If there’s one game that I’ve absolutely been DYING to cover, it’s this one. Originally, I had planned to do it back in January when I was still using the “new review every day” format (trust me, I don’t know what I was thinking either) which I had ditched in favor of the “new review every Saturday” format. In fact, if you recall back to my Flintstones review, I had even said to tune in next time to see me tackle it. However, I wasn’t satisfied with the way the previous version of this review was worded, so I had scrapped it for the time being and moved to April. But now that those four months are up, I’m finally ready to do that particular game. What is it, you might ask? It’s none other than the 1993 action-platform game, Plok.
Originally developed as an arcade game called Fleapit by Ste and John Pickford, the game was later re-tooled completely to be released for the Super Nintendo instead, and was also converted into a more traditional platform game.
Gee, now I wonder who could’ve influenced that decision…
Blue hedgehogs aside, the game’s story revolves around the titular character, an egotistical and ill-tempered pile of clothes who resides in and is the self-proclaimed ruler of the fictional archipalego of Polyesta who returns to his home one day after retrieving his flag only to discover that it has been overrun by giantic blue creatures called Fleas-
AGH, NOT THOSE FLEAS!!
With only detachable limbs and a barrage of power-ups to rely on, Plok must rid the Fleas from his home and save Polyesta from the dastardly Flea Queen’s clutches. But regardless, why exactly have I been wanting to review this game so dang bad? Let’s find out, shall we?
THE LOOKS – When people bring this game up nowadays, a lot of them tend to compare the visuals and use of colors to Yoshi’s Island (FUN FACTS: The release of this game actually predates Yoshi’s Island by two years. Also, the Pickford brothers actually pitched this game to Nintendo, who even showed a strong interest in publishing it; however, they ultimately decided against it due to the fact that Yoshi’s Island was still in development at the time). And while I can definitely see some similarities, the graphics still have enough unique quirks to help differentiate themselves and be extremely appealing at the same time. For starters, the graphics, while not quite as detailed as YI, have a very colorful and cartoonish aesthetic to them and give off an overall abstract vibe. This leads into what I believe is the graphics’ biggest strength: the unmitigated creativity of them. Sure, maybe a few people may be turned off by the use of colors, but in what other game would you find characters and enemies this lovably trippy and off-the-wall at the same time? The graphics aren’t really anything that are necessarily brilliant, but they do an excellent job on taking their simplicity and using it to their own advantage.
THE SOUND – Ooooh yes, now this is where things REALLY start to get great. Normally, when people pick their favorite SNES soundtracks, they usually turn to the more usual choices, like Donkey Kong Country, Mega Man X, just to name a couple. But if you ask me what MY favorite SNES soundtrack is, it is most definitely this one. Composed by brothers Tim and Geoff Follin, the music utilizes a wide variety of instruments and sounds, all of them managing to come together to make a series of level themes that are catchy, memorable, and even a bit atmospheric at times. I’m being dead serious when I see that this is literally up there with games like Sonic 1-3 and Rocket Knight Adventures in terms of awesome 16-bit platformer soundtracks, seriously it is that freaking good. But of course, there IS one problem I have with the sound, and it’s the fact that every time he gets hit, Plok makes this really high-pitched yelp. Sure, it’s tolerable after the first few times…but after you hear it the one-billionth time, you might wanna turn the SFX off.
Look out, it’s the Rocky Horror Picture Show lips’ evil humanoid genetic clones!
THE GAMEPLAY – One of the more irritating things about mascot platformers was that they tend to follow a rather strict formula: a “snarky”, “too cool for school” protagonist, gameplay that attempts to emulate Sonic’s level design but fails miserably most of the time, and a overall sense of blandness. However, if you look back at my Superfrog review, you can make a mascot platform game that can be seen as a legit competitor if you put an actual sense of effort into it and try to give the game an identity of its’ own. What category does Plok fall into, you mask? The latter, and HOW. Although the gameplay is very different from Superfrog, being much more linear (for the first few levels at least) and more slowed down, it is still just amazing in every way. First things first, the controls are as smooth as butter, being tight, snappy and all-around responsive. Secondly, the level design is just great. While it starts off more Mario-esque where you just get to the end of each stage, it gradually gets more open and maze-like as you progress. There are also several power-ups that can be found throughout the game, all of them being fun to use and helpful in their own unique way. Oh yeah, and the boss battles? Yeah, they’re also incredible. Not only are they challenging as all heck, they are just fun to fight as a whole. Add all of this up, and you’ve got yourself a true overlooked gem of the SNES libary.
THE BOTTOM LINE – If you want a game with a quirky and zany sense of humor, top-notch design, simple but appealing visuals, and one heck of a challenge, then Plok is most definitely the game for you. It really is a shame that this game came out during the massive over-saturation of mascot games, especially ones like…
You’ll get yours soon, bobcat…mark my word.
Luckily, the game has amassed a remarkable cult following over the years, and has even gotten a sequel comic (which I highly recommend you read) as of late. Oh, and there’s also a 3D fan game in the works…make of that what you will.