Monday, March 23, 2009

Goof Troop-SNES-Capcom

Being a child of the nineties, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I spent a large chunk of my afternoons watching the old Disney cartoons such as Chip n' Dales Rescue Rangers, Duck Tales, and Tale Spin. Goof Troop, while not the best of these, won a place in my heart with its goofy antics (Hyuck) and heart warming moments of tenderness. The game is much the same. Created by Shinji Mikami and Satoshi Murata in 1993, Goof Troop is silly, enjoyable, and lovingly crafted even if it is not the greatest of games to come from the shows on the Disney Afternoon.

The game has been described as an action adventure game, but I feel that does one of the games main selling points an injustice. For at its heart, I feel that Goof Troop is a puzzler. Sure, there are a lot of moments where one must find item A and take it to location B to reach area C, but one of the big differences to me is the combat. Yes, there are enemies in the game, but neither Goofy nor Max are capable of attacking without items found either in the level or on that screen. This can range from the hook shot, which does no actual damage, to pots and barrels that must be gathered and thrown. The throwing items are always finite and a miss or two can result in restarting a room.

The other point I wish to make on the game being a puzzler is that most of the actual obstacles in the game are sliding block puzzles. Every level has a couple and it is always impossible to proceed without completing them. Though these puzzles are for the most part very easy, some of them require a tricky bit of finesse to see them through, often calling on an unexpected move or two before all the blocks end up in the right spots.

Unfortunately, for the most part, the game is very easy. Sitting down the other night, I was able to beat it in just a few hours, which is a little bit disappointing. However, remembering that this game is aimed at kids, makes the simplicity of the game seem more tolerable, and even makes some of the later puzzles come off as down right devilish. A player, seasoned by Zeldas, puzzlers, or point and clicks, won't have an difficulty realizing that the board they are carrying will allow them to cross that gap, or that the key that they just found will open that locked door they saw. On the other hand, the inventory is limited to two items in single player and to one a person in two-player.

That brings me to probably the strongest point of this game. It is a co-op puzzler. You and a friend are able to take control of the Goofs as you guide them through the island on their way to rescue Pete and PJ. And each of the two players plays a little bit differently, with Goofy being able to do twice as much damage with his throws, and Max capable of moving at twice the speed. This creates a strong sense of player purpose in co-op where each player knows what they need to do and when. The person playing as Goofy is the enforcer, so to speak. His role is to use his brute strength to protect his son, while Max uses the hook shot to stun them. Max on the other hand should be the one sent through the trap rooms, because one player clearing a screen will warp both to the next room. Traps with tricky timing that would be challenging for Goofy to get past can be easily bypassed by Max.

There are five levels in the game and, waiting at the end, are bosses just itching to send the Goofs packing. The boss fights always play out the same way. You dodge their attacks until an item appears that can either be picked up and thrown back at them or caught and thrown and then nail them in the face with it, which is very satisfying.

The bosses are probably the most challenging part of the game, as they are capable of eating through your hearts and lives rather quickly if you're not careful. More often than not, I and my co-op buddy found ourselves overrun by some of the later bosses forcing us to cash in one of the continues we gained by finding the light blue diamond.

There is a reason that the bosses can eat through your stock of lives so quickly, and that's due to a rather unconventional health/life system. Each of the goofs can hold up to six hearts that are gained by eating cherries and bananas, but once that sixth heart is filled, any other health item ingested will grant the player another life. Unfortunately, it also reduces all health to zero. Not only that, but if the player dies, they restart with no health. So a player going into a boss with six lives and four hearts may only be able to take eight hits before the game over screen flashes. On the other hand, it is not hard to gain health and lives, as they are hidden conveniently under barrels and in patches of dirt that can be dug up much like in Zelda. These spots replenish after leaving the screen, so even though they are random, there will usually be something there. Also, if one is playing with a partner and that partner dies, all that needs to be done is to move to a different screen and that player will be able to come back with two lives.

The music is definitely one of the game's strong points. Filled with whimsy and that Disney feeling, the music is vibrant and well suited to the various areas of the island that the Goofs are traversing. And yet, for all the skill that went into the music, there is none on the title screen, and even odder, there is no midi form of the Goof Troop theme song, which is a real shame.

Goof Troop is one of those odd games you run into every now and then. It's a game that for all intents and purposes has no real flaws other than its length and difficulty. It can be breezed through in a little over three hours by anyone with any previous experience with video game puzzles, and the experience never changes. It is a great game that would have been made far better by just a few more levels. However, if you've got a buddy, a love of puzzlers, and a few hours to kill, I'd definitely consider giving this rough diamond a try.

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