GenreQuest: 3D Platformers – Part 1

Hello there, and welcome to my series of miniature reviews where I plan to cover every single 3D platformer ever created by anyone ever. You may ask yourself why, and the honest answer is that, being a child of the PlayStation generation, they were the staple of my gaming diet for a very long period of time. Thanks to this, I have played a lot of them and consider this to be one of my favourite genres of all time, and therefore I decided that I wanted to get to know the genre better, and so here we are.

Join me, on this journey of (somewhat) epic proportions.

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102 Dalmatians: Puppies to the Rescue

Well this is a weird one, the first game on my list and I really don’t know how to start explaining it. Firstly, I suppose I should say that it’s a game based on the Disney movie of the same name, developed by Crystal Dynamics who, although now more famous for rebooting the Tomb Raider franchise, have a long and storied history of making platformers, with perhaps the most iconic being the Gex series.

dalmatiansscreens1 

Despite what you might be thinking, that isn’t what makes this game so hard to explain, the reason for that is…well it’s basically Spyro the Dragon.

I’m not kidding, the game centres around 2 puppies who have to save their brothers and sisters from the evil Cruella de Vil, who for some reason has decided that she should move from fashion to toy making (because you know those industries just gel together so well). To do this, you must journey across London with the help of Eric Idle (mysteriously transformed into a parrot) and bust open crates that contain your kidnapped siblings.

dalmatiansscreens2You may be forgiven for thinking that it doesn’t sound a whole lot like Spyro yet, but just hear me out. You have 2 attacks, a short-range bark attack that comes out in a cone in front of you and a tumble attack that sends you pelting across the level at top speed as you careen into enemies and boxes. Not enough?

How about the fact that you save dogs by destroying the crates in which they’re trapped, triggering an odd sound effect and the dog saying a short sentence before disappearing forever?  

See what I’m talking about now?

Honestly, other than the comparison to Spyro, there’s not much to talk about. The music and level design are bland and uninteresting as you traipse across different areas of London (including a farm for some reason) to save the other dogs. The controls are fine and functional, but the only reason you could ever have to play this is if you want to play Spyro, but prefer dogs over dragons, and that’s the kind of madness I will not abide by.

Overall: Worth playing if you’re a child who loves the film, but for anyone else you’d have more fun just replaying Spyro again. Give it a miss. 

65/100

 

 

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40 Winks 

Ahh, now we can move onto something infinitely more interesting. 40 Winks is another PlayStation One platformer, this time coming from Eurocom, famous for making good arcade ports, terrible movie tie-ins, and Crash Bash.

Surprisingly, 40 Winks is actually a good game, and carries an interesting concept. Once again, you have a choice between two characters, a boy and a girl, and each one each one has different time-limited powers based on various costumes scattered throughout the game.

The story centres on Winks, magical creatures who keep bad dreams away and ensure a good night’s sleep, who are being captured and turned into Hood-Winks by an evil scientist called Mr. NiteKap and his teddy bear henchman called ‘threadbear’. The two children must then fall asleep and journey through their nightmares to defeat the Hood-Winks, save the last 40 Winks left in the world and let everyone have pleasant dreams again.

The controls are a little ‘floaty’, particularly in the steering of the characters, but, bar the odd infuriating moment, the actual platforming is pretty solid. The health mechanic i40winksscreens basically ripped straight from Sonic the Hedgehog in that you have a certain number of Zzz’s and lose a few each time you take a hit, then when you run out of them you wake up from your dream and have to start again.

The worlds the game is split into are all generic and cheesy, but the actual level design is pretty good. You go through a fantasy world, a haunted house world, a water world (Kevin Costner, Noooooo!!!), with each one having appropriately themed levels and bosses. Most of the levels are large, open areas that actively encourage the sort of exploration required to find all of the winks, Zzz’s, and cogs that power your progress through the game.

A la Banjo-Kazooie, the game is essentially a collect-a-thon. You have to collect winks, but to collect winks you need to collect cogs to open up levels, but to collect cogs you need to collect Zzz’s to keep yourself alive, etc, etc.

An interesting side note is that the sound and visual effects for the portals seem to be taken from (or ‘inspired by’) Crash Bandicoot 3. Maybe the devs were trying to tell us something considering the projects they later moved onto, or maybe they were just borrowing from a different popular title.

I would say that despite its flaws (and trust me it has them) the game is still worth playing. It’s got interesting music and sound effects, and exploring the levels is actually pretty fun, but don’t be shocked if after playing it you just want to skip straight past all of the bosses, they’re a real let down.

Overall: A fun distraction that is almost an amalgam of other, more successful games. Worth playing if you’re into 3D platformers and haven’t tried it yet.

80/100

 

 

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 Alpha Waves

I’m not really sure where to start with this one. Alpha Waves is a very interesting game in that it’s the only DOS 3D platformer that I have ever come alpha_e_002across. It was originally developed by Infogrames for the Atari ST before being later ported to DOS. As well as being the only DOS 3D platformer, the game is the first ever 3D platformer and the first 3D PC game of all time, which is a hell of a distinction, so why have I not heard of it before now?

The game also boasts a delightfully odd control scheme, you control your left and right movement with the arrows and can only move forward by holding the space bar. You may have noticed the conspicuous lack of a jump button, this is because you jump by steering yourself onto jump pads and slowly building up momentum by staying on them until you’re bouncing high enough to reach the next platform.

alpha_e_013There are two main modes to choose from, Action: a mode where you must try to get through the areas as quickly as possible before time runs out, and Emotion: a mode where you can explore the different areas of the game at your own leisure and just relax with the amazing music that DOS provides.

Speaking of music, the game really stands out in this area. Maybe it’s just because I have fond memories of the DOS days, but the music is something to behold. The map of the game is split into 12 different areas with names like ‘meditate’ and ‘dream’, and each one has its own music that I assume is supposed to represent the different level names.  Combine the music with the sound effects and you’ll feel yourself bobbing along in a manner that most onlookers will probably call hilarious.

 

Overall: Definitely worth picking up just to see how the genre started; at least it’s worth picking up if you can actually get it to run without trying to kill yourself. 

90/100

 

 

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Anubis II

We have finally reached a game on the list that I can genuinely just hate on without feeling bad about it. Anubis II (to clarify this is Anubis the 2nd, not Anubis 2) one of the cheapest feeling 3D platformers I have ever had the displeasure of playing.anubisII

The game was created by Metro 3D, the people responsible for the absolutely horrendous pile of wank that is Ninjabread Man. I’m not sure why they keep trying to make 3D platformers when it’s clear they either don’t know what they’re doing or simply don’t care.

The game controls like crap, the camera doesn’t follow you when you turn, and the whole game runs on what feels like obsolete tank controls. Every time you use one of your attacks your character stops dead in his tracks, and it just feels like the whole game is having a seizure when you try to play it.

The fact that the melee attack has no reach whatsoever and is more than likely going to end up with you losing half of your health means that you’re usually stuck relying on the ranged attacks. One of these attacks is grenades that you have a limited amount of, this isn’t too much of an issue however as hitting anything with them is practically impossible so you’re better off not bothering.

The second attack is a piddly little ‘pew-pew’ laser that does basically no damage. It is also difficult to use if you take too many hits as it is slowly upgraded the more enemies you kill with it. If it drops below the second upgrade, the projectile stops homing in on enemies and when that happens your best bet is to either run past everything or just reset the game.

 anubisII2The level design is as basic as it gets and also looks like crap. There are no walls to keep endless pits hidden from the edge of the levels, instead the universe just seems to end at random points. Your main goal here is to collect a certain amount of tiny pyramids that will open the level exit so you can move on, but since this game was designed by a 12 year old you need an arrow to tell you where to go constantly, instead of level design informing you naturally through exploration.

The final nail in this game’s coffin is its bonus stages. Usually a bonus stage is an optional tacked-on bonus (hence the name) that is a fun little distraction from the normal gameplay. However, in this game, the bonus level is a wall that separates each level from the next. Instead of being able to have a quick bash at the bonus level then failing and moving on you are forced to successfully complete each one before you can progress, which sort of defeats the point of them being ‘bonus’ levels.

It also doesn’t help that the bonus levels are just a case of running around to avoid being insta-killed by swarms of scarab beetles until they’ve all fallen into the lava pits that dot the stages. If you get to this point and actually have the willpower to continue then you’re a stronger person than I am.

Overall: Unless you have a YouTube audience or are a masochist you should never play this game, don’t play it, don’t look at it, don’t even think about it…oh wait.

10/100

 

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