One of the first 3D platformers on the PlayStation, where you play as a crocodile with a backpack rescuing small, furry things.
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If you had ever owned a PlayStation, chances are that you might have heard of Croc: Legend of the Gobbos or its sequel. You might even have owned a demo disc that allows you to play one of its levels (without music and lots of background ambiance, which makes the game oddly creepy).
The really odd thing about it is that it was originally meant to be a prototype of a Yoshi game back when Nintendo had a short-lived partnership with Sony to work on a CD add-on for the Super Nintendo. Yeah, Yoshi from the Mario series. And when Nintendo ended this partnership, Sony decided to do its own thing. And of course, we got the PlayStation. So as a result, this game also became its own thing.
But how is the whole game itself, you might wonder?
Well, it’s okay really. It’s certainly no masterpiece and it can be plenty of fun. But it may also be an acquired taste. It’s definitely not Super Mario 64 or even Crash Bandicoot (also on the PlayStation, which came out a year before). It’s one of those obscure games that you need to have a feel for in order to enjoy. I’ll explain in a sec.
The story follows Croc, an orphaned reptile who is later adopted by a race of small, furry creatures called the Gobbos. After settling in with them, he learns of their culture and grows up to be an adult. Then one day, this giant iguana-like creature called Baron Dante decided to send out his army of little imps called Dantinis to kidnap the Gobbos and hold the Gobbo king in hostage. Why did he kidnap them?
…I have no idea. He’s a dick I guess.
So Croc and his partner Beanie Bird set out on a quest to free the Gobbos and confront Baron Dante.
Honestly, if you’re expecting something rich in story here, don’t bother. It’s just a very basic good vs. evil scenario with no depth. But that’s not the important thing about this game.
Nah, you want to know how the game plays.
The first thing you will notice is the strange controls, which I will get to in a sec. While you can run and jump like in a typical platformer, Croc also has the ability to slam his body onto the ground (which definitely resembles Yoshi’s Ground Pound attack) and use his tail as a whipping attack. The slam ability is often used to break the question mark boxes, which may hide crystals, a colored crystal, a key or a Gobbo. The tail attack is used to vanquish certain enemies, though they will respawn after a certain amount of time passes.
Crystals serve the same exact function as the rings from the Sonic the Hedgehog series. They protect Croc from dying. And if he gets hit, the crystals will scatter all over the ground and will disappear in a few seconds. If Croc has no crystals and he gets hit, he loses a life.
In each level (excluding boss levels and secret levels), your main objective is to rescue six Gobbos. Some may be easy to reach, but you’ll often find them at out-of-reach areas and locked cages.
A secondary objective is to collect five colored crystals, which will unlock a special door towards the end of the level that will give you access to the sixth Gobbo. The level ends when you hit a gong that summons Beanie Bird to take you away.
Overall, it’s simple to understand. Unfortunately, Croc himself doesn’t really gain new abilities so there isn’t much you can do with him. But the game does make up for that with a variety of different level hazards.
Just wait until the Crash Bandicoot games “borrow” this idea…
The game plays around with monkey bars, flying platforms you can control, dimly lit areas, platforms that fall apart quickly, and even simple physics-based puzzles. For such a simple game (and an early PS1 game at that), there’s a surprising amount of depth to the level designs. Unfortunately, later 3D platformers quickly add more depth in the following years, turning this one into a mere novelty.
When you collect enough Gobbos, you may unlock secret levels (two per island). The only objective to these levels is to collect a puzzle piece, which also serve as the end goal. Collecting them all will give you access to the last island in the game, which is only accessible during the post-game. I’d say this is a nice bonus to test yourself against some difficult levels and complete the game entirely. Though that final boss is a disappointment…
Overall, it doesn’t sound like a bad deal. It’s a simple 3D platformer with simple mechanics. Oh, if only…
There are quite a few glaring flaws that ruin an otherwise enjoyable game.
First, the controls. While they’re responsive for the most part, the biggest issue is that Croc will only move in the direction he is facing when you hold down the up direction. Holding the left or right direction will only cause him to rotate his body. And holding the down direction will only cause him to slowly move backwards. He doesn’t maneuver too well when he’s moving. It’s not as fluid as controlling Mario in Super Mario 64 or Crash in Crash Bandicoot. It’s like he can’t steer his body when he runs, which is a weird sensation.
Second, the camera. This is probably the worst part of the game. Combined with the odd controls, the camera becomes possibly your biggest enemy when playing this game. It has a terrible habit in getting stuck in walls, which causes it to shake when you try to move Croc. It may even completely ruin your jumps as you try to move across a series of floating platforms. Even worse, you have limited control over the camera. While you can change its angles, you can’t have it revolve around Croc like in some 3D platformers.
And third, how you take damage from dropping into lava, cold water, or boiling mud. When factoring in the bad camera, you may screw up on your jumps. As soon as you miss your jump, Croc loses all of his crystals. If he touches the lava a second time immediately after, he dies just like that. There is no temporary invincibility to allow you to recover. And sometimes, it’s necessary for you to reach floating platforms. But if you just miss your jump ever so slightly, you might land on the lava and get stuck underneath the platform. It takes less than one second for you to lose a life right there.
These are some serious flaws to consider. It may even suck the fun out of the game if you can’t get used to the odd controls.
But does that make Croc: Legend of the Gobbos a bad game? Well, no. They just prevent it from being a great game. Completing the stages is actually a rather addicting sensation.
But man, even for the PlayStation era, this game is just beautiful to look at. These bright, colorful environments lend themselves to a unique atmosphere.
Even the cartoonish appeal of Croc and the other characters stands out. They’re just adorable to look at.
And why is the soundtrack so cool and flippin’ catchy?
The game definitely shines in its presentation. Even if it’s something meant to appeal to younger children, there is no denying that it really helps you settle in and just enjoy it for what it is. Even though Croc: Legend of the Gobbos may not be well remembered and it definitely suffers from major flaws, I consider it among the vast list of underrated PlayStation titles. And if you’re a fan of old-school 3D platformers, this one is definitely worth checking out.
Croc: Legend of the GobbosPrice Varies
- The level designs in many places are well done, making it easy for you to figure out the game without having to consult a guide or manual.
- The variety in level hazards makes the game feel surprisingly deep for its simple mechanics.
- The art design of the characters and the environments are creative and very appealing to look at.
- The soundtrack is catchy and gives each level a fitting track; for bright, sunny grasslands to the dark, lava-filled caverns.
- The controls and the camera can be a frustrating exercise of patience, often leading to many cheap deaths.