I found a great game! I have exposed myself to over 100 games so far in this Gaming Pathology experiment but this is the first one that grabbed me right away and that I kept enjoying right up until (what I suspect is) the last boss. Sure, there are a few games that have made the “good” cut. But Little Samson had me at “hello”, or at least it would have if it had any dialog at all. Fortunately, I was able to find the manual for the game, which is always a bonus for a less-than-intuitive game like this. However, even without the manual, the game does an absolutely phenomenal job of explaining the storyline without resorting to words.
A big bad evil dude has escaped from his supernatural prison, where he has had centuries to think about how he wants to make the world suffer. The emperor dispatches his armies to take care of this menace, but they are not much of a match. The emperor then sends out 4 messenger birds to retrieve 4 unique adventurers in their home lands. The player’s first task is to guide each adventurer through a brief level in order to reach the castle, where they gather as pictured above. All 4 are the bearers of magical bells and they are to strike out on this adventure as a team whereby the other 3 adventurers who are not Samson jump into Samson’s magical bell. There is an interesting conflict as Kikira, the Dragon Lord, acts contrary to this order by breaking from the pack and shaking her head. Again, no words, but easy to understand. Samson has to fight with her before she agrees to join the initiative.
Then the real game begins. It’s side scrolling action where you get to select between any of the 4 adventurers (the unused characters go back into the magic bell when not in use). What’s the use in this? Each adventurer is highly unique and possesses abilities that will prove valuable to the overall effort.
I keep referring to the characters as adventurers because I hesitate to call them heroes. According to the manual, all of the characters aside from Samson are essentially cursed by their special powers due to some badness they committed. For example, Kikira used to be a human who was turned into a dragon — albeit the Dragon Lord — basically because she was a bitch (seriously, “Kikira was once a human girl until she turned into a dragon because of her arrogance and selfishness”). That helps explain her resistance in the early act.
Kikira can fly short distances which comes in handy in certain circumstances like this:
It is also useful during a variety of boss battles since a typical boss fires magical projectiles in patterns that assume the defender can not jump and hover.
Next is the Rock Lord, Gamm. He’s strong, slow, can’t jump very high, and has a medium range retracting punch. But one of the keenest attributes he brings to the effort is the ability to stand on spikes:
Isn’t that awesome? Have you ever seen a NES game where a character is able to just disregard spikes? It’s funny that the programmers added the requisite moving platforms so that weaker characters would have a chance of crossing the spike pit unscathed. Gamm does not even notice the pricks.
The Mouse Lord, curiously named K.O., is very weak and very fast. But he can plant powerful time-delay bombs in his wake. He can also fit places where the other team members can not. Plus, he and Samson share the ability to scale walls and climb across ceilings.
Honestly, I did not mean to play this game very long. I found a tool-assisted speed run movie sequence file that I planned to use to capture screenshots after playing briefly to get some intro shots. But I just kept playing and playing and playing and I never even bothered with the speed run. This game is going right on my “Good” list of games that I want to revisit. Perhaps I will figure out how to beat the boss that I am presently stuck on. Then, I would actually like to play the game all the way through again on the harder level.
The gameplay and the graphics and the music totally rock in this game, from start to finish. If I had one complaint, it would be that it is a little awkward that the music changes whenever you change the current adventurer. Each character effectively has a theme song. It’s an interesting touch, but can sort of throw you off. Fortunately, the music is not character-dependent at certain key points in the game, such as boss battles.