When a lab in the middle of nowhere blows up and unleashes a whole plethora of weird creatures, it’s up to Lucia clean up the mess. To worsen this situation, the creatures kidnapped her sister Cecile. But, worry not: the twins work with Dr. Knavik, who developed the so-called ESP booster to give Lucia some amazing powers… And then the scenario is set for a Master System game which went under many peoples radar: Psychic World.
Developed by a less-known studio named Hertz for MSX2 in 1988, Psychic World was ported to 8-bit systems (Master System and Game Gear) in 1991. Thanks to Nintendo’s third parties restrictive policies in the 80s, SEGA’s common practice was to buy many games rights and migrate them to her platform, sometimes hiring smaller studios to do so.
Psychic World is, like many games from that age, a sidescroller platformer and much of its playability was inspired by Megaman. The game, however, has many core differences. First, Lucia’s main weapon has a very limited range, increased via power-ups on the way.
Second, one could remember Master System had very limited controls (the D-pad and only TWO buttons in the controller). Thus, some functions were mapped to button combos: the running feature, for example, was enabled after seconds pressing right or left D-pad. This came up with a problem: even though the game has a health bar, Lucia DOES NOT get temporarily invincible when hit. In some situations during the game, that can be frustrating.
An interesting feature in Psychic World is the inventory, and now that ESP bar makes sense: when a boss is defeated, it gives a new psionic weapon to the player. These weapons are ammo-infinite and increased via power-ups but limited by how much ESP power the player has. Like we said before, the inventory access is done via jump button + D-pad down; should jump button be held while selecting the weapon or power to be used. Yeah, yeah, yeah, this is boring somehow, but Master Systems lack of button forced some imaginative solutions.
In Psychic World, the player has weapons and psionic powers available. Weapons have the main function as in any other platformer: destroy enemies. But they also have a strategic feature, and that makes all the fun work. They are used to solve some problems like creating platforms with the ice shot or melting ice blocks with the fire weapon. The psionic powers include temporary invincibility and levitation, damage to all on-screen enemies and a teletransport. This is useful when in trouble, so the player can always go back to level start (provided that ESP is enough to do so).
Okay, the game’s got some hardships on its way. These require skill, pattern memorization and, of course, persistence. But, if you consider that lives are infinite, and you can always go back to level beginning, some of the challenge goes away. And this feeling increases a bit when you find out that the six levels in MSX2 version are larger than the five in Master System. Yes, due to ROM restrictions, SEGA had to drop one level out and reduce journey size.
But not everything is negative here: Master System sprites are varied and colorful. Levels range from green plains with volcanoes, ice caves, ruins and even high-tech labs. If Lucia and the enemies sprites are tiny, this issue is well-balanced with huge, nice-detailed bosses. The HUD size, which fills one-third of the screen, absolutely does not disturb playing; it helps viewing items and managing HP and ESP instead.
Furthermore, there are these nice, eye-candy anime cutscenes to illustrate the story and set the tone for the next level. This feature, combined with 8-bit music, turns the little pause between levels a nice experience.
The in-game soundtrack helps boosting the player to go on the journey and, even being loopable 8-bit music, is not annoying. The sound FXs are not loud, and some are even subtle.
So, here’s the verdict: even with some control issues (due to Master Systems simplicity in this field), Psychic World is a nice sidescroller with some late 80s anime feeling and a game worth trying. And, may I say, if you’re not convinced yet, this is one of the first games known to feature a plot twist.
The game is fun, even with less and smaller stagens than MSX2. One could be mistaken with controls at first, but is worth trying.