Plok (SNES) review
"The final areaís penchant for giving Plok strange tools and forcing him to use them to overcome obstacles reaches its peak at the very end of the game, as he must fight the final boss wearing a pair of spring shoes that force him to bound around the arena in a very hard-to-control fashion. Nothing like a climactic battle where I get killed solely because my hero is constantly bouncing into the path of what should be easily-dodged bullets!"
If there is one negative aspect to companies creating very successful franchises, itís that the unwashed masses will jump up, exclaim, ďBY LUCIFERíS BEARD, IíM A WINNER, TOO!!!!Ē and fall flat on their faces, only succeeding in adding to the vast number of unexceptional games on the market.
And that, boys and girls, might be the story of how Plok came to be. Developed by Rare and published by Tradewest in 1993 for the SNES, this light-hearted platformer didnít possess the charm or style of the Super Mario Brothers series or even Rareís own Donkey Kong Country games. While not a particularly dreadful platformer (in fact, some levels are quite enjoyable), Plok just comes off as an ordinary game due to its lack of any single element breathtaking enough to make players stand up and take notice.
While the background graphics are very nice and cartoonishly colorful, Plok is a fairly bland hero with no defining features other than a pair of large eyes. There are only a handful of different enemies and, with the exception of a number of mid-game stages, most levels in Plok are fairly short, quite linear and bear a strong visual resemblance to any number of other stages in the game.
The basic plot of the game is that Plok is a weird fellow with weird problems. At first, his beloved flag is stolen from home, causing him to travel to a nearby island to recover it. Upon returning to his land, he discovers it was taken over by a race of fleas. Included in all this is a series of black-and-white levels where a dreaming Plok imagines he is one of his forefathers. To keep things moving, the chap delivers a line of text before and after each stage (usually to relay his frustrations on not immediately succeeding in his quest).
The main problem with all this stems from just how repetitive things get. During Plokís quest to get his flag AND during his dream sequence, the player goes through over a sizable number of short, simple levels; one after the next. Even the bosses of these two parts of the game are virtually identical, as both incarnations of Plok fight a group of characters known as the Bobbins Brothers. The only difference: young Plok fights two, old Plok contends with three. Now thatís creativity! Making matters worse, the final eight levels of Plok all blend into one long, very boring stage. Each level revolves around Plok opening a present to get a vehicle of some sort and using it to go through the remainder of the level. Few of the vehicles are fun to utilize for any amount of time and all the stages bear a strong resemblance to each other.
The final areaís penchant for giving Plok strange tools and forcing him to use them to overcome obstacles reaches its peak at the very end of the game, as he must fight the final boss wearing a pair of spring shoes that force him to bound around the arena in a very hard-to-control fashion. Nothing like a climactic battle where I get killed solely because my hero is constantly bouncing into the path of what should be easily-dodged bullets!
But that isnít the only part of the game where questionable play control can be a detriment. Many of those gift vehicles (which are also found throughout the early parts of game -- but can only be used for a short amount of time) can be a bit too responsive, making it very easy to inadvertently fly into spikes or fall off ledges. Plok, himself, is hampered a bit by his method of attacking foes. Unless he is in possession of a vehicle, his only way to attack is to hurl his arms and legs in boomerang fashion. Obviously, throwing his legs can have a bit of an effect on his balance, making it quite easy to slide down a hill into danger before the fellowís limbs return to him. Despite having what appears to be a lengthy life bar, Plok really canít take much damage, as contact with nearly anything harmful removes a good chunk of it -- so taking hits for piddly reasons like that can get a bit frustrating after a while.
However, while most aspects of Plok are pretty run-of-the-mill and subpar, there are a number of stages that go a long ways toward redeeming this title. During the middle of the game, as Plok is attempting to remove the fleas from his homeland, the style of the game is altered slightly. Now, simply making it from one end of the level to the other isnít good enough -- Plok must kill all the fleas infesting each stage. While the levels still are somewhat linear, they are much larger and more creatively designed than those composing the rest of the game. If all the game was like this group of nine stages, Iíd be more inclined to be forgiving of those occasional play control problems.
Unfortunately, things didnít work out that way, as the rest of Plok was an exercise in repetition. I found myself doing the same basic things over and over again against the same handful of foes. It just didnít hold my interest. Plok is a very appealing game aesthetically with its colorful graphics and whimsical music (especially during boss fights when diabolical laughter sounds just before demented carnival music introduces that levelís big foe), but just doesnít have enough substance to make it much more than a temporary diversion from whatever game Iím playing seriously at the time.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (June 23, 2006)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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