Sunday, 16 April 2017

SNES Review 115: The Troddlers

So when I first started the whole retro collecting thing it was a case of trying to get what I used to own when I was younger, then I seemed to start trying to get games I had played at various friends houses and wished I had owned, then this went on to trying games which I had heard good things about. In the end it came down to the fact that I would buy pretty much anything which was being sold for what I consider to be a good price. Sometimes knowing if a price is good or not simply comes down to pulling my phone out and checking the kind of review scores it got and then looking at the kind of price it tends to go for. I will happily buy a supposedly bad game to give it a bash as long as I can get it for a low price, if its supposed to be good then I am happy to dip my hand a little deeper in to my pocket, and obviously my hand will go lower if its a complete version with the box and manual as well as a cart. I came across the game I am talking about today a few weeks ago and although I like to think I know a lot about games and that I have played a large amount of them I had no idea what it was, but it was sat there in a shop window complete for £9.99 , it wasn't the only boxed game in fact there was a copy of the Page Master on one side of it for £19.99 and Bubsy the BobCat on the other side for £24.99, this game wasn't just less though it was in much better condition and I knew I had never played it before. The game was called Troddlers and the first thing I thought when I saw it was ''oh I think this game looks a little bit Lemmings like'' the second was ''oh it uses the SNES mouse, I have a SNES mouse''.

So this is how I ended up with Troddlers and how I came to learn that it existed, now you would think that if it was any good then someone would know about it, someone I knew back when the SNES was popular would have owned it, or I would have seen it in a magazine. There are so very many games on the SNES which are good old classics then on top of this there is a whole heap of games which are considered to be underrated cult classics, yet the beauty of the machine is that the library of games for it seems to be so large and wide that just when you think you have seen all of it something else will come along and surprise you, so with this in mind I am not surprised to find something new, the main thing that surprises me is that I had until this point never heard of it despite the fact that it received a Pal release and was also formerly on the Amiga another machine I owned and enjoyed back in its day.

The Super Nintendo is a very well loved machine with a very big fan base, with collectors and fans in general going out of there way to hunt track down and purchase titles that they haven't tried before, importing games, trying to play titles which are only available in Japanese. The thing is though that usually people find there way to new games by looking at stuff which was made by companies they are familiar with so they look for Capcom games, or Konami games for example where as Troddlers was programmed by Atod a video game developer located in Helsingborg, Sweden and as far as I know this was the only game they made for the SNES, and it was published by a company called Storm which was a subsidiary of The Sales Curve / Seika Corp. Now these are hardly the names that dreams are made of, lets face it this was released in 1993 the year both Star Fox/Wing and Mario All Stars came out, so maybe I did see it in passing but when it was sat on the shelves beside giants and I was a kid with limited income it wasn't going to stand out with unknown company names on the box and a very childish name and box art, lets face it back then there was no internet to check to see if a game was good, instead you had to take a chance with your cash and it was always easier to bet on a known name.

So first things first what kind of game is Troddlers? Well in simple terms it's basically a puzzle game with platformer elements. Now when you have something which is obviously a cookie cutter rip off its easy to go well its a clone of this however there are not that many games which can be compared to Troddlers in fact I think the closest game I could name as a point of comparison which most people will have played would be Lemmings.

It would be totally unfair and incorrect to call Troddlers a Lemings clone though as there are many differences between the two games which I shall get into latter on in this review. Just to make this point plain. The SNES version is actually a remake with the original having appeared on the Amiga. It often suprises me how many games have found a home on both the SNES and the Amiga as you would think that they were very different systems which would attract a different audience, yet I suppose if you have a finished game which only needs a little converting to end up on a different platform and make more money then why not go for it? Still I will add I have never played the Amiga version so I wont be discussing differences or if its better or worse instead I shall merly be discussing the game on its own merits. 

I know I don't always break games up into there various components, in fact I am very aware of the fact that my review style seems to change from game to game but there are often reasons for this, sometimes a game personally means something to me, when I play a game it takes me back to the time and place when I either first came across the game or to the point where I fell in love with it, in this case though this game is totally new to me so I find myself being a little more clinical when looking at it. With this in mind I will start with the story.

In the past I have frequently talked about how bad the death of the instruction manual is, but I can see why companies have chosen to give them the big shove, mostly its to save money but in honesty they are arguably not as needed as they used to be. Games now days are often very story driven they have all these cut scenes and voice overs which help to add layer after layer of story to the proceedings back in the 16bit era typically the stories were far simpler some of them hardly made any appearance in the game at all, sometimes unless you read the instruction manual you wouldn't really know that there was a story, Troddlers is one of these cases. If you read the manual then you will discover Troddlers back story, and I will lay it out here in brief

Hokus and Pokus (the games main characters), are trainee wizards, there boss is a sorcerer called Divinius, who is both bossy and lazy. Hokus and Pokus are troublemakers who constantly play pranks, these pranks annoy Divinius and so he orders them to clean out his massive storeroom which he has not cleaned for countless centuries. Hokus and Pokus however basically slacked off and didnt do the work instead spending there time mucking around this is when they realised that if they didnt do some work pronto they were going to get in big trouble. So they decided that they would move various boxes around in order to give the impression that they had actually done something, while moving boxes they found one with writing on it, writing which said "WARNING! Instant magical troddlers - Just add water. May turn into zombified variety if allowed to teleport. DO NOT TOUCH!" These "troddlers".

The troddlers are basically little men with limited intelligence, who exist to do chores. So in Sorcerers apprentice mop bucket fashion Hokus and Pokus decide that life will be much easier if they can get the Troddlers to do there work for them. So they quickly ripped there way into the box accidentally spilling the contents into their cleaning bucket, and this caused hundreds of troddlers to appear, troddlers who quickly start marching towards the nearest teleporter. It was at this point that Divinius stormed in to the room just in time to see this happening and he responded by yelling "Go after them right this instant and get back as many as you can!! And don't bring back any bleedin' zombies!!"

OK I freely admit that its not exactly a work of Shakespeare but as far as 90's video games go its not to bad and hey at least the characters are not full of 90's-tude.
The music and the graphics in this game are both rather basic so I will talk about them quickly and together.The music is simple but it is actually kind of catchy. There are several different backgrounds that you will see throughout the game, and you get different tunes which corresponds to these nicely. For example, one of the backgrounds shows pyramids and such, and it is coupled with music with an Egyptian style to it. Graphically, the best way to describe the game is with two words adequate and functional. On the bad side a lot of things are rather plain and rather small but on the plus side every single one of the objects on screen is clear, its easy to work out what they are and all of the movement appears smooth.

OK so now on to the most important part of a game which is obviously the gameplay. In Troddlers, you play as Hokus if your playing in single player or Hokus and Pokus if your playing in multiplayer (player one automatically being Hokus and player 2 Pokus). The game is broken up into missions. About 175 so a heck of a lot to be fair, and before each mission your shown what your objective is and given a few key facts, for example the amount of troddlers in the level. In each level you must complete whatever task you have been given within a set time limit. The main objectives the game are leading troddlers to the levels exit (this is the part which will most remind people of lemmings), then there are levels where the goal is to destroy zombie troddlers and then there are levels in which you collect gems. Its not as basic as each level having just one of these objectives, nope in fact many of the levels will combine some of these tasks asking you to collect a certain number of gems while also destroying a set amount of zombies for example.

OK so unlike Lemmings, Troddlers places you in control of an on screen character either through using the control pad or the snes mouse. You can place blocks and erase blocks, which you use to form a path to direct the troddlers towards the exit or for other things such as blocking enemies from reaching the troddlers. You don't have an unlimited amount of blocks though, so you have to use them wisely, with the blocks you have available viewable on the right side of the screen. There is a limit to how many blocks you can have but you can place one block and then pick up another (the max holdable is 15). There are many different types of blocks in the game, each of which has its own special effect. The block on the bottom of the right hand of the screen is always the one that is placed down next, and when a block is erased, it is automatically added to the top of the pile.

OK so in order to make the game interesting you have various different types of block with which to play Normal blocks are the most common and have no special skills, but then there are ice blocks, mine blocks, flipper blocks, bouncer blocks, and pauser blocks, they all basically do exactly what they sound like they do and with a few minutes of playing around with them you will begin to realise just what you can achieve by either using one or a combination of them. You will find yourself working out how to use these blocks both to help the Troddlers but also how to use them to stop or slow down the Zombie troddlers

So I find myself at that point again when the game needs a final verdict, I guess it depends very much on if you like this type of game or not if you do then its a good solid example of a well thought out puzzle game, which plays well and is overall pretty darn pleasing and if you dont then your not going to buy it regardless of whatever rating I give it. If I had to give it a number out of 10 I think I would go for 7, I like it and there is not much else on the market like it for the SNES well apart from the Lemmings games (and king Arthur's world). Last time I looked up the price of it well it seemed to be sitting at around £15 for a cart and I think its a fair price, obviously I would recommend you look around and try for the best price you can but that's advice I would give when your making any video game investment.

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