in this mode either.
Essentially, this limits one of the most fun aspects of the game. Meaning that you’ll be seeing a lot less than you wanted of Santa bludgeoning Snowmen and Penguins with his sack of toys. I bet you never thought you’d actually be wanting to see that eh?
The enemies whilst fun and in keeping with the theme, also lack variety. This comes in more ways than one, as not only will the same Rats, Penguins and Demonic Toys appear over and over, but they’re also all defeated in the exact same way. This is sadly also true of the boss battles.
This also makes the game ridiculously easy. With 24 levels you’d think you’d be in for a challenge, but you’ll find yourself just breezing through the game. In fact I finished the first world, and beat the Evil Snowman boss without losing a single life.
Where the gameplay does deliver some variety though, is in the self scrolling flying missions whereby you have to deliver the presents you’ve collected. These bonus style stages take place on Santa’s sleigh, and will take you from New York to Tokyo, with some nice presentation to portray these cities. Unfortunately, despite the welcomed change of pace, these stages are just as repetitive as the core gameplay, whilst also not having the same quality as the standard platforming.
Presentation is another mixed bag. The game features numerous settings that include arctic locations, caves, and even Santa’s corrupted toy making factory. This time though, the problem is the lack of detail in the background. Whilst the foreground is nicely animated and will hold your attention, if you take a look at some of the backgrounds you’ll see very little. In fact sometimes all you’ll see is the colour brown.
On the other hand, the character sprites are really nice to look at, especially Santa. Again, the problem is there’s just not enough of them, and before you realise it you’ll have seen every single enemy the game has to offer, aside from the bosses. Nevertheless, all of the characters have enough detail to not only make them clearly recognisable, but even to inject a little bit of personality into the proceedings too.
This is especially true of Anti Santa. In fact, his transformation into the demonic horn sprouting Demon, will really make you wonder if Santa is actually that desperate to save Christmas that he’ll seemingly sell his soul. To top it all off every time you activate Anti-Santa, you’ll be treated to a slowed down Hellish rendition of Jingle Bells. There’s nothing quite as unsettling as your favourite Christmas songs being completely corrupted.
The music is actually the most varied aspect of the game. Both the tunes and sound effects are nice to the ear, without too much repetition. They also have that Christmas feeling, whether it’s jolly and happy, or sinister and demonic. The only thing that is disappointing though, is that aside from the excellent Anti-Santa and Final Boss music, the game does generally have a lack of true Christmas tunes.
For a game only ever released in Australia and parts of Europe, it’s dedication to the Christmas theme has seen it take on a somewhat cult status. This much certainly is justified. You also can’t fault any other aspects of Daze Before Christmas either, as what it does, it certainly does competently. The problem ultimately lies in the lack of variety, and the fact that being Christmassy is the only thing it does do exceptionally.
Ultimately, if you’re looking for a decent platformer then this isn’t for you. However, if you’re looking for a Christmas themed platformer that will certainly get you into the spirit, whilst being competent at what it does, then this is the one for you. It’s certainly worth a go at this time of year.
So, whatever you’re playing, or not playing, we here at Rings & Coins would like to wish everyone A Very Merry Christmas!