Just in time for the weekend we investigate the pocket-isation of THQ's classic platform pal, Croc.
Platform games have gone all funny. I'm not talking about your Lara Crofts and your Mario 64s, I'm instead referring to the proper two-dimensional side-scrolling platformers of yore, whose programmers were sadly only in possession of one-track minds. The most variation on the good old Super Mario franchise we ever saw back then was the idea of a world map in between levels, and pipes that actually transported you elsewhere on the same map. Sickeningly simplistic, yet appallingly addictive seemed to be the order of the day. Quite how we've managed to go from one extreme to the other in the space of a decade is up for debate. And so we come to Croc, for the GameBoy Color. Croc on the PlayStation and Saturn was one of the few early answers to the life-disrupting Mario 64. It was very entertaining and presented a character with charm and personality, far much more so than others games of the time like Spyro the Dragon or Crash Bandicoot, which simply attempted to mimic Mario, and failed unreservedly. Croc was a cuddly green crocodile, and there was no knocking him. Which is why it troubles me so that the most inexcusable desecration of his character has occurred! It's still Croc, but his charisma has gone AWOL! Not to mention the controls are.. shall we say less than eloquent, and for all its 30 environments, magic carpets and cable cars it's actually dreadfully dull! So what went wrong? Unfortunately Croc gets off on the wrong foot in his new side-scrolling world (new to him anyway) by having a disappointing control quirk; he jumps twice as fast as he moves forward. This is another example (to pull out my introduction again) of the platform genre shooting from one extreme to another - back in the NES and GameBoy monochrome days we used to have games where the character moved twice as fast as he jumped.
Bemusing, not puzzling
If you make the mistake of hitting the button a few more times than necessary he leaps all over the place like the Energizer Bunny on crack. The attack button does likewise; little Croc's bicycle kick tail poke moves him forward quite a way with each attack, meaning that should you lose control of his leaping you will die, quite easily. Being innovative is a prerequisite in the GameBoy platforming genre (which is hardly under-populated now is it?), but there's little in terms of effectual puzzles or innovation to keep the player happy here, it's just a dull plod from left to right for a number of levels. Every once in a while the game degenerates further into a gatekey-finding exercise, a style of gameplay I despise even more than plodding from left to right! In a sense it's worse to be distinctly average at this lark, since then people start asking why so many new and entertaining innovations are missing from the mix. Read our Rayman review from a couple of months back and you'll find out about a real 21st Century platform game. Visually Croc is just about as average as you could expect judging from the rest of the game. The character sprite our poor little reptilian friend is portrayed as is woefully inexpressive, and lacks the charisma of his 32-bit brother. He slides and he swims in Croc GBC, that's your lot. Croc's rhythmic accompaniment is par for the course and as such nothing to write home about, with little amongst the smattering of sound effects worthy of note either.
While other games require an audience of many hours, we went through Croc within a couple of afternoons. The level of interaction with your surroundings is minimal, the occupants of your game world seem to be dim-witted and incapable of calculated attacks, preferring instead to enlist the age-old tactic of walking very slowly towards the enemy, and the plodding, unexciting nature of the gameplay should have been left way behind at the beginning of the 90s where it was safe amidst the hordes. At present this be left well alone and forgotten about until the sequel, at which point we can deny all knowledge of it and welcome home a decent pocket incarnation of Croc from Argonaut, who are very good game designers and presumably just need a prod in the right direction. Consider this the aforementioned prod.