Title: Meikyuu Jiin Dababa
   Released by: Konami
   Release Date: May 29, 1987
   Japanese level: 1
   MSRP: 2980 yen
   Current Price: 500 yen

Back when CD-ROM games were just beginning to become popular, many people thought that the greater capacity would let game creators insert more challenging features into their works, making games harder and more interesting. Of course, the exact opposite has happened: all that blank space has been filled with graphics and often the game itself plays as if it was barely given a second thought. That's partly why I love Konami's games on all consoles so much - most find the perfect combination of gameplay and presentation to make the game as long-lasting as possible. This action jobbie is no different.

The background to Temple Labyrinth Dababa is sort of, but not really, removed from other games. The fundamentals boil down to another "save the princess" saga, but the multipage story gets a little creative: the story takes place in a village in India, where the evil god Dababa is controlling the townspeople via a mysterious temple he has built. Someone defeats Dababa and seals him in a sacred scripture, which is stumbled upon years later by the hero's brother and reopened. Havoc returns to the village, and your girlfriend gets kidnapped, so it's finally up to you to enter the temple and suss things out...

Like several other Konami FDS games, Dababa comes with a collector's card inside. Is it me, or does the main character look more like an American undergoing chemotherapy than a native of India? Oh well.

The game

Not quite straight action, not quite straight puzzle, Dababa walks the thin line between challenge and frustration and mostly succeeds. The game takes place on more or less a grid of squares surrounded by water or spikes. Your character can't actually walk; all he does is jump from one square to another (must be hard to carry the shopping home that way). You can control what direction and how far he jumps.

The object is to find a way to open the door to the next level and hop in. Sometimes it's already open; most of the time though you'll need to find an object to open the door. You do this by uncovering all of the secret panels in the current stage - sort of like StarTropics from hell, actually, except you have a wider variety of weapons and the enemies are quite a bit smarter.

Bosses are fought in side-view

So puzzle aspects abound in the game, although this isn't like Boxxle where you can take your time in moving. Enemies are attacking you the whole time, and some require more than a little cunning to defeat. In some levels the floors start dropping out as time passes, forcing you to make wild jumps and think about where to go next at the same time.

There's a total of 20 or so levels, and things get very difficult near the end as it's impossible to progress without finding the hidden items strewn about. However, the game is generous with the continues and the 'one more game' feeling is extremely high. Konami got the challenge just right here - you will not beat the game in one shot, but you will beat the game eventually; you'll be driven to.