The Zero Hour

Reviews, rants and oddities on video game and film culture.


Who reads books anymore?  it’s entertainment that engages your brain, who wants that when you can watch Kiefer Sutherland mindlessly gun down people who aren’t Americans in 24 without having to think of one thing other than “that explosion was pretty cool”. Even regular books are on the way out with e-books and Amazons Kindle, which are basically just words on a LCD screen, although to be fair, I’m against that too and would prefer to see E-books as kindling. If you grew up at any point when a superior medium, like video games came along, inevitably the generation gap becomes apparent and an older person would immediately despise your method of entertainment and encourage you to take up theirs. I’m clearly talking about book reading when I say this, not masturbation, you sick ****. Now in the 90’s when video games and kids cartoons were at their peak, adults would shoe horn the appropriate way to act and life lessons into them. And one of the most popular of these is reading a book and that brings me to Pagemaster.

Made in 1994 for the Sega Mega Drive, Pagemaster is that rare combo of awful ideas. It’s a film license game, it’s a 2D sidescrolling platformer that tries to “emulate” better platformers, and it’s source material features Macaulay Culkin. Remind you of anything? Pagemaster is about escaping the world of reading, so you can be encouraged afterwards to put down your controller and go to the library, because you know that having fun isn’t hard when you have a library card. And here’s the games first problem. There’s books. Everywhere. Now, I like how some platforms are made out of books, I applaud that neat touch, but it’s just. Insane. The items are carried by books, the map is a book, the enemies are mostly books, you finish the level by going through a book. I think there’s a theme running through this, but I don’t see it…

Pagemaster is a bog standard platformer, you climb up on bookshelves (shelves, made of books, HILARITY) through themed worlds that are basically a poor mans Donkey Kong Country. The plus side to all of this is the platforming is surprisingly relatively pretty good, the only problem I found is when you try to grab hold of ledges, it sometimes doesn’t work. And whilst the platforming is fairly sold and the levels give you lots to do, it’s actually a problem. When you start a new game, you’re expected to go through a couple of relatively simple levels to get used to the controls. Not Pagemaster, folks. You can die within 3 seconds of starting every level. Walk a bit “hey a book, wonder what that…oh I’m dead” and then the levels are so big and expansive, you won’t know where to go ON THE SECOND LEVEL.  It’s like you’ve been thrown into a pool that goes on forever when you can’t swim and just left with the sole instruction “Survive” There’s some terrible and grating voice acting, occasionally you pick up an item and the main character (who looks like if Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy had a baby together, which for the record slash fictioners, I DON’T WANT TO SEE, stop it) will exclaim “My library card” even if he just picked up a basket of bombs. Yes, I said a basket of bombs, £5 from Waitrose. He’ll also go “uh-oh” in the most feminine way possible when he nearly gets crushed by a giant green hand. Of course, it could be the hand saying that, although I doubt it because someone with that voice wouldn’t let his nails get that filthy. Oh and there’s also not a save function. You die in any of the levels, it’s straight back to the start of the game, it’s like Mario 3 without the charm. And the addictiveness. And just about anything that made that game fun despite it being as hard as a porn stars willy.

Pagemaster is very much a game you can enjoy in short bursts, I don’t think people would queue up to marathon it and whilst the platforming is fairly reasonable, it’s let down by insane difficulty and general confusion from the viewer (Do I jump on the red book, is it the end of the level, a new power-up or will it just kill me…like books do) and at the same time, I doubt anyone decided after playing it “You know what, let’s go to the library and let’s go borrow a book” I was tempted, but this being 2011 Big Society Britain, the government has closed them all. **** you, coalition. I guess it proves having fun is still hard when you’ve got a library card…I guess this is the end of the review then.


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