Upon initial inspection of Croc, a platformer coming from the people at Argonaut (responsible for the original StarFox and of SNES FX Chip fame), one would possibly scoff at the game's striking similarity to what has been doubtfully dubbed "the best game of all time", Mario 64. Upon further inspection, one would probably see bits of other very popular platformers: Sonic the Hedgehog, Crash Bandicoot, Tomb Raider, and Gex. The fact that Croc takes gameplay features from the most successful platformers of our time is probably not a coincidence... but it comes down to this: it looks good, it sounds good, it plays good... who cares?
While no FMV has been included, there are some eye-catching polygonal animation sequences at the beggining of and at many points in the game. These do well to tell the standard platformer storyline: Peace and harmony in the world, evil bad guy comes in, kidnaps people, creates general chaos. Hero sets out to set everything straight.
The graphics look like they came from a Nintendo 64 game, without a doubt. Argonaut has certainly squeezed a graphical marvel out of Sony's "little gray box that could". The transparency effects, the near-seamless 3D, the insanely detailed character animations... this is pure graphical bliss. Extras like waterfalls (and lavafalls), see-through jelly trampolines, and crocodile tracks temporarily imprinted in the snow really make Croc's clever graphics and animation shine. One could question the "cutesy" graphics, and really, while the game IS pointed at the younger playing audience, any gamer that can appreciate the top-notch quality of the graphics and gameplay should not mind (look at the success of "cute" games like Yoshi's Island).
The control can be most easily compared to Tomb Raider with some Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot aspects thrown in. You have to turn in the direction you want to go before walking forward, and pressing "up" moves you forward regardless of where the camera is (by the way, Croc uses Mario 64's "press and look" system). It is sometimes difficult to gague your jumps, but the camera control does come in handy. The control is generally very tight, and the learning curve is excellent.
The game itself is made up of four islands, broken up into 10 levels: 6 normal levels in which you must save 36 "Gobbos" and grab 30 crystals, 2 boss levels, and 2 secret levels opened when you rescue all of the Gobbos on the island. If you have beaten the 8 secret levels in the game, a secret fifth island is opened with even more to do and see. The game is not extremely challenging, but it's not a pushover either. I guarantee that you'll have to re-enter most of the levels at least once in search of the Gobbo or crystal that you missed. Plan on spending a good 20-30 hours total, in my estimation (possibly more, possibly less, depending on your experience). A seasoned gamer will probably finish in less.
Too often I have seen games with way too many extra lives (remember Super Mario Bros. 3? How about Crash Bandicoot?), but this, fortunately, is not the case with Croc. The game is balanced enough (and often frustrating, as platformers sometimes can be) to bring the "Continue?" screen up more than once in the duration of the game. This contributes to the challenge of the game, thankfully.
The load time is, for the most part, very short. The longest load is right in the beginning of the game, and level load is hidden through the inclusion of doors (short load periods in the middle of a level mean less load time in the beggining!) that separate the level, hiding load time. It really isn't a problem.
The music is not one of the game's best points, but still isn't terrible. For the most part, it suits the level, with creepy monster movie music in the underground levels and seasonable Christmas bells in the winter levels. The sound effects start out cute, but have the potential to get annoying after awhile. If remarks like "Yezzo!" and "Respect!" from a high-pitched crocodile voice are what you're looking for, then, well, have your fun.
The bottom line: Croc is an excellent game that Argonaut and Fox Interactive should be proud of. Although it steals from every platformer imaginable, there is enough content to give it life and the "borrowing" is justified by the fact that Croc is so well done. I only hope that we get more of this gameplay from Argonaut in the future!
Reviewed by SurfBard, email@example.com