In the global village known as the Internet, there are a lot of old Chinese and Korean games hardly known by any Western audience. Language barriers, including a system of writing that isn't even readable by most onlookers from this hemisphere, make for mostly separated networks of knowledge about each country's game heritage. The fact that most Korean sites require a complicated registration process including verification of one's identity certainly doesn't help.
Eracha is one of the better-known Korean games but is nonetheless far from being widely known. Developed by a small company, Mirinae Software, who in its home country has been better known for shoot-'em ups, this one is a cute little platformer with cartoony graphics.
You're a little horned troll out to rescue your kin, while fighting all kinds of ghosts and demons that stand in your way. There are four pairs of stages, with each pair taking place in a different country of the world, plus a sole final stage. You'll find yourself traveling around China, Japan, a castle in Europe, and a stage that looks like it's located in Mexico but is filled with stereotypes from the USA, like hamburger-shooting Halloween pumpkins and black basketball players (!) as enemies.
The controls are simple but versatile. CTRL executes your standard attack, while ALT employs one of the many extra weapons, which can be cycled through by pressing SPACE. You jump by pressing up, and doing so twice executes a double jump, which is often required to reach certain areas. You can also run by double-tapping a directional key, which not only makes you faster but also further increases your jumping range. Nonetheless, there will still be quite a few ledges which seem out of reach at first glance. This is where the troll's most special ability comes into play - peeing on the floor. Executed by double-tapping the down key, this ability will unload his bladder, causing a trampoline-mushroom to grow at certain (mostly unmarked) spots.
The level designs are quite interesting, and it is at least funny to see what kinds of stereotypes the developers filled the stages with. Most maps are rather extensive, with many hidden passages and hard-to-reach bonus areas. Fighting enemies can be a bit tricky though, since your standard attack slows you down even to a halt when executing it multiple times in a row. You'll often find yourself just standing there mashing the attack button while you wait for the enemies to approach. Sometimes it's quite difficult to escape a group of enemies which is constantly attacking you. This is especially the case with the bats, so take care. The bosses are rather badly done, overall. Even though some of them have interesting designs, they're all ridiculously easy to defeat when you've got enough ammunition for your extra weapons and ridiculously hard when you don't.
When you die you'll be asked if you want to continue, but when you do, your score is always reset to zero. There are no extra lives, but you can continue as often as you want.
There are a few flaws in the programming: why is it, for example, that you can collect distinctive items for each extra weapon, but they only fill one common pool of ammo? The collision detection isn't quite optimal as well, but it mostly works in your favor. Some enemies don't even hurt you unless they're executing their attack, so you can just run through them if you time it correctly. Also, for some reason, you seem to do more damage when attacking while jumping.
Even though Eracha was released in 1996, the technical level of the game corresponds more to Western or Japanese games from the early nineties, as is the case with most Korean games of that era. Nonetheless, the game doesn't look bad at all. The character designs are interesting - though stereotyped - and cute, and most visuals look very polished. A few of the stages can get a bit boring visually, because there aren't that many different background tiles. The music is just OK; while the tunes are mostly catchy and fit nicely to the feel of each stage, the loops are rather short and can get on your nerves, especially when you have to restart a stage multiple times.
The in-game text is completely in Korean, but this is not much of a hindrance. The only things you have to figure out are the in-game and options menus, and there aren't too many options, so you'll get to understand them easily.
All in all, Eracha is not an outstanding game but is nonetheless a more-than-solid platformer which has high replayability, since there are so many hidden areas to be discovered. This is one of the better Korean platformers I've played so far, and it is about time this game gets a bit more attention.