Monday, 19 May 2014

Trog (NES)


Don't be fooled, the one-eyed guy is a complete git.

It's an odd format to follow, but there's many games that take the idea started roughly by pacman and try to improve upon it. Pacman being the great example of a maze based game where you run around the maze and collect all the icons in the maze while avoiding things that will hunt you down and kill you if you touch them. A simple, basic formula and yet it's commonly found in a lot of games in one guise or another. Trog is very much like pacman with a facelift, additions and changes but the core gameplay is still at the root.

But is it any good? Always the key question as pacman wasn't broken so there's no need to fix it, but can you improve?

Seriously, Bloop. Get a better name.
Trog plays out as a story of 1-2 dinosaurs running around maps, trying to collect eggs and avoid the ever evolving and eponymous Trogs. A creature that happily spawns from holes in the ground and will gleefully try to kill your dinosaurs. Once you've managed to collect all of your eggs, you'll be able to escape from the level via an exit sign and then be able to continue onwards and upwards to harder levels with more trogs and increasingly difficult trogs to contend again as well as various traps and tricks.

Teleporters, oil pits, trogs... No wonder dinosaurs died out.
For example, you can run out of the arena for a death. You can be bashed and devoured by the trogs, burnt up and cindered by fire hazards, swallowed up by oil pits, run over by stone wheels and a whole assortment of other comically cartoony methods of dying. (It's a stone wheel, but you're left with rubber tyre prints on your corpse, that's quite an evolution of technology!), later evolutions have bouncing springs... Not entirely sure if that's a step forwards or backwards.

One of many smoothly animated cutscenes. Quite impressive, all things considered...
You've a small assortment of weapons to counter this threat however. Firstly, you've the ability to punch your enemies and send them flying away, this includes most of their attack but not explicitly all of them. You can also become invulnerable for a short time with the horseshoe power up, you can increase your speed with red flowers but lose speed with blue mushrooms, you can also breath fire when eating a spicy chilli-dog, a pineapple that turns you into an invincible T-Rex mimic that crushes enemies and chomps up Trogs wherever possible and for the keen of sight, if you manage to watch at the start of the level for an egg that glimmers and pick up that egg as your LAST egg, in one life, you'll open a portal to warp ahead several levels.

Wheel weapons. Rolling forever around corners so that the middle zone here, is a deathtrap
You will likely need all the help you can get as you try to rush through the 50 levels the game has to offer, which gives you quite the longevity for a game of this nature. Maps, while repeat in style to give the perspective of different areas, don't repeat with actual layouts. Later levels make use of teleporters, warp doors, catapults and walkways to make it harder to progress but also to encourage the use and development of alternative tactics. Especially as the Trogs are also able to use warp doors, teleports, fall off the island and use the catapults.

HINT: This weapon will be coming up... next.
The biggest enemy however, by far, is the control system. Alternative known as the Fucking Controls! In which you'll often find yourself wandering off the island because you miss-timed when the change direction and you should be pressing the direction LONG BEFORE you get to the point in which you wish to turn otherwise the game will just happily keep you strolling onwards... into the long abyss of a pit, a trap, an enemy you could have and SHOULD have avoided or worst of all, the edge of the map and into water death zone.

Sometimes an arcade conversion emulates things it really shouldn't
It's infuriating, to say the least, when it happens. It's outright rage-inducing when you stroll straight past the final egg and take a swan dive into the ocean, killing your change to get a warp zone, bonus points (though nobody really cares about those these days) and a route to a shorter overall game to be played!

T-Rex, for when you have to eat those trying to eat you.
Despite it being only one flaw in the games make-up, it's a huge flaw and causes unnecessary deaths and failures not because of a lack of player ability but by overly strict sensitivity to changes in direction and the rate at which the code updates the inputs being read. It's a real shame because graphically the game looks very polished apart from the backgrounds, the design and depiction of the characters are impressive, especially for the NES trying to replicate a more advanced arcade game. But the control issue is unforgivable. Dying in a game or failing in a game should be because of the player's inability to solve an issue, not because the game doesn't respond.

You will want these, just to get the game over faster
Instead of being fun, it just comes across as enjoyable until it feels like the game wants you dead and to stop having fun while it horsecock slaps you at the same time just to rub salt into the wound. I should lay off the coffee after that one.