Psychic World...it isn't anything too special, but at the same time, you have to wonder what it's about since people tend to skip over it and discredit it as something that isn't worth anyone's time. Despite some less than stellar media ratings on various sites on the web, Psychic World (surprisingly enough) has a small cult following of those who appreciate the game. While this particular Game Gear port was released in 1991, Psychic World was actually released back in 1988 for a home computer known as the MSX. A number of people know about the MSX nowadays thanks to emulation and it had a number of interesting games released on it. Remember "Final Fantasy"? Of course you do. There is actually a port of Final Fantasy on the MSX as well as a number of popular games that you may have heard of or played back in the day. While the MSX had numerous interesting games released for it, the game I want to draw your attention to is a game known as "Psycho World". Sounds similar to Psychic World, doesn't it? Actually, they are similar games with a small name change and some game design differences and both games were developed by the strange company known as Hertz. There is another port of Psychic World on the Sega Master System that was released in 1991.
Hertz doesn't have too much of a history and they are now a defunct company. While they are known for Psycho World (Psychic World), Hertz has at least developed one other game besides PW by the name of Hydefos. Without going into too much detail, Hydefos was made in 1989 and it isn't another action game like Psychic World. The game was actually a shooter that played similarly to R-Type and Salamander (Gradius). Still, the game was just as poorly received as Psychic World and Hertz ceased to exist in the gaming world in the early nineties. While Psychic World and Hydefos are far from lost gold, they weren't nearly bad enough to cause the demise of a company. Trust me, games like Bebe's Kids for the SNES or Dark Castle for the Sega Genesis (Sega Megadrive) are games that deserve to bankrupt a development company...developers who are so twisted that they honestly think that those games are complete and ready for consumers when they may have been made in twenty minutes (and probably were never play tested...). With that being said, I do feel a little bad for Hertz, but what's done is done.
Psychic World takes place in the year 19XX in a science lab out in the middle of nowhere (seriously...in the middle of nowhere). In this lab, a strange scientist named Dr. Knavik does all sorts of different research on "ESP", or psychic powers. Dr. Knavik has two beautiful assistants named Lucia and Cecile and the two girls are also twin sisters with Lucia being the older of the two. Things seem normal for a while until a section of the lab blows up one day. Lucia happens to hear the explosion and runs to check if Cecile and Dr. Knavik are okay...only to find out that Cecile is gone! As a part of the ESP research, Dr. Knavik used monsters to learn more about ESP and how it works. However, the monsters broke free and took Cecile with them. Naturally, Lucia wants to rescue her sister, so Dr. Knavik gives her an invention he made known as the "ESP Booster" to increase her psychic powers to fight against the monsters. The game introduces the plot within the game, which helps since I don't like taking the plot from a manual. Even better, the game actually has a plot twist that I won't spoil. It's pretty easy to figure out, but at least the game tried not to be so predictable.
Lucia will run across four multi-sectioned levels as she uses her psionic powers to blast the various baddies into ashes. She'll travel across a grassy prairie and dark caves, the ice fields, ancient ruins, and finish her quest in a fortress full of mechanical fiends. The game looks like an early NES action game from the late eighties which doesn't help the game too much since it should have attempted to look more polished than the original MSX(2) game. Still, it looks decent for an early handheld title, which makes it seem a little more forgiving in my opinion than the Sega Master System version (being as it was a home console port) and as far as portable games back in 1991, the game looked pretty nice if you look at still shots.
However, Lucia probably has two or three frames of animation for her walk cycle and she will fight against foes who have just as little animation as she does. There are a number of things that animate within the environments themselves and that does make up for the lack of character and enemy animation to a degree. The chilling ice field looks nice and some creatures are fairly large and detailed in design (given the small screen that the Game Gear has), but it is unfortunate that Lucia's foes don't have the animation to make the game more interesting or exciting. Lucia does look sexy in the anime opening of the game (the anime art kinda reminds me of Phantasy Star), but the rest of her adventure isn't as sexy as she is...tsk, tsk, tsk. Anyway, all jokes aside, Psychic World still manages to look pretty good and has some visual charm due to the bright colors and the fact that this is a portable version of the game, but more animation would have greatly improved the appeal of the game. The game still looks fair as is though.
It helps that the sound isn't utter crap while you are running through the levels, but it is still somewhat repetitive.The sound effects are pretty cheap though and makes the game sound primitive. The noise the game makes when you shuffle through your abilities is particularly annoying and you will be hearing it a lot. One thing that is interesting to note is that "Ippo", or Izuho Numata (who also goes by the names of I. Takeuchi and Izuho Takeuchi according to MobyGames), did the sound for Psychic World. According to MobyGames, Takeuchi was also credited for his work on games like Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom, Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium, and other things. In a strange way, the music itself does vaguely remind me of something similar to PSIV, but it may just be in my mind.
On the surface, Psychic World sounds fairly ambitious. While the game only has four stages, players are given a very wide assortment of nine different psychic powers. Lucia has four defensive abilities and five offensive abilities. First, I'll state the defensive abilities. One of her defensive abilities is the ability to "Restart" the level. Using the power of "Restart" allows Lucia to start the level from the beginning. She restarts the level with exactly how much ESP and H.P she started with...so if your H.P wasn't full at the start of the level, using "Restart" will put you back at whatever your H.P was at the start. Lucia also has the power of "Restoration", which is extremely useful. Lucia will flash and recover a small amount of H.P, but while she is flashing, she will not take any damage from enemies whatsoever. She also won't be damaged by damage zones that would hurt her if she touched them. Another ability is the ability of "Flight" that allows Lucia to fly as long as the jump button is pressed (and until it wears off). Lucia also has a "Paralyzer" that momentarily stops enemy movement.
Now, let's review Lucia's arsenal of offensive abilities. Her five offensive abilities are her standard non-elemental Psionic Blast, an ice blast, a fire shot, a sonic wave, and an explosive burst that damages all enemies on-screen. The Psionic Blast can hurt all enemies, but the elemental shots (sonic, ice, fire) are effective against certain enemies. Some enemies are weaker against some weapons and can be killed easier (ice field monsters weak against fire, etc.) while certain enemies resist certain elements. The more of the same power-up you grab, the more powerful it becomes. Weapons also have various effects (fire melts ice, ice creates blocks, sonic breaks stone) and different psionic powers cost Lucia different amounts of ESP (while some don't cost her any ESP).
Lucia's movement is similar to games like "Kid Kool" for the NES. She must walk for a brief moment before she actually starts to run (you can't hold a button to run automatically). In other words, she can go from 3 miles an hour to 60 in a matter of moments and that may throw some people off. However, since PW doesn't have any pits like KK, you don't have to worry about a ton of cheap deaths. Still, the controls are a bit loose. If Lucia is being pushed forward by a water current and you jump without hitting a direction, Lucia will still jump forward rather than jumping straight up into the air and that means that the controls are somewhat flawed. There are a couple of additional restorative items you can grab to restore life and ESP as well as some items that give you bonus points (and can restore ESP too). The game is fairly generous with the restorative items since you don't recover H.P or ESP in-between levels. If you were about to die after beating the first boss, you'll start the next stage near death's door.
After the game throws the red carpet at you with all the various psionic powers you have and all the items all over the place you can grab, reality starts to sink in. The game is ordinarily very annoying due to the somewhat cramped level design. You will also have to constantly switch your abilities to beat the levels...so much in fact, it's actually quite a nuisance. On top of entering the abilities switch mode to change between weapons, you will constantly have to cast "Restoration" to make Lucia an invincible goddess. Doing so makes the game possess absolutely ZERO challenge. Without using "Restoration", the game may want to make you pull your hair out (if you aren't good) and while the game has seemingly infinite continues, the game is very straightforward to the point where it isn't worth challenging yourself just to get more out of the game. Therefore, I find that the game also has no replayability.
It's nice to beat the game once to know that you used a voluptuous babe to save another cute girl, but if you don't care about that, the game really isn't too great and doesn't offer much more than that. Psychic World isn't a terrible game, but it does nothing revolutionary. The game isn't entirely broken, but it is also short. Let me quit beating around the bush; Psychic World is very average...nothing more and nothing less. The game IS often very cheap, so you might want to give it a try since the game looks and sounds a lot different in action and may be more interesting than one might suspect...no thanks to the ugly as hell U.S. and PAL boxart!
- Written by Vyse the determined -