Devil World
  • Genre:
    • Maze
  • Platform:
    • NES
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 10/05/1984
    • UK 07/15/1987
Score: 65%

This review was published on 12/31/2016.

Devil World is a video game developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Famicom. It was originally released in Japan on October 5, 1984, and Europe on July 15, 1987. The game was never released in North America, presumably due to Nintendo of America's strict policy against the usage of religious icons in games at the time. Normally, Nintendo of America would simply remove all religious references in the game, but Devil World has too many of them for that to be practical. This game was designed by the famed creator of Mario and Zelda, Shigeru Miyamoto. Takashi Tezuka, another big name that helped create many of the most beloved Mario and Zelda games, also helped design this game. In fact, Devil World was Tezuka's first job at Nintendo when he joined the company fulltime. Despite this game being a Satanic take on Pac-Man, Tezuka claimed that he hadn't played Pac-Man prior to working on Devil World, but did get around to it sometime later. At any rate, while Devil World is filled with many interesting ideas, those ideas ultimately get in the way of its simplistic game play.

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In this game, you control a tiny green dragon named Tamagon as he moves around miniature mazes viewed from an overhead perspective. Tamagon is moved around with the d-pad, while the A and B buttons are used to breathe fire, which is how he defeats enemies. However, Tamagon can only breathe fire if he's carrying a cross or Bible. Crosses and Bibles are located at certain points in the maze, similar to the Power Pellets in Pac-Man. Also like the Power Pellets, the cross Tamagon is holding will vanish after a while. Unlike Power Pellets, crosses don't disappear from the maze after you pick them up, so you can always go back to get another one. On the other hand, Bibles last until you willfully give them up, but they do disappear from their spot in the maze once picked up, meaning you'll have to go elsewhere to get more. If this all seems strange, then brace yourself, because it's only going to get stranger from here.

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The main feature of this game is the dancing blue demon wearing tights at the top of the screen, simply referred to as the Devil. Every so often, he'll stop dancing around to point in one of the four cardinal directions. Whenever this happens, which it often does, the screen will begin to move in the pointed direction. This is a good thing in some ways, as it'll allow you to explore more of the maze. However, this is also the thing that gives the game its primary challenge, because it can put you in a tight spot, quite literally. If you get caught between one of the borders of the screen and a wall in the maze, you'll be squished to death. That's not even mentioning the fact that the enemies can use the automatically scrolling screen to corner you. As a result of all this, you need to carefully plan out all your movements, always taking the screen's movement into account.

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There are three different types of stages, and the objective actually differs depending on which one you're currently on. During the first stage type, your mission is to collect all the white dots in the maze. If the Pac-Man similarities weren't apparent before, then they certainly should be now. Anyway, the catch is that Tamagon can only collect dots while he's carrying a cross, otherwise he'll pass right through them. That's not too big of a deal, though, because you'll always want to have a cross on you anyway, since it allows you to attack enemies. Once all the dots have been acquired, you'll move on to the next stage. Many of the dots are hidden off screen, so you'll have to wait for the Devil to slowly scroll the screen around in order to get them all. This takes quite a while, which slows the game's pacing down to a crawl. That's one of the game's main downfalls.

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In the second type of stage, you're tasked with gathering Bibles instead of dots. There are only four of them, however, and each one must be placed into a slot in the flashing skull box at the center of the maze. As mentioned earlier, Bibles allow Tamagon to breathe fire like crosses, except they don't run out on their own. However, you obviously lose the Bible you were carrying if you place it into the skull box, so you'll be defenseless until you get another one. You can only carry one Bible at a time, which means you'll have to make four trips to complete the stage. The four Bibles are always located at the four corners of the screen, moving in tandem with the screen and floating over walls. This makes locating them easy, but acquiring them is still tough, since it's far easier to get squished when you're near any of the screen's corners. As with the dots, you'll have to spend lots of time waiting for the Devil to scroll the screen around in order to get the Bibles and reach the skull box.

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The third type of stage is actually a bonus stage. During bonus stages, the goal is to use the limited amount of time you have to grab as many floating boxes as you can, which usually contain bonus points, but sometimes contain extra lives. This is the only stage where the Devil and his cronies are absent, meaning you're actually the one in control of the screen this time around. To exercise this rare freedom, Tamagon must step on arrow tiles scattered throughout the maze, which will cause the screen to scroll in the direction the arrow points at. This is still kind of annoying, though, because you won't always encounter the desired arrow tile. However, the stakes are low enough for this to not matter much, since dying on a bonus stage simply ends it without subtracting from your total lives.

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After completing the three stage types, you'll progress onto the next round, where the cycle begins anew. Like most arcade styled games of the era, this will continue on until you either lose all your lives or get bored. Naturally, the later rounds do get harder, as the speed increases and tougher enemies begin to appear. Plus, the game cycles through a number of different maze layouts, some of which are harder than the others. Also, it's possible to play this game with a friend. In the two player mode, the second player controls a tiny red dragon that has all of the same abilities as Tamagon. Space isn't really a problem, because players are able to pass through each other like ghosts. Having a friend along for the ride certainly enhances the game's appeal, if only by a little bit.

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Certainly, Devil World is a very intriguing take on the Pac-Man formula, but it pales in comparison to the real thing. The main thing that differentiates this game from Pac-Man is also the main thing that makes it the inferior product. In other words, innovation isn't always a good thing. While the screen automatically scrolling in random directions is a unique feature, it does nothing to enhance the experience. Devil World requires the patience of a saint, since you spend the majority of the game waiting for the screen to scroll in the direction of your current objective. You know what they say: the Devil is in the details.

Word Count: 1,271

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