Sunday, June 16, 2013

Yoshi Touch & Go (DS) Review

Written: June 11th-16th, 2013
Alternate Title: Catch! Touch! Yoshi! [ O ]
Year: 2005 | Developed and Published by: Nintendo

Bad news, everyone, this is going to be another single color review, so no various colors this time around; also, no screenshots since I'm hesitant to attempt Nintendo DS screencaptures (I already know 3DS games don't look quite as good on my camera, so that's not going to happen either).  =(  Now with that out of the way, let's start this appropriately summer-themed video game review!

Entertainment media is a funny thing: there are several cases in a series when the first entry does so well and has attained the highest possible score that chances of matching or surpassing it were very low.  Take Steven Spielberg's 1975 classic Jaws, for example, which has entertained, captivated, and genuinely thrilled audiences for many years, coveting the rare overall 100% score at the Rotten Tomatoes website; its success was so great that not even its three sequels managed to improve upon it (in fact, the series got worse and worse with each sequel, with the fourth entry Jaws: The Revenge averaging at 0%; that's quite a paradox there).  Another example is the PIXAR/Disney Toy Story movies, the first two of which were received so well (receiving practically zero negative reviews) and matched scores that many were curious if Toy Story 3 could possibly achieve the same high standards as its two predecessors; it was close by a tiny margin, but I still thought it was a great movie.  For a last example there were the first two The Godfather movies by Francis Ford Coppola which garnered some of the highest of appraisal that when The Godfather Part III came along audiences felt it to be an underwhelming entry.  Hey, I had to find something, I can't just start by sharing two examples before commencing talk about the game.

That trait does not necessarily apply to every series, but it usually seems to be case when the first title receives unanimous praise.  The same rings true for specific video game series, including the first Yoshi title:
That's not it!!!
There we go, here is an all-time classic!  =)
After having made his debut in Super Mario World pretty much everyone has since fallen in love with our green reptilian friend Yoshi.  He also got to star in a few puzzle and spin-off games, made cameo appearances in some famous titles, and was a racer in Super Mario Kart.  After years and years of spreading happiness and joy Nintendo decided to start a Yoshi line-up of games starting with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island on the SNES.  It's done so well since its heyday that it's become a huge hit, and deservingly so, since in my opinion it is one of the best games that were ever made for the SNES.  It was super fun, the stage designs were fun to navigate, the amount of creativity and charm was astonishing, the gameplay offered something new and fresh in every world, the final boss fight was epic, and above all, it had a lot of replay value.  =)

It was even ported to the Game Boy Advance as Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi's Island back in 2002, and as far as I'm concerned it's one of the few SNES-to-GBA transitions that I find to be good (albeit with some added voice clips for Yoshi, screen being cropped some, not to mention that the sound samples are not quite as potent as in the SNES; things I usually cannot stand), and the great thing about it is that it doesn't unnecessarily add new things to collect unlike the other Super Mario Advance (S)NES-to-GBA titles; it's just like the original (and just so everyone knows, yes, the "Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy" stage is on the handheld; do not believe anyone that tells you otherwise, because I have noticed a few users online that have done so).  I know, an SNES turned GBA conversion that I actually like, that's a rarity!  In fact, there's another one, but I'll mention it later.

Yes, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island was adored by many that it became a true classic (even a cult classic), being ranked some of the highest of scores.  So obviously the inevitable iterations that would follow had a lot to achieve in order to equate the praise of the original.  No such luck yet: the first sequel, Nintendo's Yoshi's Story on the Nintendo 64, tried to capture the spirit of its predecessor and preserved the 2D gameplay and visual style (with some 3D in the mix), but it didn't quite do so well with others; in fact, a lot of gamers deemed it to be one of Yoshi's lowest (if not the lowest) points of his career.  *hhhhhhssssss*  Not a good way to continue a franchise, and it was only the second game.  Obviously the series would try to make up for that one unfortunate shortcoming, and they succeeded... sort of.  =/

In 2004 a company called Artoon developed a title for the Game Boy Advance that used similar hardware to WarioWare: Twisted! in that parts of the gameplay are attributed to tilting and moving the system, but it tried to also keep the 2D platforming elements as well: the game was Yoshi Topsy-Turvy (or Yoshi's Universal Gravitation to some).  While it did better than the previous Yoshi title, it ended up getting average to mixed reactions from many.  Two years later the same developer would try to make a direct continuation of sorts to Nintendo's Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island in the form of Yoshi's Island DS for the Nintendo DS.  And... let's just say it could've been a lot better; it received about equal reaction as the last one, only several critics and fans of the original weren't quite as favorable towards it. And having played it myself, it's very understandable why; it was not a satisfying sequel.  Though to be honest: in my opinion I felt Yoshi's Island DS to be in the same trope as ActRaiser 2, in that as a standalone it's good but as a follow-up it's a disappointment.  But before that game there was another Yoshi title that emerged on the DS, done by Nintendo themselves named Yoshi Touch & Go.  And it was the very first Nintendo DS game I've ever played.  =)

But unlike Yoshi's Island DS which served as a sequel, Yoshi Touch & Go was a spin-off to the original.  A spin-off to the original that shares a rather similar plotline: a stork soars in the sky as it carries two baby brothers inside bundled blankets tied in its beak.  And you all the know the drill if you've played the first title; Kamek has swiftly flown past the stork (causing it to react) in hopes of capturing both babies (for some reason) but only managed to snag one while the other fell down to an island full of Yoshis.  Will they manage to safely procure Mario (and his brother Luigi) to the Stork in one piece?  Oh, who am I kidding, we all know the answer to that!  =D  But it's going to take some work to get there.

The thing about Yoshi Touch & Go is that its controls are exclusively linked to the stylus, which means that the characters will be moving automatically and that you'll need to use your stylus to carefully guide them.  As much as I'm not too into games that use the stylus (with a few exceptions of course), I don't exactly mind it for this case.  The game starts off as Baby Mario falls down the sky until he somehow has three balloons strapped to his back (convenience, I love it).  After that the little tyke will slowly float down, so you'll have to use your stylus to create some clouds to make him slide on them; on the way down there a lot of enemies, and should all your balloons pop you'll be captured by Kamek.  In the sky are various coins and enemies, and what's neat about them is that if you draw a small circle around them it will turn into a bubble with the coins on them (the enemies will turn into coins), which you can drag and throw up above to where Baby Mario is for points.  Once you reach the bottom Yoshi will save him and agree to find the stork, save Baby Luigi, or run away from Kamek.  And that's where the fun really begins!  Another aspect of the controls is that if you wish to dispose of the clouds, all you have to do is blow them away.  Yes, you can blow them by blowing in the DS mic (I'm not certain how many DS games actually implemented that feature, but feel free to enlighten me).

The rest of the game involves Yoshi carefully treading on the area as you carefully guide and maneuver him to make sure he doesn't make contact with the enemy and also to make sure he doesn't fall.  Think of it as the original Yoshi's Island only it's automatically scrolling and requires hefty usage of the stylus, and there are no random transformations.  Now the great thing about the game is that you can see the action and surroundings on both screens, so at least you'll get a chance to know what's above you.  Now that's a nice touch.  Like the previous section you can draw clouds to walk on, draw circles on the coins and enemies and then drag them to the main character, and blow on the mic to dissipate the clouds.  And since Yoshi spends the remainder of the game in the bottom screen as opposed to the upper screen like Baby Mario, you can tap him with the stylus to make him jump (and flutter jump).  By just tapping in a certain spot Yoshi will throw the egg in that direction; however your amount of eggs is scarcely limited, so you should only use them sparely.  Fortunately more eggs can be regained should you swallow an enemy or eat a fruit (how many eggs you produce depends on the fruit).  In the options you have the choice to either have Yoshi run to the right, or you can have him run to the left; it's the best of both worlds, direction-wise.  =)  ...  Okay, moving on!

The visual style has for the most part been retained from the 1995 SNES classic, right down to the uniquely painted and drawn backgrounds and foregrounds, and they look spot on; plus it's a very colorful-looking game.  Several of the backdrops you may stumble across are forests and mountains, and what's cool is how as you move further the different planes will move in different intervals, therefore creating a feeling of depth in the atmospheric sense (something the subsequent Yoshi's Island DS sorely lacked in my opinion).  In the Baby Mario section it starts off as night but by the time you reach Yoshi at the bottom it turns to day, which is a rather neat transition.  And speaking of transition, check out the scenery as you keep treading on as Yoshi: look at how the warm colors of day slowly but gradually segue to the cold colors of night, and vice versa.  That detail alone gives it a real sense of atmosphere, and it reminds me of moments when it happened in the first two Breath of Fire games and especially in Drakkhen.  Irrelevant genres, I know, but the point of the matter is that I believe that it really adds a lot!  =)

The only exceptions to the visual style being preserved by the first Yoshi platformer are the main characters and the enemies themselves.  In the original they were outlined in black with enough frames of smooth animation and certain helpings of Mode 7 during certain moments, while in Yoshi Touch & Go the character designs have been slightly updated and look more colorful and animate more fluidly then ever before.  Normally I'm not a big fan of black outlines when it comes to video games, as I'm more into characters that have colored outlines or none at all, but I admit there are some exceptions to this (the first Yoshi's Island being one of them).  The characters and enemies are well-designed this time around, and they have soft color palettes which is not bad.  Overall I would say that the visuals are great and colorful.

As far the sound is concerned it's not too shabby.  It's not as high-caliber as the first game's soundtrack, but it's very decent in its own right.  The instrumentation is not bad, and there are plenty of catchy and cool songs.  The remix of the first game's title theme is good, and some of the other songs don't sound too bad (including the invincibility theme).  Many of the original songs I feel sound nice; in particular the music that plays when Baby Mario is slowly gliding down and some of the autoscrolling themes.  This time around Baby Mario and Yoshi have sound samples, which is fine since they're not used so much that they overstay their welcome, so that's fine.  I love how Baby Mario giggles whenever you slide a bubble towards him.

This is one of those kinds of games where it's more played for score than anything else, and while normally I don't approve of that (since I play games to have fun, not to see how high I can score), there are a few exceptions (the Game & Watch games, for one, and this title).  There are five different events, and if you can beat the record on each of them (or manage to get in the Top 10) then it will be on the charts (and keep track of what year and date you did it in).  There are five different events found here: Score Attack, Marathon, Time Attack, Challenge, and Vs. Battle (the last of which requires two players).  Each of them starts with Baby Mario gliding down and ends up riding on Yoshi's back throughout, but all with different objectives.

The goal for Score Attack is basically to reach the stork with as high as score as you can possibly muster.  For the Marathon the goal is try to get as much mileage as you can, or at least try to get farther on ground.  Time Attack is a tricky event, but basically you have to liberate Baby Luigi from the Toadies as quick as you can before you reach the end.  In Challenge mode you must watch out for Kamek, who plans to take matters into his (her?) own hands.  To make matters difficult you must try to get a far distance as the timer runs down (and not at a reasonably allotted time, either).  In Vs. Battle you must race and/or compete with another player (with the second player having Baby Luigi).  Each of them offer their own ways of challenging you, and there are benefits which help add to the fun and challenge.

Like in the original game you'll be relaying Baby Mario to a different Yoshi from time to time; in this case, it happens every thousand yards.  Each Yoshi is faster and carries more eggs than the previous one, with green Yoshi being the slowest and carrying the least amount.  There is a trick to start with a differently-colored Yoshi, but it requires that you collect a specific amount of coins (sixty and then every twenty afterwards).  Should you reach a hundred points on the ground a star will pop up, and when that happens draw circle on it and throw it to Baby Mario, for he will become invincible for a temporary time.  After that the score turns back to zero; if you lose at any time you have the option to either start the event over from the sky or from the midpoint in the beginning of the ground portion, which means the other checkpoints that you'll be reaching in the ground will not count.  =(

I have a big fondness for Yoshi Touch & Go, and while it's by no means a great game, I think it's a charming good game by itself.  I remember when one of my friends in Italy let me play on his Nintendo DS back in 2005, and this was the game that was on it.  Since then I found it to be very fun, and it's still fun to play once in awhile in short bursts; it's a moment I'll always remember.  The visuals and music are good, and the exclusive stylus controls makes the gameplay intuitive and quite addicting at times.  =)  It's just a shame that none of the other Yoshi games could match the first Yoshi's Island in terms of fun, spirit, standards, and high quality, since Yoshi is such a great character and I love playing as him; and to be honest, while this game is nowhere near as good as that one, it's about as close as you can get to the original and in my opinion it's the second best Yoshi title.  Yes, even better than Yoshi's Island DS, but just by a tad smidge.  The stylus controls received some praise that other companies decided to try it out for themselves (only much extended), even HAL Laboratory with Kirby Canvas Curse, which I think is good but not as fantastic as everyone lauds it to be.  But that's just my opinion on that!  XD

It's too bad the Yoshi games that followed the original couldn't quite reach the same ranks as the first one, but hopefully the two upcoming Yoshi games will finally change all that.  There's Yarn Yoshi that's going to come out for the Nintendo Wii U, and I'm very interested in that game; and given that the developer behind it has got a great track record, in particular their heartwarming Kirby's Epic Yarn which I absolutely love, I have good faith that Good-Feel will make us proud.  =)  As for the other one, Yoshi's New Island for the Nintendo 3DS (interesting title choice), that's another one I'm interested in, and I'm curious to see how this other direct continuation to the original will fare compared to both the original and the previous attempt.  And since that one's being developed by Nintendo, not Artoon, I'm looking forward to that as well.  I just have one thing to say to them:
*Zuul Voice* DON'T LET US DOWN!!! *End Zuul Voice*
I saw the E3 trailer and it looks good, but I'm just saying.  It would be nice to finally play another great Yoshi game, and hopefully one or both of them will fit that long-anticipated bill when they come out.  But both are due for 2014, which is going to make the wait all the harder.  =(

So is Yoshi Touch & Go worth checking out?  I think it is, though your mileage may vary.  If you're looking for a fun Yoshi game, this will do just fine.  If you go in expecting it to be excellent like the original, you may want to lower your expectations some.  If you're one of those gamers who like to see how high you can score, then this one is a good choice.  If you like using the stylus for the majority of controls, then knock yourself out and give it a go.  If you're just looking for a good Yoshi game or Yoshi's Island spin-off, then I think you'll like this game.  I won't guarantee that you'll feel highly for it, but I do believe that you'll find yourself addicted should you be in the high score-breaking mood.

6.5/10
P.S.: The other SNES to GBA conversion that I like, even though it shares the same issues as all other SNES to GBA conversions is The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past/Four Swords.  I only play it for A Link to the Past since Four Swords requires multiple players in order to actually play it (no thanks).
P.S. 2: Both games come out in 2014.  *sigh*  Well, at least there are a couple more things to look forward to next year, as well as The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Jurassic Park IV, Guardians of the Galaxy, the Marc Webb remake of Jesus Christ SuperstarCaptain America: The Winter Soldier, et al.
P.S. 3: In totally irrelevant news I recently saw Man of Steel in theatres, and I thought it was a fascinatingly dark reboot for Superman.  It had its share of flaws, there's no doubt about that, but I found to be good; just good, not great.  Totally different than the other Superman movies; I guess that's you expect from the man who helmed the movie adaptations of 300, The Watchmen, and the critically disparaged Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole.  Michael Shannon played a decent Zod in my opinion, though I'd much rather kneel before Terence Stamp Zod than Michael Shannon Zod.  Just saying!  Though by the end of the day I honestly found Iron Man 3 and Star Trek into Darkness superior to and more enjoyable than Man of Steel.  The next movie I'll be watching in theatres, hopefully, is This is the End; it's going to be great!  XD
P.S. 4: In other totally irrelevant news, I also saw the trailer for the new The Hobbit movie, The Desolation of Smaug, and let me tell you, having loved the first movie An Unexpected Journey, I am super hyped to see the second part.  =D
P.S. 5: Another example of a series that could never ever match up to the first movie is The Land Before Time series.  The only reason I didn't put it up there in the beginning of the review with the other examples I stated was because it's been stated by pretty much everyone.
P.S. 6: Credit where credit is due: the picture of Yoshi Touch & Go cover was taken by me; the Yoshi's Safari and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island covers were from Wikipedia.
P.S. 7: E3 has come and gone, and there was not a single report of a new Kirby game in the works.  =(
Thank you for reading my review and please leave a comment!  I hope you have a great day and summer, take care!  =)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Cool Spot (SNES) Review

Written: June 5th-7th, 2013
Year: 1993 | Developed and Published by: Virgin Games

Cool pose
So, in continuation of my sometimes summer theme this season, I figured I would review a game that many gamers associate with this time of year.  A game that many herald as a classic, a game that screams "'90s", a game that stars a former mascot based on a drink that many still buy today.  A game that some identify as one of the best non-Disney licensed titles that's ever been made in the past two decades, while others (such as myself) might respectfully disagree.  The game in question is none other than Cool Spot, by famed video game company Virgin Interactive.  Oh, and regarding my previous review, I apologize for that one moment that likely distracted from the game I was talked about; I just wanted to express how appalled I was about that.  And I'm sorry if any took offense to that one moment, I'll try not to repeat that mistake again in the future.  =(

Trapped in a bubble
For those that didn't know, the '90s was a very big time period when it came to video game mascots, particularly those that were licensed from shows and food-related ones, or ones that were not licensed that dominated the '90s (a lot of them being Sonic-wannabes).  The former rings true for the red 7-Up dot Spot, who was a commercial and video game mascot for several years until his untimely retirement in the second half of the decade.  His series of games started with the Reversi-like title Spot: The Video Game, eventually followed up by this title, to be followed up years later to the much maligned isometric sequel Spot Goes to Hollywood.  There was also a fourth Spot video game... sort of.  In 1992-93 there was a Game Boy title with the name of Spot: The Cool Adventure which mirrored the control scheme of M.C. Kids; and speaking of which, the European version was titled McDonaldland, where it featured the characters from said game and the McDonald's characters as well.  Sounds like Kemco Mickey (Crazy Castle) all over again to me, but we're not interested in action-puzzle hybrids or fast food characters right now; just the soft drink ones.  <=|

Bells, bells, bells
But onto the game!  In 1993, when 16-bit was all the rage, Virgin decided to craft an open-ended platformer that starred the 7-Up mascot in his prime Spot.  It was first released for the MegaDrive/Genesis console, and upon release it was received very well; Virgin took notice of this successful news that they decided to port it to various other consoles and handhelds like the Amiga, the Sega Master System, the original Game Boy (I saw gameplay footage of that one, though I don't think cropping the game exponentially was a good idea), and the SNES among others.  For awhile I was curious about this game and I wanted to see if it was as good as a lot of people made it out to be.  Back in May of 2010 I decided to order the game alongside the box and manual for the SNES, and I'm glad I got a chance to experience it.  =)

*clap*  All right, story-time!
"Hang ten, dude!  Cowabanga!"
Climbing shoelaces
The unfortunate news in this regard is that if you're just buying the game itself and are expecting a story to be told while playing it, I'm afraid you're going to be shorthanded since there's nothing in-game hinting at that.  =(  Luckily I have the manual in my stead, and basically this is the plot it covers: eleven of Spot's friends (all called Spot; kinda makes you wonder how anyone can tell them apart?  Almost makes you wonder if you're controlling the same Spot any time you revisit the game?) have all been trapped inside cages and separated by Wild Wicked Wily Will (hurray, alliteration!) who has long been trying to prove to the world that the Spots are real!  Hmmm, reminds me of a different character similarly trying to prove the existence of something else entirely!  Makes me wonder if they share the same sanity or lack thereof.
Oh, Denzel, how I missed your mannerisms.  It's just a shame the series made some live-action movies lately.
Anyway, Will is about to get his chance, but all hope is not lost, since there is one Spot that's here to save the day: the eponymous cool Spot (if you're confused about Spot and his friends sharing the same name, I don't blame you), that is.  Each location has got a single Spot trapped in a cage, and you must free your friend before Will comes back.  Speaking of being shorthanded, here's another one if you're just getting the game: Will never ever appears in the game, or even the manual for that matter (he's just mentioned there).  All this has occurred while the protagonist was surfing, and once he finishes up he realizes what has happened.  Will our not ambiguous Spot prove successful to save his friends?  Here's hoping.

Hanging by a thread of a cool balloon
Cool Spot is an open-ended platformer, in much similar fashion to games such as Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure, The Pagemaster, and Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow, in that the stages are big and are open-ended in nature.  The gameplay is good, and the controls are simple yet intuitive: jump and shoot.  Spot can shoot in any direction, and he can also duck, look up, cartwheel down slopes, climb, or hang on to balloons.  There are also bubbles he can bounce up from, and tiny capture bubbles that he can enter and make him momentarily float upward for a few seconds.  Spot can shoot his unlimited array of sprites towards his enemies, or as the manual calls them, "Cool Shots".  Most areas will be littered with enemies, and some of the ones you'll be contending with are ones such as
crabs,
fish heads that somehow manage to fit in wafer-thin puddles of water,
pajama-clad cheese-throwing mice who look like they belong in a Beatrix Potter tale (or some animated movies with realistic-looking rodents, rather),
playing balls that bounce up and down,
toy bandits in runaway toy trains,
toy train workers who'll ambush you with lumps of coal, and worst of all,
Batman: "Bees.  My God."
bothersome bees!!!  D=
"Wheeeeeeeeee!"
A lot of the time Spot will be moving as he shoots, but fortunately there is a way of making life easier in this regard.  Like Contra III: The Alien Wars, you can hold down the R shoulder button while you shoot so you'll be holding still while doing so.  And it helps, it really does, so you won't have to move all the time as you shoot.  A lot of gamers, from what I noticed, are under the misconception that it can't be done, while in actuality it can; unfortunately, the only time you're actually given the know-how to that control is in the manual.  I guess it comes to show how owning the manual can be helpful depending on the game.  As good as the play control is, it's a little on the loose side, and that's fairly evident when it comes to jumping.  There two kinds of jumping in this game: proper jumps and "wimpy" jumps as the manual calls them.  The former can be accomplished if you jump right after you move, while the latter is done if you jumped while you were not moving before, and how far or near you jump depends on your maneuverability after performing either jump.  How high you jump all depends on how hard you press the button.

Of Mice and Spots
The goal of each stage is to free the friend from their cage, and get past all the obstacles.  Here's the catch, however: to break the lock of the cage, you must first get the requisite amount of red dots, depending on the difficulty: on Easy you have to get 30%, on Normal you must accumulate 60%, and on Hard you must gather 90%.  You even have a chance to gain access to the bonus stages inside a 7-Up bottle, but only if you collect enough dots.  On Easy it requires 75%, Normal 85%, and on Hard you must have 95% (on the manual it states that you have to get all of them, but that's a blunder).  In most stages there are checkpoints to be found which will allow you to begin from that point should you lose a life.  Spot also has a health system, which is symbolized by the state of the Spot sticker in the HUD.  If it peels off completely, you lose.  Did I mention that there's a timer involved?

"Boy, someone's a little crabby today!"
The music was composed by Tommy Tallarico, whose résumé of video game background music include works such as Earthworm Jim, Wild 9, and the original Pac-Man World.  The soundtrack featured in Cool Spot is pretty great.  =)  A lot of the music is composed of catchy beats, and several of them are calypso tunes (which is appropriate for certain stages).  The SNES rendition of the famous beach theme "Wipe Out" sounds great, and the rest of the songs sound good.  The beach theme is a nice calypso-sounding tune, the wall theme is catchy, the bonus themes are like techno-beats, the toy store theme is cool, and the pier theme is okay.  A lot of the music sounds inviting and exciting, which is good, but my favorite Cool Spot song is the train theme, and here is why: it's a border-on silly song, but an enjoyably silly one, where it begins with a brief tune that eventually segues to a banjo-driven theme, and during the process it may even play a slower or a faster rendition of the banjo.  That is great!  =D  The sound effects are good as well, for I like the sound his Cool Shots make, and anytime you get any of the letters that spell out "Uncola" there is a cute rendition of the first two beats of "Hallelujah".  A sound that may drive some away is the high-pitched voice samples Spot uses at times, particularly when you beat the stage, though I don't find it too bad personally.  There is the option in the menu to turn the music or the sound off, which I normally don't approve of since that enables some to not listen to what the music has to offer.  Still, music and sound are good.

Spot springing into action
On a visual level this game is fantastic!  Truly one of the best-looking SNES games that was made in 1993, right next to Mr. Nutz, ActRaiser 2, and Equinox to name a few.  There is a lot of attention to detail, boasting so much color throughout, and a lot of the backgrounds and foregrounds look photo-realistic, in a sense.  In particular the beach stages, where there is a big abundance of parallax scrolling, only it's not quite as pronounced as in other titles, and the various clouds in the sky look so textured and realistic (the look of the clouds look eerily similar to the ones that were used in Super Mario Galaxy 2, from what I remember the last time I played that).  The toy store stages are fun to look at, right down to the toys sitting on the shelves looming in the background and perhaps the most realistic-looking sneaker that's ever been seen in Nintendo's 16-bit console.  The wall stages look clustered and in-depth, and the pier stages don't look all too shabby what with the cruiseliner seen in the distance.  What's great about the bonus stage is how you're inside a 7-Up bottle and you can see all the fluids and bubbles in the background.  =)

Spot and the enemies look and animate really fluidly.  The enemies are detailed, realistic-looking, and very cartoony, which works a lot for the majority of them.  Spot himself animates wonderfully, and I like how Virgin made him look photo-realistic when it came to his movements and his numerous poses.  It adds a lot to the visual flair.

Coolin' down in the tube
So how's the challenge like?  Well, there are many factors that attribute to the game's challenge.  Let's talk about the main factor: collecting red dots.  Funny how in a genre where collecting items is usually not mandatory, for this one game it's a requirement!  At the end of each of stage is a cage with a Spot trapped in it, and the only way to break the lock is if you collect a certain amount of red dots, or "cool points" as they're referred to.  The easier the difficulty you're playing, the less you're required to gather; and the higher the difficulty, you'll have to obtain the highest majority of "cool points".  Most stages are openly-designed, with some complex layouts, which would augment some challenge.  And you know what, why stop there?  Why not add a timer too?

Depending on the difficulty and how the stages are laid out, you may have either an easy time or a totally hard one finding a set amount "cool points".  Some "cool points" are hidden so well that you have to look thoroughly in order to get them.  Lingering around is not an option, since the timer will continually go down the longer time passes, but fortunately there are a some timer icons you can obtain to give you more time.  Time is key, and it's time that will allow you to search and locate them.  The jumping can be a bit of an issue at times, since as I mentioned before, there are proper jumps and "wimpy" jumps.  A little distance can be gained in the air so long as you jump after you move, which can get a little awkward when it comes to small platforms as Spot gradually moves faster.  When it comes to loose gameplay, it can either work to a game's advantage or it might not work quite as potently.  Mr. Nutz, to name an example, had loose play control but it helped a lot when it came to reaching certain platforms; Cool Spot doesn't exactly benefit from that.

"Playtime's over!"
Just like a certain amount of "cool points" are required to unlock the cage at the end, you must also collect a specific amount to gain access to the bonus stage.  In the bonus stages which take place inside the 7-Up bottle you get a chance to collect all the "cool points" in order to receive a life, all in the allotted time too.  In each bonus stage there is also one letter out of six, together spelling out "Uncola".  If you lose all your lives, you'll get a chance to continue at the expense of one letter.  So, what about the "Uncola" letters, and why is it so important to know this?  Well, to add to the challenge, there are two endings, the better of the two being accessed once you collect all six letters on Hard mode.  Which means that you'll be spending a long time trying to get 95% "cool points" on most if not all eleven stages to make this possible.  And to add to the difficulty, there are more enemies the higher the difficulty setting you choose, so it's not going to be a cakewalk.  =(

And now let's talk about the boss fights.   ...oh, wait, there aren't any.
I know, right?  The fact that there aren't any boss fights at all, in a platformer of all genres, is very unusual indeed.  Even some of the lesser platformers have got boss fights in them.  Though, considering all that you have to put up with throughout the game, maybe those obstacles that I mentioned are the boss fights.  ...  Or it might all be due to size constraints or some such crap, I'm not entirely certain.

Free falling!
As far as summer games go, Cool Spot is a very solid platformer.  I don't think it's a great game, but I think it gets the job done.  Visually outstanding, aurally great, and controlling really good, it's a very good game to play once in awhile, especially during this time of year.  =)  It's got character, and it definitely does represent the '90s as best as it can.  Spot is a likable character, and he's one cool mascot.  Regarding the better ending, if you're expecting to see Will head to a mental institution or something of the like, you're going to be disappointed.  As I mentioned before, the main baddie is only referenced in the manual.  The reason for the "Uncola" business was because at the time of this game's release there was a competition being held to see who would get the good ending, and if they took a picture of the hard to access ending shot and sent it to Virgin then they (the contestants) would get a prize.  When this game came out I wasn't exactly of age to do so, so it's too late for me.  I never got a chance to beat Hard mode yet (I try my best, though), but I was curious to see what the good ending was; so I searched a YouTube video of it and without spoiling anything, I found it to be disappointing.  Because with all this commotion about the secret ending you'd expect something really big, right?  Guess not.  The challenge value is definitely competent, even if at times depending on the difficulty it might prove to be taxing.

Cool Spot was successful enough to earn a sequel, Spot Goes to Hollywood, which for the most part got panned by critics and gamers as a whole, and some even argued that it was the reason for the 7-Up mascot's demise, thereby killing the series.  While I honestly don't think that game is as bad as some gamers claim it to be, that's not to say its glaring faults aren't unfounded.  But more on that tragic swansong some other time.  If you're looking for a fun summer title, go for it, and if you can, I suggest you also buy the manual, for it's worth checking out for its humorous quality and a flipbook-like sequence at the edge of each page.  It's a fun game to play every once in awhile, and it's definitely a summer blast while it lasts.

7.5/10
Thank you for reading my review, please leave a comment and I hope you have a great summer!  Take care!  =)