Croc: Legend of the Gobbos review
As the dawn of the PSX began, so did the line of several franchises that are with us today, or at least, lived a fair life on the shelf of gaming stores and homes alike. Games like the Crash Bandicoot series, Spyro the Dragon and many others saw the light without the use of the SNES or the Sega Genesis. They were original and gave a fresh sense of the word gaming. One of those games for the PSX was Croc: Legend of the Gobbos. This game, like a fair few others on the system, had a rich and environment, and had an air to it that felt like they were trying to do their best with the game. I felt genuine effort when playing this game, and I'll have to say it's a game I'm rather fond of.
The story is greatly explained in the instruction booklet, and is summarised nicely in the cut-scenes of the game. It tells of a land, where the Gobbos live. Not many people knew about the Gobbos, until an historian found something written by a Gobbo himself, saying that they were the most advanced civilization of their day, boosting of incredible intelligences and level of thinking. However, not only did the historian find several grammatical errors, he also found he misspelled "Gobbos" itself. Yes, the story in the instruction booklet is a hilarious read, foot notes and all, and I highly recommend looking on the internet for a text based webpage for you to read it, so I won't let out too much that's in there. A great game can have a great deal of comedy in the booklet, letting to believe everything is bright and cheery, but the cut-scenes can seem a little creepy, even dark.
An adorable baby crocodile in a basket washes up on the shore of Gobbo Valley, and the Gobbos, being the kind creatures they are, take him in and look after him. He grows and learns attacks from King Rufus The Intolerant, and everything seems well, until the Dantinis arrived and kidnapped all the Gobbos! The Baron Dante, the leader of the Dantinis, kidnaps King Rufus personally. With his magical steel hand, no-one could stop him and left, leaving Croc all alone. With a bird by his side, he ventures off to save his friends, and family, despite the differences in their race. I'll have to praise this game for the cut-scenes and surroundings. They can make you really happy, like at the end, or a little spooked out, like before you play a boss level. It's the lack of music and Dante's sinister laugh and the black backgrounds that do it for me. Some might say it's a little lazy, but I say it's a fine touch of subtle art.
Ok, so here's the formula for the levels. There are six normal levels , two boss levels and two secret levels on every island. Every level except the boss levels and the secret levels, have six Gobbos to find. However, you will only be able to find five of the six Gobbos unless you have collected the five coloured crystals in that level, opening up a door near the end leading you to the last Gobbo. If you collect all the Gobbos in that level, that level is fully completed. After a boss level, if you have collected all the Gobbos in those past three levels prior to the boss level, then a secret level will open up, allowing you to get a jigsaw piece. If you can collect all eight jigsaw pieces, something good will happen. Make sense? I hope it does.
The best thing about it all is there aren't any power-ups to collect, so you can complete all level completely first time, it's only a question of skill. Some Gobbos are hidden rather sneakily, which I like, and the coloured crystals are only coloured when you pick them up, so you might as well collect as many normal crystals as you can. Just like in every other game, collecting 100 crystals will award you with an extra life, however unlike other games you need to complete the level in order for those crystals to count. Any spare crystals left over will be saved for when you complete another level, so you don't waste any crystals. Very handy. I also like how every level tries to incorporate some sort of pun in them. I love a game that does that.
The graphics are simply amazing. The way the islands are constructed and how you move around them as you go across levels is stunning. The levels themselves are a real beauty, once again showing what the little grey dull box can handle to the fullest of its extent. There is a great deal of detail in these levels, even the password screen is breath taking. The one thing that I find remarkable about this games graphics is the air of mystery to them. Everywhere seem to have a purpose, even if it's completely useless. It's one of those games where you can just make up your own lore and stories to. Every time I see the level select screen, and go to a secret level, it looks like a secret place where no-one could find it. It's almost magical. However I must say enemy death animations are very cheap and do seem a little lazy.
The music, once again, ties in with the mysterious theme that the graphics so greatly hold. One thing I've noticed that every theme the islands have (Snowy, Desert, Castle etc.) seems to have matching music. The snowy islands have a snowy music to it with those small bells, like the ones used in Super Mario 64, and the desert islands have a Mexican feel to it, which is superb. It has that certain air to it that the graphics had, however it doesn't appear as often. It's mainly in the level select screen where the music is the best, and some levels have good music anyway. Sometimes however the music isn't as great or as catchy as it was before.
The game has a lot of depth, as I said before. Not only is every level full of secrets, but it also has bonus rounds in it for extra lives. These can be found by walking into little sparks that spin around in little circles. These can be either hidden in plain sight, or devilish out of place, like you have to drop off the edge of the world in one of them to get there, and the platform is really deep down. Like I said before, the bonus levels are enough to add that extra layer of depth to the games experience, and collecting all the jigsaw pieces give you a challenge.
The game is also fairly challenging. It doesn't have the oddest enemy placement, and the platforming is pretty simple compared to other games. However, what made me give it a 9 for difficulty wasn't how tough the bosses were (they were pretty easy after you knew their pattern) or the platforms, but because you were handicapped by the controls, which is the one thing that greatly disappointed me in this game. Instead of Crash or Spyro which turn around smoothly or efficiently, Croc slowly walks backwards when you try and run away from an enemy, which could cause you to get hit. Want to make sharp turns? I'm sorry, you can't. You turn gently when running forward. You have to stop, then press left or right, which turn you on the spot, then move forward. It's very awkward. Jumping is a pain because you hardly go forward unless if you get enough momentum, and sometimes, if you're lucky, you'll grab onto the edge of the platform. The controls are very disappointing in this game. and are far from smooth and fluid.
Overall I give this game a 7.8/10 This game could have been a master piece of platforming, but the controls really let everything down. The music, graphics and structure of the game was fantastic, but it was hard to appreciate all that when you had trouble turning a corner while moving forward. It was stiff and not enjoyable. Luckily the game's level design wasn't too unforgiving, and one might say it was a fun game while it lasted. But if you're looking for a fun game, this might not be the best choice. It's worth a play, but don't expect anything that's superb in game play. It's more of a game to admire the art of within, with one factor missing from the whole experience: Being able to experience it through game play, and therefore a missing link in connecting with the game's world.