#248 Plok

Posted: 30th January 2013 by Jeroen in Games
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213th played so far

Genre: Platform
Platform: SNES
Year of Release: 1993
Developer: Software Creations
Publisher: Activision/Tradewest/Nintendo

Just as nice as the new games we say we find sometimes, are the blasts of the past we get by playing games we haven’t played in decades. Plok is one of these.

I never owned it – we didn’t have SNES when I was younger – but friends did. This was one of the games they owned. While it was never a big one in the list, I do remember playing it as a fun game with interesting mechanics and it just being funny (to the point that I understood what was going on at the time).

At the same time, this game seems to have captured Peter’s imagination, and he’s been wanting to play it for a while as well… interesting how things work out.

Our Thoughts

Often, playing a game like this brings back more memories of how it works and how much you like it. While I remembered the basic mechanics – jumping and hitting things with your limbs, I had forgotten the story behind it.

That introduction, however, that leads to you going out in the first place and initially drives the plot, is different enough that it’s close to genius. You see, one morning you wake up and, walking outside, you discover that you’ve lost your flag – one you inherited from your grandfather. (For some reason, the flag was hanging from a giant needle – the scale of things in this game is slightly weird, with giant safety pins holding up bridges.) Down the line, this leads to further adventures as part of this turns out to be a diversion, but the start is weird enough it’s notable.

In his anger while chasing his flag, Plok (our hero) moves from flagpole to flagpole (a flagpole needle signifying the end of a level), raising the flag at each to see whether it’s his – and be disappointed each time. These flags are nice touches – you raise everything suitable and unsuitable, in the first levels finding boxer shorts, scarves and (somehow) a 5.25″ floppy disk. At times nonsensical, but certainly quite nice.

As mentioned, these design elements carry over into level designs, which features walking bags with blue hair as early enemies, has evil flower spit at you, but does it all in such a colourful setting that a lot of it will make you feel good. It’s a happy and bright game, with many things to make you smile.

At the same time, this game will make you curse like a sailor. The game’s platforming isn’t as tricky as a number of games like that we’ve seen recently, such as NewZealand Story, but more than makes up with that with enemy placement. The aforementioned sentient bags are fairly simple, but often placed to mess with your strategies on other enemies. The earliest annoyance is the falling logs. They are simple rolling logs, but thanks to your jumping can be hard to avoid in certain places. Your first true challenge come from the heads with signposts on them (they hide until you’re close) that pop up and fire bullets at you at a rapid pace. It takes a while to figure out how to take them out, even longer to perfect that strategy. Once you figure out the timing, however, they become a piece of cake… it’s a whole other story if you are not on a level surface though. Then there’s flying flowers, just out of reach, that keep firing bullets at you.

And then there’s the level design… most evil early on probably being a lift that flies you to land right on some spikes, which means you need to jump out at the right time. There is, of course, no indication on this, which means you’ll lose at least one life there on your first go. Evil, very evil.

And then there’s our hero. A rather unique design, he’s mostly a yellow body with a red hood on top (reminding me of an executioner’s hood (I saw a KKK uniform in Spanish colours), to make it a bit darker). His four limbs – arms and feet – fly loosely next to him, in true cartoon (or, I suppose, Rayman) fashion. That also allows for his main attacks – throwing his arms and feet at the enemy. This (obviously) means he’s got only four projectiles flying around, while he hops around when he is without enough of them or slides down slopes if he is just a torso stump. It’s a fun mechanism, a lot friendlier than bullets, and boomerang effects always seem a bit more useful. Another nice touch are the two different jump effects – one a controlled lower jump that allows you to fire your limbs, another higher, but where you can only jump. It makes for some rapid switching – and quite a few failed jumps in my case.

The last brilliant touch are the outfits. Sure, we know about pickups giving you other powers from other games, but they’re executed slightly nicer here.For example, one turns you into a hunter and allows you to fire bullets. A useful feature, but it’s made even better by the graphics, which create a fun character that’s neat to see walking around. It’s a lovely touch that makes finding them even more fun.

Final Thoughts

Ugh I hate it when Jeroen takes absolutely everything that can be said about a game! Apart from a side mention to the music which is cheery in a Saturday morning cartoon sort of way this is a nice challenging platormer that has been almost forgotten about. Then again, so many great titles have been which makes you wonder about gaming immortality. So many great games (like Zack & Wiki) can just fall off of the radar never to return and that really is a shame. Sure the landscape is populated by blockbusters like Halo and Super Mario 64 but fior every game like that there are 20-30 games that are original, innovative and downright fantastic that are never heard of 5 years after their release. Sad, I really loved Kessen II.