Review by Asina1980

Reviewed: 01/31/03 | Updated: 01/31/03

Strictly Mediocre....

Ah, Swagman -- one of the more forgettable titles to be released for the Playstation One (which, I suppose says a lot). I came to know of it several years ago, when one hazy night at around 3AM I saw it hanging there on the discount wall of a local superstore. I don't know -- I guess I just felt sorry for it. It seemed so out of place there, among all the old Super Nintendo and Genesis titles that the store was still vainly trying to unload after having kept on the shelves for far too long. I thought it unfair that a Playstation title was being placed in the same category of merchandise as those other items. Well, it can't be that bad, I reasoned, I mean, look -- it's even made by Eidos, the same developer behind the Tomb Raider series. Besides, it was only ten bucks.
So I bought it.

Swagman turned out to be decent enough little game. Although it is by no means impressive, it at least provides a fair amount of entertainment and challenge for the brief amount of time that it lasts. I found myself playing obsessively for several hours at a time, completely oblivious to my surroundings, and not really sure of just what direction the game itself was taking. You avoid obstacles; you go on a few scavenger hunts for needed items; you defeat some enemies; you solve a number of puzzles...and then, it's over. After having become so deeply engaged in the various tasks the game required me to accomplish, I was somewhat surprised by how quickly it all ended. Seriously -- what I initially assumed was just the first level turned out to be the entire game. So, I guess what I'm saying is, I enjoyed the little that there actually WAS to enjoy.

You are Zack, a young boy who lives in a suburban town called Paradise Falls. One night, after Zack and his sister, Hannah, read a bedtime story about an evil Boogie-Man-like fellow named the Swagman, something sinister befalls your sleepy community. You guessed it -- the Swagman actually shows up. Zack and Hannah watch in horror as the Swagman proceeds to capture all of the local ''Dreamflies'', which are necessary for the townspeople to have pleasant dreams. With the Dreamflies out of the way, Swagman is able to unleash his dark army of ''Terrors'' to wreak havoc upon the land. Can Zack and Hannah stop him, or is the world doomed to remain trapped in an endless nightmare???

Let's break it down....

Swagman plays like a standard early PSX 2-D (did I mention that it's 2-D???) platformer. You get an overhead view of your character (Zack). You move him around. He can jump. He can carry one item at a time. He can push objects around in order to solve puzzles. You know the drill.
You start off in the family home, which has been decimated by the evil Swagman. Zack must unlock a series of rooms and solve a number of relatively easy puzzles in order to release his sister, who at this point is being held captive by the Swagman. Later, you will do more-or-less the same things, only in different environments, and with the option of switching between characters.
There's really nothing too deep or groundbreaking about the gameplay here. Sometimes, you'll enter a ''Dream World'', which is essentially the same as the ''Real World'', only it looks cooler and your character changes his/her form. The whole Sleep/Dream concept is the central motif of this game, and it can actually be rather charming at times. You know, searching for such things as ''Dream Dew'' and ''Dream Dew Pockets'', etc....It's kinda cute.
The controls are solid....It's not too hard....I found the gameplay engaging enough.

Well, there's not much more to it than what's revealed in the opening scenes of the game. The story elements that ARE there, however, are fairly creative and interesting. It's apparent to me that the game's designers put a considerable amount of love into this story, though. It's hard to explain, but Swagman's just got ''Soul'' to it. I couldn't help but be charmed by the whole thing just a bit...even if it is rather ''kiddie''.

Something to bear in mind is that this game came out during the early days of the Playstation. Therefore, it's to be expected that Swagman would have somewhat unimpressive graphics. I mean, they're certainly not BAD -- some of the effects are actually quite pretty; it's just that they don't stand out in any particular way. Like many older video games, Swagman was not designed with the graphics in mind as a top priority. For their time, however, the visuals in Swagman were, in fact, above average.

Although I don't normally consider the sound of a game all that important of an aspect, I must make an exception in the case of Swagman. The game features crystal-clear and realistic sound effects that really were quite impressive for their day. The sounds of Zack and Hannah calling to each other through the howling wind add a distinct element of creepiness to the game overall. In fact, the sound in this game is probably the most memorable thing.

In the end, Swagman is a fairly enjoyable, if unremarkable, experience. You may find the game especially suitable for younger players, as it is rather simple and features a story that is obviously aimed at those under the age of ten. If you can find it cheap (say, for less than 15 dollars), and you need something with which to occupy yourself for a rainy afternoon, then Swagman may be a safe enough bet.
But what I really want to know is, just how did they come up with the name ''Swagman'', anyway???

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

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