Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mickey's Wild Adventure (PSX) Review

AKA Mickey Mania: The Timeless Adventures of Mickey Mouse [Alternate Nomenclature]1995 Psygnosis/Traveller's Tales/Disney Interactive
Distributed by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe


The first PlayStation was the first TV console I owned, and when I was little I experienced many titles for that console, some admittedly better than others. Mickey's Wild Adventure (widely recognized by many as Mickey Mania) was one of those best games. When I was little, I was such a fan of animated shows (regardless of where they were made), and the cartoons starring Mickey Mouse were one of those countless shows I grew up with, and I thought they were enjoyable. Even today I still find them enjoyable. Everyone knows how back in 1928 Walt Disney created his character Mickey Mouse, who would end up being widely successful throughout the years. Well, not everyone exactly. I've looked up that back in 1935 the Mickey Mouse cartoons were banned in Romania due to the fear that it would frighten younger viewers. Anyway, Mickey's Wild Adventure was I game I highly enjoyed when I was little, and it's just as fun a game to play today. It was first licensed game I played that centered around Disney's mouse, and it was a real memorable one.

The story revolves around Mickey Mouse, who must navigate through several of his most well-known episodes through time. How he manages to time travel is never exactly specified, but then again, there's no real plot here. Mickey will be exploring the worlds of Steamboat Willie (1928), The Mad Doctor (1933), Moose Hunters, Lonesome Ghosts (both 1937), Mickey and the Beanstalk (1947) from the Fun and Fancy Free motion feature, and if you play Hard mode, The Prince and the Pauper (1990), and if you feel really confident, The Band Concert (1935). In each world he'll need to do certain tasks, and if you search the areas thoroughly, you'll find a different version of Mickey Mouse (like he appeared in the certain cartoon). Why it's important, I'll leave up to you to decide. Each episode has great atmosphere, and makes up for the plot. But I don't play the game for the story, I play it for the fun and challenge it provides.

Mickey's Wild Adventure is largely a 2D platformer, taking place in various episodes comprised elaborately designed stages. The controls are pretty solid, as Mickey's a pretty responsive character. His main actions consist of moving, ducking, jumping, and (few times) swinging off on ropes. There will also be times when Mickey attacks his foes with marbles. Be careful when using those, as you do not have an infinite amount of them. You can either jump on enemies or shoot marbles at them to do away with them. Marbles can be collected when you find them scattered about. Mickey has a stamina of five, which is clued in on by the glove symbol on the upper left corner of the screen. Any time you take a hit, a finger will be taken out, but should you sustain damage while the glove has no fingers, you'll lose a life. The only way to refill your health is by finding stars. In the Easy and Normal modes, there will be checkpoints in the middle of the stages, but in Hard mode you have to go through the stage in one go, because if you die on Hard mode, you have to start said stage from the beginning. There are even a couple of stages where you must avoid being squashed by a big enemy that's chasing you from behind, and the only way to keep yourself from slowing down is by munching on apples. Why apples is beyond me. In these chase sequences, it's also customary to avoid tripping on stuff which will impede your speed. Even so, there are various ways of getting through the normal stages.

The soundtrack from this game is pretty nice, and something I never tire of listening to. While none of the songs were lifted from the episodes they were based on, the CD-quality music sure is greatly composed. The first portion of the Steamboat Willie episode has a gentle, simple tune; some songs from the Mad Doctor episode are spooky and dark; the Moose Hunters song is country-filled; and the Lonesome Ghosts songs are spooky. The Mickey and the Beanstalk episode has decently-composed songs. One of them that come to mind is a song that starts out very ominously, and at the moment when it begins to sound very scary it segues to some of the most beautifully epic music I've ever heard in a video game, which makes it my favorite song in Mickey's Wild Adventure. The music in the Prince and the Pauper episode is good, and at times pretty epic-sounding. The regular sound effects are cool, too, like when Pluto barks and when a ghost apparates onscreen. But what steals the show is Mickey's voice. Oh, Mickey, Mickey, Mickey! He has a line on practically any situation he comes across in these stages. His lines are brief and to the point and says it once, and I feel that it's a good thing, otherwise they would be annoying. Some examples of his lines are "Hiya, Mr. Goat!" (upon meeting up with a goat), "Oh, boy! Can't stop now!" (upon being chased by a moose), "Oh, would you look at that!" (upon seeing a wall disappear), "Fireballs!" (upon seeing fireballs pop out of a fireplace), "Gee, I wonder who's in here?" (upon entering a hole leading to the bottom of a cave), and "Gosh, I remember you!" (upon rescuing Steamboat Willie Mickey from an evil crane machine). I feel that these lines, while fun to listen to, add a bit of appeal to Mickey in this game. He even reads the title of each episode before it begins.

The visuals are drawn in colored and detailed 2D style, and I think they look really good. Even today I still think the visuals are pretty to look at. Each episode has stages with a diverse look and feel, and each episode looks like an interactive version of the cartoons they were based on. Steamboat Willie begins in black and white, but eventually the world begins immersing itself in color, which adds sweet eye candy. The Mad Doctor stages have a detailed and gothic look, with some foreground and line scrolling in it to add some depths. The first part of the Moose Hunters episode has a lush foliage with a light color palette that makes it beautiful to look at. Lonesome Ghosts starts outside a house in the middle of the snow, but once you get in weird stuff is going down. The Mickey and the Beanstalk episode is really well-designed, and the cavern portion has parallax scrolling which adds atmosphere and depth. The Prince and the Pauper episode is detailed and looks like something from the medieval times. There's even a tiny bit of 3D in the mix. Some objects might look 2D, while some other objects might be rendered in 3D. The chase scenes have a 3D flat plane which you can run around, with the only things 2D being Mickey Mouse and the big enemy right behind you. That's pretty awesome! Even the tower stages, resembling ones you'd find in the third stage of Super Ghouls'n Ghosts and the first world of Porky Pig's Haunted Holiday, are completely rendered in 3D, save for Mickey and the bats. Considering it came out so early in the PlayStation One's lifespan, that's pretty impressive. The characters and enemies are also nicely drawn. Mickey Mouse animates real smoothly, and I like how colorful he looks. Each episode has a different Mickey character who looks and animates like he did in the cartoons he's representing. To name a few: Steamboat Willie Mickey is always black and white, the Mad Doctor Mickey lights up a match from the shadows (if you find him), and the Mickey and the Beanstalk Mickey flies out of a wine bottle while sitting on its cork. Some enemies you'll have to contend with are skeletons, ghosts, insects, and anthropomorphic weasels. What bothers me the most about Mickey's Wild Adventure is how Mickey Mouse has no tail. Why is that? Mickey is a mouse, right, and mice have tails on them, right? Not in this game. What's even more bothersome for me is that the other variations of Mickey Mouse don't have tails either. It bothers me because I've always seen Mickey with a tail in the cartoons, and a mouse with no tail has no chance of survival. Considering how well he animates, would it have been too hard to animate the tail as well? But I digress. Bottom line is that the various worlds in each episode look very good, and the visuals have aged well.

While the game is not entirely hard, it does offer up a good amount of challenge. In each episode there are obstacles to overcome and enemies to face, and sometimes you'll have to fight bosses. In the game Mickey gets himself in many strange predicaments. One moment Mickey's riding a cart down a room while avoiding deadly traps, and the moment he finds himself being chased by a moose, and after that there will be stairs which turns to slopes, water attempting to flood a house, and even trying to escape a tower from a blazing fire that's quickly burning to the top. There's always something to keep you busy. In the Easy and Normal modes you have checkpoints which make the stages easier to get through, while in Hard mode you must try to get to the end of the stage without dying, otherwise you'll start from the beginning of that stage. During the chase scenes you have to outrun the big baddie, otherwise you'll have to do it over again. There may be moments when you might take a lot of damage, and by then you'll start searching for the health stars so you do not die. There are even lives you could collect, but they're hidden so well in each stage that you'll have to look in places you won't suspect to find them. There are few continues you can use up. Mickey's WIld Adventure presents a cool amount of challenge, while not to the point of it being deviously hard. That's pretty cool. The bosses are decent, especially the one with Pete on Hard mode. Without spoiling anything, it's a type of do or die moment, and he's one boss that has patterns you'll have to pay attention to in order to be successful. So you must be wondering by now: "What of the Band Concert episode?" Well, it's not exactly a mandatory episode, but it's an episode which can be accessed in secret. I won't get into the details, but you'll have to search for a way to unlock it. In it, you must jump up a row of boxes while inside a twister. You'll have to be careful here, because the boxes will move and will require precise timing on your jumps. But what should happen if you fall down? You'll be sent back to the stage which you accessed it with, and will not be given a chance to do it again (until you start a new game). A bit annoying, but something it'll take a long time to master (I hope to someday). One thing I should point out about this game is that, while it has decent length, its stages feel rather short and straightforward. The stages aren't designed in a complex manner, but the interactivity with the enemies and obstacles make up for that.

I love Mickey's Wild Adventure. I loved it back then, and I love it now. I like how much challenge it likes to deliver, even if it's not completely difficult. Some stages I have a bit of a hard time with (the burning tower comes to mind), but otherwise it's pretty manageable. I like its various, colorful worlds and I like how the different Mickeys are in these episodes. It gives a lot of variety. The soundtrack is enjoyable, and there's not a single bad track in the game. Its plot is rather unexplained (why is Mickey Mouse going through these episodes in the first place? The game never explains it; heck, even the manual doesn't talk about it), but the high atmosphere more than makes up for that. I liked how each episode tried to stay as faithful to the cartoon they were based on as possible. In the beginning of the Mad Doctor episode, once you walk through the bridge it starts collapsing, like in the cartoon it was based on; in the middle of Moose Hunters episode, you'll see a couple of mooses duke it out, like in the cartoon; and the Mickey and the Beanstalk Mickey flies on a cork after it pops out of a wine bottle, like in the cartoon. The different Mickeys even have animations similar to those you'd find in the cartoons. The control scheme is also pretty neat. I enjoyed Mickey's lines, though I wish I knew why the developers never bothered to give him a tail. Even if its stages are short, I still enjoy going through the game, as there's more that make up for that. Makes me wonder if the checkpoint marker in the Easy and Normal difficulty modes were a moot point? Maybe it was to make getting through the stages with no problem? Regardless, it's enjoyable and exhilirating. Makes me want to try the other 2D platformers starring Mickey Mouse. This may be interesting to some, but this was the first project David Jaffe (of Twisted Metal and God of War fame) worked on as designer (and quite frankly, I think he's done a fantastic job in that department). This game was originally released for the MegaDrive in 1994 under the name Mickey Mania, soon followed by ports on the SNES and the Sega CD. I've only played the PlayStation version, so I cannot compare between them. All three aforementioned versions of the game were released in North America and Europe, except Mickey's Wild Adventure, which only saw the light of day in Europe and Australia. Makes me wonder why an American release never came to fruition. Either way, this is a game I recommend to fans of Mickey Mouse and fans of Disney in general, for it's got enough challenge for those gamers hungry for challenge.

8.5/10

Friday, July 22, 2011

Kirby's Dream Land (GB) Review

1992 HAL Laboratory/Nintendo

Review: July 21st-22nd, 2011 (My One-Year Bloggiversary)
I have a lot of favorite video game series, and the Kirby series of games is one of them. These games have fun and intuitive play control, plus their easy-going nature is one of those things that I find appealing from these games. But I'm getting ahead of myself; I remember long ago when I was little when I experienced my first Kirby game ever: Kirby's Dream Land 2. Looking back, I have to wonder why I only experienced the second main game back then and not the first game as well. Even back then I was aware of the first game's existence through an ad booklet. But regardless, I find it a good sequel and a great game. It wasn't until 2005 during Hurricane Rita that I would get a chance to play the first game at my mom's friend's house. I only played a bit of the first Kirby's Dream Land and from what I had played of it I thought it was decent, and nearly a year later I would purchase my own copy of the game at the now deceased GameCrazy (I still miss it). Still, Kirby's Dream Land is a little different than the rest of the games that eventually followed, and admittedly it's a bit unique.
Note: All these screenshots were taken with my video camera while playing Kirby's Dream Land on the Super Game Boy peripheral cartridge on the SNES console.

One late night, while all the inhabitants of Dream Land were asleep, a terrible crime was being committed. An evil, greedy king named Dedede and his soldiers stole all the food in Dream Land, and to make things worse, he's also pilfered the magic Twinkle Stars which help provide the food as well. If they're not recovered in time, the inhabitants will starve. That fiend! Who will be there to save the day? Why, none other than the titular puffball character Kirby, that's who. He offers to help and stop King Dedede at his residence Mt. Dedede. He will be traversing through the Green Greens, Castle Lololo, Float Islands, and the Bubbly Clouds. However, his adventure will not be without obstacles, enemies, and guardians who will attempt to stop Kirby by any means. It's a lighthearted adventure with equally lighthearted cute characters.


Kirby's Dream Land is a simple 2D platformer, and one with good play control. You take control of Kirby, a round puffball that has a few moves in his arsenal. Kirby can move, jump, duck, swim, and ride on Warp Stars. The thing I feel made this game unique back when it was released in its heyday was that Kirby had the ability to inhale enemies and stars, and you had the choice to either swallow them or exhale them. Kirby can also float in the sky, which is highly recommended when it comes to reaching high places (if you don't feel like jumping on platforms on the way up). This is the only game where Kirby cannot copy abilities, a feature which would later be added in Kirby's Adventure and a feature which would be implemented in later games, but there are a few items here you can use which compensate for this. They only pop up a few times: if you suck up a bomb and then spit it out, the bomb will begin exploding on anything it comes across; there's also a microphone item, and when Kirby starts using it the enemies' eardrums will begin to shatter; and there's also the famous hot curry, in which if you consume it you start breathing fireballs for a limited time (and the item would not be used again until Super Smash Bros. Brawl). A few times you'll also come across a leaf power up which grants you the ability to fire while floating without leaving your float form. What's pretty neat about Kirby's Dream Land is how easily absorbing the controls can be (no pun intended), and how fun it can be to control as Kirby. The jumping controls are even floaty, which is understandable for a game of this type. There are two healing items here which will come in handy should you find them: the bottle, which restores a couple of hit points, and the Maxim Tomato, which completely replenishes your health.

The soundtrack, considering the Game Boy's limited hardware capabilities, is really memorable and often catchy. Composed by Jun Ishikawa, who did the music for Arcana and the one who would compose the music for the majority of the games in the series as well, the music is some of the best I've heard from the Game Boy original. Some great tunes that come to mind are the Green Greens theme (Kirby's theme), the tropical Float Islands theme, and the always soft-sounding Bubbly Clouds theme. The normal boss theme is decent, but King Dedede's boss theme is absolutely fantastic. The ending theme is so excellently-composed, that it can be a real big reward to listen to after beating the game. What's cool is that many of these themes would be remixed in later games. Nice! The sound effects, themselves, are memorable, too. I like the sound Kirby makes when he tries to absorb something, and the sound for when Kirby rides the Warp Star. Another favorite sound effect of mine is the electric sound effect for when Waddle Doo uses a beam or when Kracko uses his swirling spark effect.

The visuals, though simple they may be, are very decent. Each area of Dream Land is good to look at and each area looks different. I like the foliage in Green Greens, the internal design of Castle Lololo is detailed, the Float Islands give off a tropical feel, and the Bubbly Clouds (my favorite area in the game) take place in the heavens, and when you see the stars at night it's quite a sight. The characters and enemies are also decently designed and animate well. Kirby's a cute character, and the enemies and bosses are no different. Whenever you eat a hot curry, Kirby will be flashing colors in and out. There are few moments when Kirby will swim, but he only uses his walking animation underwater (which I find a bit odd). Enemies such as the cyclopic beam-wielding Waddle Doo, the boomerang-tossing Sir Kibble, the spiky Gordo, and the Shotzo cannons made their debut here. The bosses are well-detailed; there's the famous Whispy Woods, the shooting blimp Kaboola, and a cloud with an eyeball that follows Kirby's movements called Kracko (my personal favorite boss here). There are even a couple of familiar faces from HAL's Lolo games, Lolo and Lala (named Lololo and Lalala here), who act as your antagonists. King Dedede is a menacing final boss here. I love its cute design and feel, plus its adorable quality is part of what makes the game charming and appealing.


The first Kirby's Dream Land's difficulty is quite easy. The areas aren't hard to peruse, and the enemies and bosses have easily recognizable patterns. But its easy-going nature is part of what makes it appealing and fun. I like navigating through the expositions in Dream Land, and I enjoy playing as Kirby a lot. Even if he didn't have his trademark ability absorbing prowess in his first game, Kirby sure is fun to play as. Part of what makes the game easy is Kirby's ability to float in the air as much as he wants, which admittedly I feel is a huge advantage. In order to defeat the bosses and mid-bosses, save for Kaboola, you have to swallow either an item or a star and then spit it out back at the boss. The final stage is a boss rehash, where you must battle the bosses you've fought once again, all leading up to the final showdown with the gluttonous king. Before fighting King Dedede, there are short paths which lead up to the bosses, and you must make contact with a certain character in order to get through the door. Another thing about this game is that it's very short. Kirby's Dream Land is a game that can easily be beaten in under half an hour, and the reason for that is because there are only five stages. The stages are split up into short portions, and usually you'd fight a mid-boss in the middle of the stage, and then you'll keep moving forward to meet the boss in the end of the stage. While the game has such short brevity, it does have an extra game mode that makes up for it should you beat the game the first time.

Overall, Kirby's first game is quite a blast to play, even if it didn't provide much in terms of length. It's a very easy title, but I don't mind that so much. The gameplay is solid and the atmosphere is great. I love Jun Ishikawa's music here, and it's a nice game to look at. The characters and enemies are as well-designed as they are adorable. The hot curry, microphone, and bomb items were cool to use because they each had a different impact on the enemies. The boss fights were easy, but they were fun. I like watching the intros before each stage commences, and I like how decently-designed the stages were. Yeah, the game was short, but as I mentioned before, there is a secondary quest which you can attempt after defeating King Dedede. However, you'll need the code it gives you in the end in order to access it (Up, A, and Select simulatenously). The second quest, called Extra Game, is the same as the first game except for one detail: it's more difficult. What also adds more excitement is that some enemies will be replaced by different and more potent ones. The bosses in this game mode are more challenging as they move fast and execute swift attacks. If you get hit by the second quest enemies, you take two hits, but if Gordo or spikes damage you, you'll lose three hit points, which is quite dangerous as Kirby only has a health capacity of six. The normal game is so easy, that I managed to beat it in one life several times; but the extra game will take a long time to master. This game is very fun, and it's become so legendary that it's been recreated in Kirby's Adventure and Kirby Super Star; the final world's penultimate stage in the former is a complete homage to Kirby's Dream Land (as evidenced by the black and white backgrounds), and the latter has one mini game called Spring Breeze which is a watered down version of the original. So basically this game was made three times; five if you count the remakes Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land and Kirby Super Star Ultra to the aforementioned titles. That's pretty sweet! Beating the game in Extra Mode will take a bit to accomplish, but it in the end it pays off. This is a solid platformer experience on the original Game Boy, and one I enjoy coming back to sometimes. If you're interested in how the very first game Kirby starred in was like, give it a try. It may be short and easy, but boy is it fun while it lasts!

7.0/10

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.

8.0/10