I’ve always struggled with hand independence. While friends could effortlessly pat their head while simultaneously rubbing their stomachs, my mind seemed to resist multitasking. Instead, I prefer to focus on doing one thing at a time, finding gratification in the depth of turn-based titles. Occasionally, this can make playing action games with multiple moving parts a bit of a joyless affair. To employ a juggling metaphor- attempting to keep all the balls in the air can feel more like a chore than a gratifying way to spend any recreational hours.
As such, I probably shouldn’t be enthusiastic about Prisma & the Masquerade Menace. Recalling the mechanics of games like Outland or Color Guardians, the title tasks players with cycling through different colors- with each different hue transferring the game’s silent protagonist, Ray, into a different dimension. Initially, a blue dimension endows the ability to jump higher, allowing players to clear obstacles too high or wide for Ray’s usual leaps. You’ll also notice that phasing over to the cobalt color will make some platforms appear and others turn translucent, indicating that she’ll fall right through the object.
Soon, the demo added new wrinkles, with the yellow dimension allowing Ray to quickly scamper along, while red allows her to break any obstacles. Unsurprisingly, the five-stage preview requires players to quickly cycle between different dimensions. And before long, Prisma & the Masquerade Menace will have you transitioning between each realm, changing dimensions to make a walkway materialize, before requiring two more switches to shatter an object, and finally make a lengthy jump across a chasm.
In execution, it might not seem too far removed from some endless runners. But what makes Prisma more playable is the control you have over the protagonist as well as a generous amount of checkpointing. Endless runners traditionally raise difficulty by tossing an ever-increasing variety of obstacles at players, while maintaining the speed of the protagonist. To an extent, Prisma shirks frustration by handing over control of the main character. Most of the time when things get hectic, you can take a breather, mentally rehearsing the combo needed to pass the next obstruction. When you do make a mistake, there’s no worry of a limited number of lives or too much backtracking, lessening the chance for frustration. Another pleasing perk is the color scheme of Masquerade Menace’s dimensions, which replicate green, blue, red, and yellow buttons of an Xbox controller.
But that’s not to say the demo is completely devoid of vexation. Once the trio of dimensions (as well as a fourth realm without ability), difficulty increases. Gamers who find gratification if lofty challenges will surely relish the level of adversity, but those drawn to Prisma & the Masquerade Menace by the look of older, simpler ‘90s era platforming might dig in and hone their skills. Potentially, difficulty could be tempered by upgrades. Stroll through Prisma’s hub and it’s largely devoid of dialog or difficulty-assuaging power-up. Even if these places don’t augment Ray, they look to offer a respite between stages.
With eight months until it’s expected release, Prisma already offers an adept set of aesthetics. Visually, the highlight are the game’s backdrops. Filled with fantastically vibrant puffs of clouds, jutting spires, and rolling hills, these environments can converge on the surreal. While character animation is a bit stiff, you can sense that Shiny Bolt hopes to liquify things. Ray’s variety of outfits for each dimension seems to indicate the studio aims to flesh out the experience, and currently, there’s some attractive nuances as characters fly right through parts of the background. One of the more contenting effects occurs during Ray’s power-jump, with the heroine emitting a trail of feathers behind her. Undoubtedly, the demo’s most prestigious component is Alex Liberatore’s delightfully evocative soundtrack. The full game promises involvement from frequent Metal Gear composer Norihiko Hibino as well as Basiscape member and Final Fantasy collaborator Hitoshi Sakimoto. With the contribution of these two artists, Masquerade Menace’s audio is certain to get attention by gaming diehards.
Undoubtedly, there’s promise in Prisma & the Masquerade Menace’s early build. Before the game gets too tough, the title channels the blend of platforming and light puzzling that earned Klonoa: Door to Phantomile a solid fanbase. If the team can resist tuning play for gamers with robot-like reflexes and coordination, then the title make for a worthwhile recreation. At the very least, players have until December to elevate their multitasking skills.