Review: Psycho Fox (Master System)

Psycho Fox is a platformer for the Sega Master System and one of the tougher cartridges to track down. Its protagonist is Psycho Fox, and his goal is to defeat the evil Madfox through 21 levels and 7 bosses.

Psycho Fox's game play is based around momentum, and it is awkward at first. You start off moving slow and gradually reach your top speed. This affects things like jumping as well, as you need to build up a head of steam to make a long jump. It does make it a bit tough to avoid enemies too, as you can't make a split second decision to turn around and go the other way to avoid them. After a while, you get used to the physics and it becomes second nature.

The unique element to Psycho Fox is the ability to change between four characters throughout the levels. In addition to the fox, there is a tiger (fastest character), a monkey (highest jumper), and a hippo (can punch through walls). Scattered through the levels are eggs that you can punch and break open. Some of them contain a psycho stick. From the pause menu, you can select the psycho stick (if you have one) and then change characters.

This changing characters element is what makes Psycho Fox unique. Different levels require different characters to proceed. Selecting the monkey may help you reach a high up platform to discover new areas in the maps. Or you can select the tiger and speed through the levels. You can save up to 9 psycho sticks and use them at your leisure.

Other items available include a potion (again, you can have up to nine and they are selectable from the pause menu) that gives you temporary invincibility. The third item is a bomb of sorts, that will eliminate all enemies from the current screen. I never found this particularly useful. Some enemies will also drop these items after you destry them. None of the items can be used on the bosses.

You also have a sidekick, Bird-Fly, which is a flying bird (as opposed to one that can't fly, like a penguin). Bird-Fly is hidden in some eggs that are scattered through the levels. He rests on your back but you can throw him at enemies. This is helpful for taking out a couple enemies at once or an enemy in a hard to reach place. If you don't have Bird-Fly, you can either punch enemies or jump on their heads to destroy them. After doing his thing, Bird-Fly returns back to you like a boomerang. Additionally, if you get hit by an enemy and Bird-Fly is on your back, he will die instead of you.

Speaking of dieing, Psycho Fox dies with one hit. So if you are approaching an area with a lot of enemies, you need to use your invisibility to get through. There were a few instances where I was cruising along only to have a jumping enemy appear out of no where and land on my character, leading to my death. Thankfully, Psycho Fox does offer an infinite amount of continues. After continuing, you start at the level you where you died, but without your items. There are no checkpoints in the levels.

The level design in Psycho Fox is excellent. There are 7 different worlds with 3 stages each. The last stage of each world concludes with a boss battle. The first world is a typical outdoor style level. The second world is much the same, with a darker color palette. The world stage is a desert style level. World 4 takes you up in the clouds. The fifth world is the first indoor level and takes you underground, complete with Mario-esque pipes. World 6 is an ice level. The final world is a factory of sorts.

Each of the 21 levels are fairly big and there is a lot to explore with multiple paths to progress. There are also lots of eggs scattered throughout the levels which give you items (as described above), the Bird-Fly, or an enemy waiting to attack. The bosses are one of the few weaknesses of Psycho Fox. Not only are they easy (all die with three attacks) they repeat as well.

Graphically speaking, Psycho Fox looks great. Everything is very colorful and sharp. The 4 main characters look very catroonish. The bosses are fairly big and complicated, especially for an 8-bit title. Psycho Fox throws around a lot more colors than is capable on the original Nintendo. When using the fastest character in the game, the tiger, this game absolutely screams along at Sonic like speeds.

My only disappointment were the backgrounds of the levels. The 5 outdoor levels all features the same blue sky with white clouds. The 2 indoor levels feature just a black background. Psycho Fox does have occasional flickering when a lot of enemies are all near each other. It doesn't happen often, nor does it affect the game play.

The soundtrack is average and limited. Four of the worlds use the SAME song. The desert level uses a nice Arabic style track. The other two levels again share a song. Some more variety would have been nice. The 3 tracks are your standard 8-bit songs that repeat endlessly.

Overall, this game is a blast to play. You need to utilize all 4 characters to get through the game. The Bird-Fly side kick offers a unique weapon to help you defeat enemies. The colorful graphics look great and show off what the Sega Master System can do. Psycho Fox offers the kind of playability as Mario and Sonic games, which you will want to play over and over to discover every little nook and cranny of the massive levels. This is a great Sega Master System game, and a must-own for platformer fans.

Graphics 8/10 - Great cartoony style
Sound 5/10 - Average repetitive music
Game Play 8/10 - Unique momentum based mechanics
 Overall 8/10 - Classic platforming fun