Sunday, July 17, 2011

Croc 2 (PSX) Review

AKA Croc Adventure [JP]
1999 Argonaut Software/
Fox Interactive

Review: July 12th-July 17th, 2011
When I was little, I experienced Croc: Legend of the Gobbos for the original PlayStation, and it was a game that I fell in love with since then, and is one of my top favorite PlayStation One titles ever. It had decent challenge, great atmosphere, lots of charm, fun gameplay, varied action and platforming situations, and tons of replay value. I remember one Christmas long ago when I got the game's sequel Croc 2. It was a surprise to me, as I wasn't aware that there was a sequel prior to having unwrapped the gift. Having loved the first game, I imagined that the second game was going to be just as good. My initial reaction when I first played it, however, was a little mixed. Croc 2 had a hub world, and was totally different from the first game. I remember not having gone far because I couldn't beat a certain stage when I was little, which was a problem. So, as a result, I wouldn't be able to play the game again for awhile. I managed to get a bit far when I gave it another go last year, but I got stuck somewhere in the second world. When I played it again this year, not only have I beaten it for the first time, but I've completed it, too. So, you must be wondering what my feelings toward this second Croc outing are like right now? Well, I'll tell you; in review form.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story of Croc: it all started in Gobbo Island, when King Rufus found a baby crocodile in a floating cradle. They didn't know where he came from, but King Rufus and his G
obbo companions decided to raise the little croc as one of their own, and decided to give him the name Croc. They had played together and had a lot of fun together. Then, one day Croc grew tall, as tall as three Gobbos stacked together. As Croc began to feel a bit unsettled about his newfound height, Baron Dante and his minions the Dantinis began to steal the Gobbos and separate them because they hated their happy lifestyle. Before he would get Gobbo-napped, King Rufus summoned Beany the Bird to keep Croc out of danger. Not liking that his Gobbo friends were kidnapped, he went on a long adventure to save them and vanquish the evil Baron. In the end Croc succeeded, and now that Baron Dante was gone, he and his Gobbo friends lived a fun and happy life for awhile.

Croc 2 begins when an inventor Gobbo has finished constructing his latest machination while listening to the first game's title theme on the radio. Feeling that he's done his job, he decides to head home
for the night. On the way there, he notices a group of Dantinis dancing around a fire. Having wondered what they were up to, he decided to investigate, until something horrible happened. Baron Dante has risen from the fires of Hell, and being terrified from what he just witnessed, the inventor Gobbo decides to run and warn the others, but sadly the Dantinis stopped him at his tracks and held him hostage. The next day, Croc and his Gobbo friends were playing at the beach, until Croc spotted a bottle with a message inside. On the message was a baby crocodile footprint, and having looked at his foot, he found out that it was his footprint, and the message said that his parents were still alive and were searching for him. Croc then showed the message to King Rufus, who decides to help him. The Gobbos wished Croc luck finding his parents and transported him to an island where other Gobbos lived by see-saw. The Gobbos will help Croc if he helps them. There are four different villages inhabited by different kinds of Gobbos: the Sailor Village, the Cossack Village, the Caveman Village, and the Inca Village. In each village there are different situations where Croc must help the Gobbos, which I'll exemplify shortly. One new addition Argonaut Software has made for the game is the dialogue. That's right! Now all the characters have the ability to speak. The dialogue in the game is pretty good, and is often quite cute. Save for Swap Meet Pete, Baron Dante and his minions, Croc and the Gobbos engage each other in what I'd like to call "primordial speak", where they refer to themselves in the third person and drop certain words. Will Croc be able to defeat Baron Dante again, will the Ginger Soda-loving critters help Croc find his long-lost parents, and will he be able to resolve the problems in each village? Play the game to find out. I like the plot, as it's quite nice. The atmosphere is also a high point, as I like all the variation. The Sailor Village takes place in an island with sand and grass; the Cossack Village is real snowy; the Caveman Village is dark and is positioned near a volcano with lava (how they manage to live in an area like that is far beyond my comprehension); and the Inca Village takes place in high places, where you also see a pyramid made in an Incan style.

Like the first game, Croc 2 is a 3D platformer. The moving controls have been slightly improved, as now you can move with all directional buttons instead of just the upper ones. I personally did not mind that about the first game (as it was something I had quickly accustomed to), though I can easily im
agine how some would find it problematic. Croc has returned with some old action moves and has learned a couple of new ones. Croc can still jump (X), stomp (X after you jumped), attack with his tail (square), and sidestep (L1 or R1 button), hang on monkey bars, swim (or float, rather), and climb. This time Croc has the ability to triple jump and make somersaults. If you press the X button at the exact right moment that you made the stomp, you'll launch yourself very high. It'll take a bit of practice to get right, but it's very useful in order to obtain certain hard to reach items or reach certain platforms. As for the somersault, all you have to do is press the L1 and R1 buttons simultaneously while running, and then you'll see Croc make athletic flips. It's not exactly a necessary action, but I find myself doing it sometimes as it makes Croc look cooler than he already is. Now Croc can use his backpack as an inventory. Unlike the first game, this game has a hub world (like the PlayStation One Spyro the Dragon trilogy and Banjo-Kazooie), meaning you can interact with other characters and enter doors that lead to different areas. In each village, there is a shop run by a cat by the name of Swap Meet Pete. In the first village, Croc will be given a Swap Mete Pete Card, which is an equivalent to a buyer's card. In each level, you can collect up to a hundred crystals, should you feel the need to find them all, and if you leave the stage with the amount of crystals you've collected, said number will be added to the Card. Say if in one level you collected 65 crystals, then when you leave the level with that many crystals, 65 crystals will be added to your Card. In Swap Meet Pete's place, you will buy Jelly Jumps (green, yellow, or red) and Clockwork Gobbos, should you have enough crystals. In the areas, if you see a round symbol with the corresponding color, you can put the gelatin on there with the triangle button to reach even higher places that cannot be reached with a regular jump or even a triple jump. There may also be certain areas where you may see a "clockwork marker", and on top of it you may drop a Clockwork Gobbo as it can go places Croc cannot. It cannot last forever, as depending on how long the setup is, the Clockwork Gobbo might start at either a medium or a fast pace and eventually slow down to a stop. Make sure you don't make it fall off, as careful steering is required here. In Croc's backpack, you can carry up to nine of each item, because as Swap Meet Pete says: "It's the law!" No longer does Croc suffer from the Sonic the Hedgehog Syndrome; no longer does Croc get deprived of the crystals he's collected if he's taken damage; no longer does Croc die when he doesn't have a single crystal with him. Now, Croc has health, which helps a lot in this game. You start out with a health capacity of three, but eventually your health can be raised to nine (whether by finding a heart capacity jar in a level or buying it at Swap Meet Pete's place). There are some moments where you will have to carry objects, even during a couple boss fights. What's cool is that there a few stages where Croc will do something straightforward; like flying on a hang glider, and flying on a fighter plane. There are even a couple segments where you race against the Dantinis. If you collect a hundred crystals in a level, all your health will be refilled. I almost forgot to mention that Croc can now swing on vines, though jumping off of it at the right time will take a bit to get used to. If you have a Memory Card, your game progress will save automatically.

Croc 2's soundtrack is really decent. Comprised of good atmospheric tunes and well-chosen sound, the game is nice to listen to. The hub world theme is catchy and fun-loving, and in each village there is a theme which sounds unique. Some songs that come to mind are that snow theme in the Cossack Village which sounds so haunting and exotic, the race themes are cool, one of the Caveman Village themes consists of primordial drums, a calypso tune in the Sailor Village, and there is even a theme which resembles music you'd hear from an old silent movie (which, considering the level it's played in, I find very funny). But the best music in the entire game has got to be hang glider theme. It's one of the most beautifully gentle and relaxing themes I've heard in a PlayStation One title, and it's grown to be one of my favorites. I find it very fitting that it's also used again during the credits, as it makes for a great reward. Among these original themes are even remixes of a few themes from the first Croc. During the intro you'll hear the first game's title theme for a brief moment, and then you'll hear a remixed version in the title screen and in one of the levels. There are even a few remixes of the first game's level themes, which sound good as well. The music brings great atmosphere to the game's expositions. The sound effects, themselves, are nice. Many of them are lifted from the original game, such as the familiar sounds Croc makes when he attacks with his tail ("Waboom!", "Kapow!", "Kasplat!"), the crystal sound, and the sound a Gobbo makes whenever Croc saves one ("Yippee!"). A good touch, and there are even a few original sound effects, like the water splashing, the cash register sound for whenever you're rewarded one hundred crystals for your Card or when you buy something at Swap Meet Pete's, and the bomb explosion. Being that this game has a hub world, the characters now engage in fun, albeit brief, conversations. While they do not actually speak the words they use in their dialogue, they do converse with various critter sounds, similar to how the characters talked in Banjo-Kazooie. If you hold down the button, you will speed up the dialogue and simultaneously the sound itself (which can sound funny depending on the sound).

The first Croc sported great visuals that were very impressive for its time, and while it may show its age, it's
still a pretty game to look at, even today. For Croc 2, Argonaut managed to display visuals that are slightly better than the first title. This time around the areas are brighter and prettier than ever, and each area and village shows a lot of detail. The levels are all varied in design and style, and I like how they also focused attention on shading and lighting. In the Sailor Village, there are a few dark tunnels, and its water effects are nice. I love how it snows in the Cossack Village hub world, and its levels are really wonderful to look at. The Caveman Village takes place in a rather dark setting, color-wise, and there is one level where inside a cave the only thing lighting your path is the flicker on the wall protruding from the firewood. The hang gliding segment of the game has one of the most beautiful eye candy in the game, making it one of my favorite areas ever on the PlayStation One. Accompanied by the most beautiful song in the game, it's got an equally beautiful night setting which unfolds magically the more you fly there, as you see the wind push you up and a lava dropping down like a waterfall (a "lavafall", I guess). All that's missing is an aurora borealis in the sky to fit an otherwise good-looking atmosphere. Croc looks brighter here than he does in the first game, and his various animations are as smooth as ever. The sizes of the Gobbos and the Dantinis, for whatever reason, were altered for this iteration. In the first game a regular Gobbo was a third of the size of Croc, except for King Rufus who was half his height; in this game the vast majority of the Gobbos are half Croc's height. For the first time, the Gobbos have adorned themselves with clothing. The Sailor Village Gobbos are inhabited by Gobbos wearing sailor garb; the Cossack Village Gobbos have Gobbos wearing Russian-like outfits and outfits that help adapt to the cold; the Caveman Village Gobbos have Gobbos who donned themselves in caveman attire; and the Gobbo inhabitants of the Inca Village look like they're from both the Egyptian and the Incan periods. Now, other than having changed their size, Argonaut have changed the Gobbos' outer appearance as well. In the first game, they were round and fuzzy; in here, they're less round and less fuzzy. They do have a tiny bit of fuzz, if you look at them closely, but it's not the same. The Gobbos even look a little like mopheads here (which is odd considering how they look in the cover art and instruction manual). Another thing that's different about them is that they no longer have a tail. Why is that? Those of you that may have played the first game may remember that one part of the introduction sequence when Croc was still tiny, where King Rufus teaches him how to use his tail to attack, and then Croc follows and ends up accidentally knocking him down (cute). That's how Croc learned how to attack from the start. If the Gobbos didn't have tails in the first game, how would Croc have ever learned that move? But it's just a minor nitpick of mine. The Gobbos were cute in the first game, but they are downright adorable in Croc 2. They have so much charm and personality here, that it makes me easily forgive the fact they've been bereft of their tails for some strange reason. King Dante looks as menacing as he did before, and his Dantinis are no different. The Dantinis were a third Croc's height in the first game, but in here they're on par with Croc as far as size goes. Looks like they've been taking lots of vitamins. The other enemies and bosses themselves look good as well, and they also animate well, too. The dialogue boxes are similar to those found in Banjo-Kazooie, except with inanimate head images and thinner font. The visuals may show their age (perhaps a little more so than its predecessor), but it's still good to look at.

Croc 2 wasn't as successful as Croc: Legend of the Gobbos, due to it having garnered mixed reactions from gamers and fans alike. I looked up that this game was highly criticized for its difficulty, and there's a reason behind that: the camera control, or lack thereof. Holding down the circle button will shift the camera behind Croc, but otherwise you have absolutely no control over the camera. I don't think it's that big an issue,
but say you took a turn the other way and you do not see what's ahead of you, then that could be problematic. In the inventory, you could also choose the binoculars to look far at what's ahead of you, though it's not the same as camera control (also, it makes Croc seem taller than he is). Had the first game not had camera control, it would've been next to impossible, if not hard. Same could be said for all 3D platformers that do not solely consist of fixed camera angles. Not that this game doesn't have a few stages that have fixed camera angles, but I'm just saying. But that's not the only thing that brought this game down: some stages were easy (straightforward or not), while other stages would be difficult to beat initially. It took me awhile to beat that Roger Red Ant stage, and it took me several attempts to win first place at the Gold Rock race. The bosses have a health bar of three, and are significantly more challenging than the first game's bosses. One of the bosses that come to mind is Venus Von Fly Trappe, where you must slide down rocks and make sure that it enters its mouth so it spits out the Gobbos that it swallowed; what makes that boss hard is how it often impedes your attack by smashing the rock with its plant-like arms, so timing is crucial. But I don't believe I've properly talked about the various situations in each village: in front of a door is a Gobbo who'll explain to you a problem and in the end Croc offers to help in any way he can. Some examples of these issues racing against the Dantinis, dousing out fires, saving certain animal friends, hang gliding to rescue Gobbos in peril, searching for car tires, rescuing baby Gobbos from the Dantinis, riding a mine cart, and there is one stage where you're required to roll on a snowman's head (no motion controls to help you here). In the penultimate stage you have to climb up a tower while trying to get away from the green goo that is rising up. The stage designs are decent, although jumping off the vines at the right time will take a bit to get used to. Sometimes you'll be jumping from platform to platform, whether it be a solid one or one that crumbles the moment you step on it. There is even a box that makes crumbling platforms appear, and what's good is that they regenerate after a bit. In the majority of the stages, there will be gongs with a footprint that marks as a checkpoint for when you lose a life. There's more: if you inspect these stages thoroughly, you'll come across a colored crystal. There are five colored crystals in total, and if you manage to rack them all, a Golden Gobbo Statue will pop up. Some times you'll just get them and that's it, but for the most part if you touch the Golden Gobbo Statue, you'll be sent to a short, but deviously designed room where you'll be able to access it. Now here's the dangerous part: if you fall down to a deep end in said room, not only will you return to the actual stage, but you won't be able to claim the statue, so you have to start the stage all over again and reclaim all five colored crystals in order to enter that room again. A few times a colored crystal will be in locations that Croc cannot reach, so the Clockwork Gobbo is on the job. Here's two things you need to know regarding this: there are narrow paths, so you'll need to be careful when you make a turn, as one wrong move will end in disaster; the Gobbo will eventually slow down until it halts to a complete stop, however you'll have to make sure that it doesn't stop away from the crystal. The final confrontation was Baron Dante was decent, although I think it could have benefited from lots more challenge.

Croc 2 was a fun sequel overall. The visuals were better, and I liked the added controls for this game. I enjoyed its various stages, especially the hang glider sequence. The soundtrack is also a real atmospheric piece of work, and I really liked the remixed and original songs. The hub world was a nice addition, even though it initially feels odd. I liked the dialogue exchanged between the characters, and I loved how the Gobbos were so charming and how much personality they showed. The auto-saving feature is very helpful, plus this game is compatible with the analog
controller. It's a bit challenging than the first game, but not by much. What's really challenging is getting 100% completion status. In each village there is a door with a golden image of a Gobbo, which can only be opened once you collected enough Golden Gobbo Statues. Inside these doors are large rooms where a Jigsaw puzzle piece can be found. If you gather all four of them, go to Swap Meet Pete's and he'll transport you to "Baron Dante's twisted version" of the Gobbo village. In each of the secret doors are short stages which each have a colored crystal, and by collecting all five you'll open up a cage to reclaim a mystery item (I'd tell you what it is, but then I'd be sort of spoiling the normal ending in the process). When Croc met his parents in the ending, they were not what I expected them to look like, but it was a good surprise nonetheless, and it made the ending cute. I wish the game had at least some decent camera control, but otherwise I don't mind. What I do mind is how Croc 2 did not explain a few things plotwise. In Croc: Legend of the Gobbos, Croc was on a cradle floating on the water until it landed on Gobbo Island. But why was set adrift in the first place? I would've thought that it was because his parents were getting him out of peril. Was there a natural disaster going on in the land of crocodiles that left his parents no choice but to get him out of danger? It's a little disappointing to me, as it's never even explained here. Knowing that there wasn't a third Croc title, I kind of thought that this game was ending the storyline, and that's why no Croc 3 has materialized. But, having completed the game 100% (a little sooner than I thought I would), there was a message that said "Congratulations! You've completed the game 100%! Is this the end for Croc? Stay tuned!" Sadly, instead of ending on a concluding note, Argonaut set us up for a sequel that would never be. The first Croc was a mainstream 3D platformer, and a real success among critics and gamers; but for this sequel Argonaut decided to try something new, and it resulted in a less than successful title. But that's not to say Croc 2 is a bad game; sure it could've benefited from a few issues, but overall it's not bad. It's got enough elements to create replay value, even if it's a little shorter than the first game. As the second and last Croc game, it's enjoyable and fun. There is a unique game mode called Omniplay, where basically two controllers can be used so both gamers can share controls. I never really used it, but I've read that it's also useful when you're trying to teach someone to play the game. Croc 2 is a quality sequel, and one I can easily recommend you try. If you can overlook its flaws, you may find yourself having lots of fun with it.


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