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Risky Woods Review

Risky Woods for the Mega Drive is a port of an Amiga game by Zeus Software. The reason why this is important is because the Amiga original is notorious for being one of the most difficult games on the system. Risky Woods is famous for an almost endless stream of high speed enemies that are considerably difficult to avoid and even harder to hit with projectiles. There’s also the added difficulty of finding 2 halves of a gate key to allow you to progress. Progressing without the key instantly transports you back to an earlier portion of the stage with half your health gone as payment.

So as you can see Risky Woods was a little bit unfair in its original incarnation. Luckily the Mega Drive version has tried its best to make the game a tad more forgiving and more enjoyable in the process. The major changes include the removal of the original game’s shop which was used to purchase upgrades. Currency dropped from enemies in the Mega Drive version now grant you power-ups once you obtain a certain amount (33 means you take less damage, 66 means you gain temporary invincibility). The other major change comes with the gates which are now unlocked with a small “Simon says” game in addition to finding the two halves of the key.

So those are the differences, but what about the overall experience? The goal in Risky Woods is to free monks cast in stone. If all the monks aren’t freed when you leave the stage then you will fail the stage and have to start over. Making this whole experience more difficult is the multitude of enemies that flood the stages. This is unfortunately an element of the original that was not changed in the Mega Drive version. Enemies spawn from every direction and in great numbers which makes for an extremely challenging game. What doesn’t help is that your character sprite is very large meaning that there are very few places you can hide to avoid enemies. Your main attack begins with a series of throwing knives but this can be upgraded to better weapons as you progress. There are also additional power-ups like the homing sphere which can be obtained to help dispatch more enemies but these only last temporarily. Regardless of the arsenal you have at your disposal, you always feel outnumbered and underpowered against the horde of enemies that is coming your way.

The major downside to Risky Woods and the most annoying inclusion in the game is that of the game’s treasure chests. Treasure chests are randomly scattered around stages and once opened reveal a series of bonuses and power-ups. The problem with these collectables is that their effect seems to change every time you attempt to pick them up. Some are even harsh enough to take precious energy or even lives away from you. Another item allows you to rest to regain strength but at the cost of precious stage time. Oh yeah, you’re also working against a strict time limit in every stage of the game. Could this game perhaps cut us some slack?

Why these design choices were made are anyone’s guess. Risky Woods is an uncompromising and hugely unfair gaming experience that could’ve been so much better. What makes this even more irritating is just how gorgeous it looks. The games sprites are huge and immensely detailed with the stages themselves featuring the same level of care and attention. Enough can’t be said about how stunning Risky Woods looks which is even more damning when you realise it’s so unbelievably difficult to progress.

Despite some changes to help make Risky Woods more palatable for a Mega Drive audience, the game does everything it can to test your patience. Risky Woods is a lesson in how too many gameplay elements spoil an otherwise gorgeous looking game. You’ll want to love Risky Woods but unless you can put up with the endless amounts of enemies and ever-changing collectables you’re going to have a hard time finding any enjoyment out of the game.


Written by Sonic Yoda on 27/03/2014

Cover and Cartridge Scans
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