Daze Before Christmas is a bizarre, Christmas-themed platformer that was developed by Funcom and released by Sunsoft USA exclusively in Australia in 1994. So, it was a game developed in Norway and then released by a U.S. based software company exclusively in Australia.
You play Santa who has to save Christmas from an evil snowman that apparently doesn’t like Christmas. Along the way, you collect presents, banish enemies into the dimension of gifts and drink coffee to become the Anti-Santa. See? Bizarre.
Starting in Santa’s workshop, the game keeps track of your progress using a cute advent calendar themed map screen. From there, you travel across the world delivering presents or turning living things into presents. This has somewhat disturbing implications as you’re effectively not sure what is going on with the “turning enemies into presents” mechanic. Are they still alive in the box, slowly suffocating? Are they turned into a toy version of themselves and their evil will be unleashed on Christmas morning? Why is this even worth thinking about?
The control in Daze is fairly fluent, though Santa’s jump is a little floaty, and the screen doesn’t do a particularly good job of keeping up with you so you can accidentally run off of the edge of platforms or into enemies if you get a little overzealous. The enemies themselves are fairly simple. They mostly take the form of animals or possessed toys. You can throw magic at them to turn them into a present, as mentioned before, or collect a cup of coffee to turn into the Anti-Santa.
The Anti-Santa is essentially Satan. He is red, has pointy horns and bashes things to death with his sack. Further proof lies in the fact that “Satan” is an anagram of “Santa.” What kind of game is this? Why does coffee turn Santa into Satan? Is Funcom trying to say coffee is a vice that will turn you into the epitome of evil itself if you drink it and also Santa is an immortal reaper of souls?
Moving on from the delusional insanity that is the character design in this game, the level design in Daze is fairly simplistic. This is a very straightforward platformer wherein your only real goal is to get to the star at the end. Jumping puzzles are introduced midway through the game but even then they consist mostly of just trying to time jumps.
Occasionally, you find yourself flying over a city in Santa’s sleigh as he attempts to drop presents into the chimneys of sleeping boys and girls. That, or boxes full of the souls of his slain foes. These levels are a nice diversion from the mediocre level design of the platforming stages, but, in general, the game feels very unpolished and bereft of creativity.
Graphically, Daze is inconsistent. While character design is cute and mostly charming (try ducking), backgrounds are bland and feature minimal scrolling. There is very little detail to be seen, and some things just look really out of place or proportion. The game feels unfinished in many aspects, and this is one of the biggest indicators of that. Terrain consists of bland bricks or featureless rock or expanses of white with some blue in it. I like the intermission screens, and the animation is fairly fluent, but Daze is mostly boring to look at.
Sound design is another thing Funcom seemed to have given little thought to. Music is either minimalist and bland or a poor arrangement of a Christmas song. There is very little imagination in the soundtrack and sound effects are just bizarre. When Santa is hit by an enemy, he makes a weird muffled grunting sound that sounds like a sick car trying to turn over and every other sound in the game is just a generic ding or ring.
Daze Before Christmas is an unpolished, incohesive and just bizarre game. It’s not fundamentally bad as it is playable and features fairly competent play mechanics. The issues reside in how bland and forgettable it is. It’s an incohesive patchwork of “samey” levels, weird imagery and Satan.
Just to put this in perspective, when I was growing up in England, we didn’t get Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles because being a ninja was violent and wrong. Instead, we got Hero Turtles. However, you can have a game where Santa is transformed into the image of evil itself and bash penguins to death with a sack. I would only recommend this game to people who want to see what Daze is about for themselves; otherwise it’s so generic, there is really no reason to pick it up.