Croc: Legend of the Gobbos

15_1_1Of all the genres out there, one of the most difficult to pull off is the 3D platformer. Traditional platform games require precise jumps in two dimensions — but when you add the aspect of depth and a free-roaming camera to the mix, you’re asking for trouble. The resulting gameplay can be anywhere from occasionally irritating to disastrous, and unfortunately, Fox Interactive’s newest 3D platformer Croc: Legend of the Gobbos falls somewhere in between. The protagonist is a reptilian crocodile with a chipmunk voice on a mission to save his cute-n-fuzzy Gobbo friends from the Baron Dante.

Croc is essentially a classic 8-bit Mario game gone 3D that includes and relies heavily on every platform-game cliché in the book. Floating platforms abound, giant blocks can be smashed to gain items, and there’s even one of those detestable ice-world levels where the control gets all boogered up as your character slides around. Aside from the standard jump, Croc can climb walls and move hand-over-hand under floating grids. Croc’s defenses consist of a Gex-like tail whip and a butt stomp that’s performed by pressing the jump key in mid-air.

The goal is to rescue as many Gobbos as possible, and then hit a gong to signal the end of the level. Adding to the replay value are five colored gems scattered throughout each board, which will unlock a secret door after you collect them all. To stay alive, Croc must maintain a supply of gems. When he’s hit, he drops them all, and there’s a resulting scramble to pick them back up (similar to the golden rings in Sonic the Hedgehog).

Instead of one continuous world, Croc’s levels are broken down into individual rooms, so the sense of scale isn’t nearly as grand as in Tomb Raider or Mario 64. On the other hand, all of the levels are accessible once you’ve beaten them, and you can zip back and forth to the easier levels if you want to rack up some extra lives. Sadly, most of the 250 rooms start looking alike after a while, and better texture variation — or simply more creativity in terms of level design — would have made for a more interesting game. You may also find yourself longing for an option that turns off Croc’s voice, which gets on your nerves — with every attack, he hollers a high-pitched “Wa-boof!” or “Ker-splat!”

2_1_1But the biggest headache in Croc is a common one to 3D platformers — the viewing perspectives simply aren’t conducive to the game’s basic jump and run style of gameplay. You can select from three fixed viewpoints, but none of them are really useful in most jumping situations. Judging your leaps takes some getting used to, and the only way you can really tell where your character is going to land is by keeping tracks on his shadow. An option to rotate the camera to Croc’s side would have been helpful, since gauging depth from a behind-the-back view can be next to useless.

All in all, Croc provides lots of levels, 3Dfx support, and frequently frustrating hop-and-bop gameplay. Its cutesy characters and Disney-esque atmosphere may make it a good game for children… until they realize how screwy the controls are and start hitting the keyboard in frustration.

System Requirements: Pentium 133 MHz, 16 MB RAM, Win95

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