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Retro Reviews- Brainlord

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This was not the game for everybody. Most died in the wool RPG gamers either loved or hated this title with a vengeance. It required a hell of a lot of brains, first off, because the puzzles were challenging as all hell. The combat started relatively simple, but got incrementally challenging as you went on. It also featured some of the most deceptively challenging jumping puzzles I ever saw. More than once, I chucked a controller across a room, cursing to a nameless deity above and below that its developers would be smacked in the face with a large cod.

Brainlord was a stand alone RPG published by Enix in 1994. Your main character is a son out on the search for his father, the last of a legendary guild of warriors. He makes his way out of the village he was raised in to a much grander world then he ever imagined. Along the way, he finds weapons and armor, new magical abilites and a semi-rare addition to the usual RPG setup, pets. Your pets are little sprites that take either defensive or offensive abilities and use them to help you on your way. They level up, just like you do, and the powers they contribute are critical to your survival in later dungeons.

This isn't a huge departure from other RPG's of its time. It changes the normal formula a bit here and there, but overall sticks to a well known series of console tropes within the genre. I really liked it, however, because it turned the difficulty of the normal push block and button puzzles on its ear and actually made you think. This game should have been given to kids in algebra classes, as some of its more elaborate puzzles were like word problems one had to solve to progress through the game. It was not for people who don't like the odd number crunch.

The combat was also kind of ingenious, as it was top down like Legend of Zelda, but also gave you a decision as to what weapons you used and what style you wanted to play. I've gone through once, without using magic at all, and other times it was all I used. Most people use a comfortable balance between the two that gives you some play and range on the baddies. I also liked that you were allowed two sprites, so you could have one offensive and one defensive. The games few drawbacks were mostly in spacial orientation, more than a few times in a jumping puzzle you will find yourself leaping off into the wild blue nowheresville, or swinging at a monster that was right in front of you, only to whiff open space.

The dungeons are huge. Usually somewhere between 4-15 levels a piece. The inventory system leaves a little to be desired, but it pays off in the end. Like most SNES titles, you will be fighting a lot of enemies you've fought before as to save money and space on the chip, most of the monsters are reused later in the game, recolored. Which means that if there is a particular monster you dislike, chances are you'll run into them again, beefed up and a different color later.

I found this one equally frustrating and enjoyable. If anything, it teaches you patience and focus. You will curse the game out a bunch, either for not giving you enough information on the puzzle, or for just leaping to your doom when it really isn't what you intended to do. When it does come together though, the boss fights are challenging, the puzzles are complex and engaging, and the design shows its colors to be a real quality title in an under appreciated studio. I recommend this one to anyone who has the patience to put up with it being a dick on occasion. Its like a brother in law who makes stupid jokes, it may piss you off, but it does always bring good beer.

4 out of 5.

Screen shots courtesy of

Josh Wright
Contributing Writer

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