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Dawn of Mana - first look hands-on

Yes, instead of flinging photorealistic office desks and street dumpsters across the screen, we were tossing cartoon logs, boulders and acorns. Yet, the accurate physics were definitely still present. Those giant nuts were rolling, bouncing and careening off the ground and walls exactly like you'd expect them to in this world... if such things existed, of course. It's a very strange juxtaposition - the magic of Mana and the science of Half-Life - but one that seems to get more strangely satisfying as you progress through the game.

At first, you can only push objects. Being an action-RPG, however, your stats build as you defeat enemies and, eventually, you have a kind of vegetative hybrid arm-whip that can latch onto objects far away in the environment and send them flying in various directions. Think of it as Square's whimsical take on the gravity gun. Get to even higher levels and your whip can spin objects or grab impossibly massive objects.



And the point of making a mess of everything? In another innovative twist, Dawn of Mana's enemies operate on a system of fear. The more random stuff tossed their way, the higher the "panic" number above their head becomes. And the higher their panic number, the weaker their defenses and the easier they are to kill with your other weapons, such as the sword or the sling shot. Why they don't get more panicked to see a deadly sword swinging at them, we don't know, but it is undeniably fun to watch their virtual blood pressure go through the roof as you toss the, well, roof at them. Did we mention you can snag the enemies, too, and use them as ammo on each other? It's fun.

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