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Review by: David Laprad
Published: February 19, 1998
If you watch people play Tomb Raider or Quake, you will notice something interesting. Although they must be having fun, else they would not be playing the game, they rarely, if ever, smile or laugh. For some reason, 3D games on the PC are stern-faced, clench-jawed serious. Grab that rocket launcher or nail gun and maim, kill, destroy! Not so with console titles. Buoyant games like Mario 64 feature bright, colorful worlds, happy-go-lucky characters and more bouncy, bouncy, sugary fun than you could shake a licorice stick at. Well, fellow PC gamers, the console community has sent us a little happygram in the form of Croc, a Windows 95 port of a Playstation title starring an irrepressibly cute baby crocodile. Essentially, they are saying it is time to lighten up, and have delivered a game that features enough gee-whiz merriment to charm the boots off the most hardened, battle-weary marine.
From the first moment you jump into this 3D platform game, you will be captivated by the wonderfully original title character. Remember, Croc is a digital smile, so drop any notions you have about a wartish, mammoth alligator armed with hundreds of teeth, all dripping with guts and half-devoured clothes. Instead, we have at our disposal an infant crocodile who grins cheerfully past a single, non-threatening tooth, blinks his big, disembodied eyes in wonderment at the world around him, and is naive enough to believe he can take on the biggest baddie to ever disrupt Gobbo Valley. The gameplay is equally unpretentious — players guide the little charmer through four increasingly dangerous environments, gathering crystals, solving simple puzzles, and rescuing tiny, fuzzy creatures called Gobbos.
It seems one less-than-friendly Baron Dante, unable to endure his blissfully happy neighbors, ordered his minions to capture the Gobbos and stash them in boxes and cages. Meanwhile, he scoured their once joyous land, turning innocent creatures into his depraved subordinates. Of course, it is up to our totish hero, who was raised by the Gobbos, to save the day. If you have not yet made a mad dash for the medicine cabinet in search of an insulin injection, hang in there; you will make it through the rest of the review.
It is a magical world, teeming with all the standard magical powerups intended to aid our hero. There are crystals, which bestow health; colored crystals, which provide access to bonus levels; smash boxes, which contain crystals or Gobbos; torches, which light up Croc’s darker excursions; and hearts, which grant an extra life. Helping Croc navigate the levels are push boxes, which boost him to high places; keys, which open doors or unlock cages; balloons, which fly him to new areas; jellies, which jet him to new heights; switches; monkey bars; and climbable walls. These are the basic building blocks, and they help guide Croc past lava pits, deep gorges, and other assorted hazards. The bonus levels are worth the extra effort needed to collect the colored crystals as they offer amusing subgames, including goofy variations on “whack-a-mole” and “watch the cup with the ball,” and much-needed bonus items.
Fortunately, Croc is empowered by a remarkably slick set of maneuvers, all of which are nicely animated and give him a marvelous sense of life. He can run, jump, climb, swim through the gorgeous underwater environments, whack enemies with his tail, hang from ledges and drifting balloons, and stomp. The basic running animation is terrific, with Croc leaning forward, sticking out his elbows, and waddling quickly forward with everything he has. The swimming and climbing animations are equally frisky, and are a joy to watch. A couple of nice touches are a quick 180 degree turn, and a super-stomp, which enables him to tear through stacked crates. There is very little violence in the game; Croc carries no weapons, and the worst you will see happen is creatures momentarily disappearing after getting a tap from Croc’s lethal tail or a stomp on the head.
In fact, the game is so innocuous, the point of battling the boss characters is not to defeat them, but to return them to their normal state of being with a couple of love whacks. This is where the game really shines, as the boss characters are hilariously inventive. One places you in a boxing ring with a giant ladybug who struts around like Rocky Balboa, swiping at you with gloved feet. Once you defeat her, she shrinks back to normal size and goes about her merry way.
There are four islands to explore, including ice, forest, desert, and castle themes, and approximately 45 levels to adventure through. The goal, of course, is to rescue as many Gobbos as possible, which is not too terribly difficult. Often, they are contained in poorly guarded smash boxes, or are locked in cages, which means you have to locate the key. If you rescue all 20 Gobbos on a level, you are treated to a secret level which contains one of eight puzzle pieces. Locate all eight scattered throughout the game and you are treated to a final, incredible secret.
The game is packed with tons of inventive and whimsically animated enemies. Dante’s wicked helpers are not too terribly intelligent, and rarely attack with much vigor, but they are fun to watch. My personal favorites were the bouncing lava balls with eyes, and the worm that burrows about just beneath the surface, occasionally emerging for a look see. There is a veritable smorgasbord of other creatures, including giant bees, vampire fish, and more.
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