Category : Super Nintendo

Falling Apart for PLOK

Picture this… It is the early-mid 1990’s, the SNES system has already started to gobble up all of the market share for the console wars in North America. The console had it’s first platformer in Super Mario World, it has already started to catch the eye of many development companies in Japan who are considering making North America a major market and many American companies are starting to hop in on the bandwagon.

Platform games had become a staple of the SNES culture as they drew the attention of both newbies to the system and captured a niche market for the gamer who wanted to scour through levels upon levels of platforms, sometimes jumping off a cliff as they attempt to jump to what might be a secret platform in hopes of finding EVERY secret and reaping the rewards of getting ‘The Best Ending’ and bragging rights among their friends for being the first one to do so. Yet as the games became popular, they also became saturated in the market and one could almost guess that if they picked up a game from the now large array of SNES games in that section of their favorite movie/game store (yes, they used to be the rage) that they had a 50% chance of the game being a platformer, a 25% chance of it being an RPG, and a 25% chance of it being something that did not fit into any particular category. The platform genre for SNES  featured such heavy hitters as Super Mario World, Aladdin of the Disney fame, and Bubsy which was famed to be the next Sonic the Hedgehog (a lofty title it never attained).

Into this mixture enters the seasoned, yet often unknown Pickford Brothers,  Jon and Ste, who had created many games for everything from Atari to the IBM PC but rarely ever got their names includes in any of the credits. They wanted to release a game that was creative, unique, fun, and rather challenging. After discussing a strange world they had both dreamed up, they decided to create a map for “Akrillic” which was in the region of “Polyesta” (are you picking up on the theme here?). After some more concept work, the Pickford Bros. created Plok and it is one of their most commercially successful video games the two were credited directly on.

Your character, Plok, looks much like a Play-Doh experiment with 4 floating appendeges (similar to what a Mii looks like on the Wii). In the course of the game, you battle through the world of Akrillic beating up such unique things as the giant mouths with tuxedos known as the Bobbins Brothers, annoying and disgusting creatures known as Fleas that have infested the land, and many other strange monsters. What is unique is HOW you do so. You throw your arms and legs at your enemies (Ro-KE-to-PUNCH!) often in a succession, leaving Plok as nothing more than an immobile lump of clay while you wait for your appendeges to return.  Sometimes Plok must sacrifice one of his appendeges for a set period of time by punching or kicking at a ‘hanger’ switch which will retain your limb until you either complete a nearby task or until you make it to the end of the current level and on one or two occasions you actually have to fight a boss with less than your full array of limbs.

But don’t think you are limited to this option, what good would a platformer be if you did not have a few cool powerups? Scattered through the world are several “suits” that Plok will change into (in a humerous scene where he changes behind a curtain in the middle of the level) for power complete with specialized music for each suit. You can pick up the blunderbuss which changes Plok into an outfit Sherlock Holmes would be proud of and allows him to repeatedly shoot a blunderbuss with buckshot. Also, there is a flamethrower powerup which lets you blast gouts of huge flames at your foes as well as awesome boxing gear for much stronger punches, a badass rocket launcher suit and even twin pistols with a cowboy hat. This is a wonderful change from the duo-tone, rather undetailed primary sprite that is Plok. Did I mention the music?… oh the music!

Did you think it was over there? No! Not at all! If you really have the time to try and get to all kinds of odd and hard to reach places in the levels, you will find several “Presents” which Plok can use either for the level or for the entire game that make the going much easier including such things as the Buzzsaw jump among others. Furthermore, as you get deeper into the Brendammi Bog, the place where all Fleas come from, you will find that Plok gets to use all kinds of awesome vehicles to get through the levels here including a motorcycle, a jet bike and many others. You finally descend into the Flea Pit and beat the disgustingly cute “Flea Queen” and rid the land of Akrillic from Fleas forevermore!

This game is really a fantasic game with a breath of fresh air for when platform games are getting old and annoying. However, don’t expect the game to be easy. In fact, one of the biggest complaints the Pickford Bros received was that the game was too hard for the average gamer. I say NAY! Sure, you might have to devote several hours of time to getting all the secrets but the game’s universe is so quirky, strange, and fun that you won’t consider it a chore. Not to mention, the game features a much better music than a majority of the other platformers of the era and some of its most popular tunes from the score such as “Creepy Crag” and “The Flea Pit” live on as remixes. Can’t get much more famous than that, can you? So clear out a few hours a night, fire up your emulator and give this cool platformer a go, you will be thankful that you did!

8 Bit Composition with Mario Paint

Super Mario Paint

Game cover of Super Mario Paint

I feel it is only fitting to begin my trek down memory lane with a look at Good Old “Mario Paint” composer since it was one of the first inspirations for this blog. The game itself actually had many pieces you could chose from. There was a PaintBrush like application where you could draw pictures and save them and then later on edit them. It also had a unique animation studio that, although quirky, was far too complicated for the average player and light years ahead of its time. Another fun option was the “Coffee Break” which was a strange game in which your cursor was a hand with a flyswatter and you would swat ‘gnats’ which made a humerous “ung” sound when killed and sometimes you faced a ‘boss’ gnat that was much harder and more dangerous.

But nothing else was quite as unique and fun as the “Composer” software. This part of the game was so exciting and interesting that it lives on as a flash download from UnFun Games and allows you to make complex music files and even arrange different songs together. A feature unheard of in the original game. This application and the game for that matter, received a revival in recent years and led to a stream of YouTube videos with Mario Paint renditions of such songs as “Through Fire and Flames” by Dragonforce, “What Is Love” by Haddaway. Just search on YouTube for the song and include “Mario Composer” as part of the search.

Thanks to an interest sparked by looking at Mario Paint, I found my way to another awesome software called MuseScore that lets you create music by placing real notes on a real clef. It’s also free! So if you have a desire in your heart to be a muiscal master, grab an emulator and play with Mario Paint or go grab the MarioPaint Composer from UnFun. Happy MIDI’ng!