So far, on the ‘Games I Want To Play’ series, I have looked at Real-Time Strategy, with ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth 3’, the Simulation/ God game ‘Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis 2’ and a Role-Playing Game set in the post-nuclear war world, as depicted in the Terminator films. This week, I will be looking at the genre that first got me into video games, Platforming.
Crash Bandicoot, Spyro The Dragon, Mario (The Plumber?) and Sonic The Hedgehog, all masters of the genre. Though subsequent sequels may have proved less engaging, the original titles were the kings of their domain. The first Sonic game was my very first video game and so I have fond memories of the Blue Blur, even though he has lost his way, as the years have gone on. The best 3D outing remains as ‘Sonic Generations’, in my eyes, as it pays homage to the original thrills and originality of the series’ beginnings and yet recognises that Sonic can still have a place in today’s gaming market. A blend of the old and new, giving the player a feeling of nostalgia and still excitement. A game which understands what made it’s core character so special. That’s what a modern platforming sequel should do. Innovate and respect it’s roots. My ‘Game I Want To Play’ isn’t a Sonic title though. My chosen game, this week, has a special resonance for me. This week’s ‘Game I Want To Play – But Hasn’t Been Made’ is a potential third outing for it’s main character. This week’s game is…
CROC: A Legend Retold
I was seven years old and had experienced video gaming through only my Sega MegaDrive II, until now… My parents surprised me with a second-hand PlayStation, accompanied by a selection of demo discs. They bought it from my neighbour, I now owned a then ‘next-gen’ console. My Dad set the console up (I had literally no technical know-how, at that age; I was just getting used to the electronic calculator!). I picked a disc and let it play. The Sony and PlayStation jingles sounded off, a sound which now gives me shivers upon hearing; nostalgia is a powerful thing. I picked a Demo, ‘Croc: Legend of the Gobbos’, I remembered seeing an advert for it, on a VHS I had a couple of years before.
My first experience of 3D platforming, indeed 3D gaming, consisted of me playing as a cute and courageous crocodile, in a strange fantasy world. I collected crystals, ran, jumped, tail whipped and saved fuzzy brown creatures, all the while, the crocodile would make an array of memorable wails. This was my first step into something we now take for granted, 3D video games. This remains my most memorable gaming moment and so the game is associated with warm, happy feelings. I eventually got a Pre-Owned copy of the full game and no longer had to replay the same level over and over. Grassy mountainous regions, desserts, fields of snow and a creepy castle, the world remained interesting, as the levels progressed. The game itself is very simple, and there’s great beauty in that. Games now tend to try and over-complicate things and they lose their charm because of it.
The first Croc game sold over four million copies. A less loved sequel followed and was hampered with the previously mentioned ‘complication’ of the gameplay. It was a crude platformer/ RPG hybrid title, which allowed the player to roam between levels via a home world and involved a lot of back-tracking and tedium. The best part about it was the personal hype in leading up to the game’s release. It was on the front of every PlayStation magazine and was highly anticipated. A couple of GameBoy Color entries came on the scene too but they were limited by the console’s technical abilities, though I still played them to get my Croc fix. When I was Nine, my letter was published in the then popular PlayStation MAX magazine, asking if ‘Croc 3’ was on the cards. Alas, there were no plans, at the time, to release a third console Croc title. Mobile games were made featuring Croc but they were forgettable. In 2004, the rights to Croc were bought by Zenimax Media and ‘Croc 3’ was put into production the following year. Unfortunately, for Croc fans, the game was pulled because of alleged production difficulties. It doesn’t look like we will see Croc on our current consoles any time soon.
I have been an active campaigner for a return of the reptilian hero, hoping for a Nintendo DS port (the graphics are akin to ‘Super Mario 64’, also on DS). My queries to Zenimax on Croc’s return have been fruitless, as they have not graced me with a response. Either they are hard at work on a secretive Croc game, or they are letting the series die. It breaks my heart that something so good (and popular, even now… look at forums and youtube gameplay videos to see how much love Croc still has with today’s gaming community) has been allowed to gather dust, even though Zenimax saw the potential for a third game in 2004. Well a company of that size can stop a new title coming to consumers, but they cannot stop fans from using their imagination. This is my vision for a new Croc game, ‘Croc: A Legend Retold’.
- A reboot of the Croc franchise, featuring a story similar to the original games, retold for modern consumers and paying homage to the much-loved original game. Croc has to rescue his Gobbo creature family from the Baron Dante’s clutches. His journey will take all over his world and through various regions.
- A modern platforming title, which contains 3D gameplay, interspursed with 2D specific levels (which feature a more cartoon-like, illustrated art style). The 3D levels will stick to the original game’s gameplay style, while allowing the 2D elements to explore playforming in a different way; they will be different to the 3D gameplay because these sections will be set in Croc’s dreams (technically a different ‘world’, in the game). Think ‘Rayman Origins’ and you’ll be halfway there., in respect to the 2D levels and their art direction.
- The sounds Croc and all the creatures make will be the same as the original game’s sounds, re-recorded for a higher quality sound, with a few new one thrown in for variety. The music was a big part of the first game and remains one of it’s most memorable aspects, this new title will feature tunes from the original and new tunes which will be just as memorable for future fans.
- Good platformer games aren’t just about running and jumping, puzzles are a big part of it too. Adding new game features will unlock new gameplay while not detracting from the aesthetic of the original game (to illustrate, if you gave Croc guns, this would seriously change the game, and not for the better). In certain levels, Croc will need saved Gobbos to follow him and perform tasks, such as throwing switches, standing on platforms so he can get through doors simultaneously, etc. It’s very much like how the Lego video games incorporate puzzles and character interaction. Remember how Abe in ‘Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee’ used to get Mudoken slaves to help him complete puzzles? Something between that and how ‘Pikmin’ uses characters/ helpers to progress.
- A new gameplay feature is Croc having the ability to pick-up and throw objects, creatures and Gobbos. This new mechanic will add a new level of puzzle solving to the game. Croc can throw a Gobbo to a far away platform, so the Gobbo can press buttons and pull levers to help Croc progress on his journey. Just by adding a couple of new gameplay mechanics, the game is now more interesting level to level but doesn’t detract from what made ‘Croc: Legend of the Gobbos’ such a good game.
I could keep adding new features to the game but it doesn’t necessarily make a better game, as said before, it’s about maintaining simplicity but still making a game fun and accessible. Remember, this is a game which is aimed at children predominantly, they don’t need to be burdened with too many things to remember. Keep it simple, keep it fun. By adding a few simple new features, you are able to make a relevant game while also keeping it true to it’s roots, welcoming new gamers and servicing the wants of old fans.
In 2004, Zenimax Media must have felt that a new Croc game was still commercially viable. A lot has changed since 2004 in both the video game industry and in priorities of consumers but let’s look at why a new Croc game is still viable.
- In 2004, people were not as well accustomed to getting their content digitally, so games would have to warrant a disc being produced in large quantities for it to exist. Now we are able to download titles without the publisher needing a large distribution cost. A game of this type and scale wouldn’t necessarily require a hard-copy purchase option if it wasn’t deemed as commercially viable. A neat £15 platformer title is what this game could be. Old fans will buy it for their nostalgia kick and newbies who are unfamiliar with the series might purchase because £15 isn’t a lot for a new game (it’s also incredibly easy to do a £15 spur-of-the-moment purchase with current digital download services such as Steam, Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and Nintendo e-shop).
- The re-emergence of properties such as Rayman (in ‘Rayman Origins’ and ‘Rayman Legends’), Spyro (in ‘Skylanders’) and Ratchet and Clank (with a new film having recently been announced, featuring the platforming duo) shows that consumers still want platform gaming with familiar faces. Developers and publishers recognise it too, it’s about getting them to see the potential in this franchises that is key.
- I hate the term ‘selling-out’, it is thrown around so much these days but it mostly refers to an idea or property being expanded on, to support consumers needs. Look how much money Star Wars makes through merchandise alone, the same with Mario and Halo. They must be ‘selling-out’, no? Of course they are, if you look at it from a purely commercial point-of-view, on the other hand, the fans are getting the chance to purchase things that excite them and immerse them more into their favourite worlds. Croc is a cute, the Gobbos are cute, even the monsters have a cuteness to them. Pokemon, it sells so much merchandise based on this principle that the monsters are either ‘Cute’ or ‘Cool’ and lend themselves to merchandise well. Croc is in that same boat, a new game would allow new characters to be thrown into the mix too. Plush toys, collectibles, trading cards, they’re all things that Croc and his friends could easily be lent to. I’m thinking from both points of view here, the rights holders would receive added revenue from these new streams of income and fans of the games would get to enjoy the property beyond the video game. I’m just saying… this thing is STILL commercially viable and in the world of entertainment, that’s what gets things made. A truth that we should all understand.
So I’ve talked about my vision for a remake/ reboot of the original ‘Croc: Legend of the Gobbos’ game and even explored why it is still viable and relevant in today’s gaming market. I wonder if anyone from Zenimax Media will read this, I really hope so. In the mean time, I shall be playing both console games on my PlayStation, dreaming of a future for Croc and his Gobbo friends.
Here’s that advert I had on a VHS, enjoy!
This has been Part 4 of my Six part opinion piece series ‘Games I Want To Play – But Haven’t Been Made’. You can read the previous three parts here (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3). Is there a game that you would like to play but can’t because it doesn’t exist? Write your thoughts in the comments below and please share with your friends. ‘Like’ our Facebook Page and follow our Twitter Feed for more updates on Films, Games and Technology.