Released: November 1994
Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas! I hope you’ve been good this year, because it’s time for my Christmas gift to you. And this gift comes from Funcom, so you know it’s going to be FUN!
Daze Before Christmas is one of the rarer games in the PAL-exclusive SNES library, and for obvious reasons. A Christmas-themed game starring Santa Claus gathering presents from run-amok toy factories to deliver to children is only going to be sold for a couple of months. Come the reopening of shops on December 27th, it will be nowhere to be seen, unless it’s popular enough to get a sales slot in November of the next year, leaving a stock of cartridges safely in the Sunsoft warehouse for the intervening ten months. Unlikely, I reckon.
The story is exactly what most would expect. Return order to the North Pole by circumventing a host of traps and goofy Christmas-stopping creatures, collect presents and get to the end of the level. It’s a standard platformer with infrequent enemies, collectibles and wide leaps, in addition to a host of hazards and platforming challenges that require some patience and trial-and-error to figure out. Enemies are pretty standard, moving back and forth and dying in one hit, but they fit the settings and come with some pretty wacky designs. Santa can attack with a snow projectile (Y) or by jumping on enemies (B jumps, double-tap B to stomp). Every so often, Santa takes to the skies with his reindeer and sleigh to drop presents down chimneys for the kids to open.
The game’s biggest asset is its vibrant graphics. The animation on Santa is particularly snappy, while the parallax-scrolling backgrounds, detailed sprite gradients and smooth frames for opening presents, enemy movement and stage hazards show that a lot of care went into the presentation. Santa moves through such diverse locations as houses, flooded basements, snow plains with evil snowman bosses, the Northern Lights and wood factories, and they’re all rendered very well. The music is a little tinny-sounding, but it’s goofy and nicely composed, with quotations from familiar Christmas songs. My favourite is the minor-key “evil Jingle Bells” that plays whenever Santa drinks coffee and becomes Devil Claus.
One area that lets down the game is the level design. Santa’s a bulky guy to begin with, and the speed he runs at is quite impressive, but the trouble with that is it can be difficult to react to the many pits that litter the level. Additionally, the levels are full of blind drops. Santa can duck and hide inside his hat (d’awwww) to make the camera pan down, but on a disintegrating platform the only option is to guess. Losing track of platform location mid-jump is also common. The first six levels are easy enough to complete in one life, but from level 7 onwards, these issues become more pronounced. If the game had better camera control or less hazardous platforming it would probably have received a higher grade.
Daze Before Christmas is not a game that’s challenging, engaging or addictive, but it’s got charm to spare and the production values are pretty high. Christmas-themed games are something that major publishers almost never do, so for something that captures the holiday spirit of everyone’s favourite bearded do-gooder, it’s far better to choose this over any freeware PC disaster or half-constructed phone game. And isn’t that the true meaning of Christmas?