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Jikandia: The Timeless Land
Score: 70%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Aksys Games
Developer: Opus
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Action/ RPG/ Platformer (2D)

Graphics & Sound:
Jikandia: The Timeless Land is a hack-n-slash RPG of a different sort. Dungeons are presented as 2D platforming areas loaded with treasure chests and monsters. The catch is you're given a limited amount of time to traverse each level (between 3 and 30 minutes). Staying in a dungeon longer gives you more time to uncover goodies, though given the amount of repetition in each, there's a fair chance you won't want to hang out for very long.

Jikandia's visuals aren't amazing, but will certainly grab your attention. Although I thought the gameplay looked neat in trailers, the retro-y pixel art style was what sealed the deal when Jikandia came up for review. Presentation isn't thrilling, nor is it incredibly exciting, but its still fun for its simplicity. The only downside to the visuals are the dungeons. Each is randomly generated, usually leaving you with what amounts to a bunch of randomly-placed building blocks. It looks okay, but lacks in imagination.

Music takes an equally retro approach, which fits the art style and mood. At the same time, however, it's a bit grating.

The time element plays a large part in Jikandia: The Timeless Land's story. For years, the citizens of Jikandia lived a timeless, blissful existence. One day, the King of Time decided to reintroduce time, which somehow or another allowed demons to enter the world. You play as Hall, who is pulled into the world alongside a group of friends to fix the problem.

Nearly everything in the game is randomly generated, which theoretically adds loads to replay value. Every time you enter a dungeon, the layout and potential rewards are completely different. As cool an idea as the random levels are, they aren't that much fun to actually play through. You're guaranteed to find traps in the worst possible spots and it is not uncommon to get completely turned around while trying to work your way towards the door.

Dialogue is easily one of Jikandia's best traits, but even this is marred by sloppy execution. Characters have a lot of funny things to say - so much that it can't be contained by one text box. The text boxes aren't bad when they happen at the appropriate times, but characters like to talk during levels. On the positive side, the text boxes never obscured areas of the level, but at the same time, I was so focused on the levels I couldn't enjoy the text.

There's also a Coliseum area where you can play through areas with friends, though I wasn't able to test this feature out.

You get to decide how long you want to spend in a dungeon, so time doesn't factor into the difficulty level. If three minutes isn't enough, you can just bump the time up. If thirty minutes isn't enough time, well, there may be bigger issues at play. Jikandia: The Timeless Land is generally straightforward and easy, though you'll need to contend with a few randomly generated traps in strange places. Hall is the only character who can die, however, and the penalty only affects your end-level score, which isn't a major deal unless you're a score junkie.

Completing certain challenges on each floor of the dungeon earns stars. If you can earn all stars on a floor, the next will be easier. Actually collecting all stars on a level is a challenge; sometimes you'll need to find certain chests, other times you might need to defeat specific enemies. Sometimes you'll have to complete a "Just in Timer" challenge, which adds a timer to all chests. If you can find the chest with the special item in it before the clock runs out, you'll gain access to some cool equipment. The timer will also apply to doors. If you can't reach the door before the timer runs out, you're automatically jumped to the next floor and lose your star progress, usually ensuring a tough next floor.

Game Mechanics:
Boss fights showcase another of Jikandia: The Timeless Land's strengths, character customization. Boss fights are mostly about pattern recognition, though you'll need to find the right combination of kids if you want to defeat it. Each kid has a different attack pattern, though you're only allowed to take two into the dungeon with you at any one time. This opens up numerous strategic opportunities. If a certain attack combo doesn't work, you can always grab another pair of kids and try again. Even better, there's no one "ultimate" combo, opening up the opportunity for multiple combinations.

Another interesting bit of customization involves magic quartz crystals. Quartz crystals impart stat boost and other magic abilities. As with the combinations of kids, you're encouraged to experiment with different load outs in each level. There's no one win-all combination, so it's impossible to make it through the entire game with the same set of kids, weapons and quartz. As you progress through the game, you'll unlock more slots, upping the range of possible combinations.

Weapons add another point to customization options, though it is the weakest one. Spending more time in each dungeon is supposed to offer bigger and better awards for your time. However, this really isn't the case since the game is a bit of a tightwad when it comes to offering the better gear. Even after spending the full thirty minutes tooling around levels, I was always rewarded with crummy weapons.

I loved the level of strategic depth afforded by the system, but couldn't bring myself to replay missions or stay in dungeons longer than a few minutes. Jikandia: The Timeless Land offers a lot of neat possibilities, but trips up where it counts the most. Levels are repetitive and dull, which wouldn't be horrible if it at least made good on its reward system. It doesn't and as a result, Jikandia: The Timeless Land isn't as fun as it initially looks.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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