Developer(s) – Argonaut Games
Publisher(s) – Fox Interactive, MediaQuest & THQ
Distributor(s) – EA & 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Designer – Nic Cusworth
ELSPA – 7
Croc: Legend of the Gobbos is one of the earliest examples of a 3D platforming game, released back in a time when the genre was in its infancy, yet hugely popularised the Nintendo classic Super Mario 64. The developers, Argonaut Games, had previously had dealings with Nintendo, having worked on the first Star Fox game, or Starwing as it was named in Europe. In fact, the idea behind Croc originated from a previous plan that Argonaut had of developing a 3D platforming game for the Nintendo 64 starring Yoshi; but after Nintendo rejected the idea, Argonaut’s association with the Japanese gaming giants deteriorated. Eventually, the idea Evolved into Croc, and the PlayStation became their primary platform of choice, though it would end up on the Sega Saturn, as well as Windows, and eventually on the Game Boy Colour. Unfortunately, I can’t help but feel that if this game or the initially suggested Yoshi spin-off, would have resulted in being a better idea over what was eventually developed.
Graphics – 6.5/10
The best thing I can say about the game’s graphics is that there is a fair amount of diversity in level design, with the game taking place in multiple worlds in a fashion extremely similar to Mario or Sonic games. The general enemy designs are also fairly well done, although a couple of the boss fights, the first one especially, look pretty bland and half-hearted. For the time, however, the game’s level of detail of fairly well handled, including a couple of features adding to its realism, such as footprints in the snow; something that hadn’t been done in even Super Mario 64.
Gameplay – 6/10
As well as providing somewhat of a stern challenge, the game is also moderately enjoyable to play, and accessible enough that difficulty doesn’t become too much of a deterrent. Aside from the main objective of the game, there is also a side quest thrown in for good measure, but the problem is there’s no real incentive for completing the game to 100%. At least with Super Mario 64, there was the discovery of Yoshi on the roof of the castle (possibly in reference to the idea originally pitched by Argonaut Games), and in Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon, there were alternative endings.
Controls – 5/10
As I stated earlier, the 3D platforming genre was in its early at this point, and as such, there were a lot of issues that needed to be resolved as the genre would eventually take precedent throughout the fifth generation. No true is this than in Croc. As the original PlayStation lacked an analog stick at the time, unlike the Nintendo 64, the d-pad was the only means of moving the character around on the system. Consequently, this game suffered terribly in terms of controls. To move Croc around can be described as a chore at best.
Lifespan – 7/10
Although Super Mario 64 had already taken the world by storm at this point, and it lasted considerably longer than Croc’s lifespan, which comes in at an average of 6 hours, the fact of the matter is that this was actually much longer than the average game at both that time, and throughout the fourth generation of gaming, with most side scrollers lasting around 2 to 3 hours. Even early PlayStation success like Parappa the Rapper and the original Crash Bandicoot wouldn’t be made to last as long as Croc.
Storyline – 4/10
The story of Croc is particularly bog-standard, and nothing that hadn’t already been seen in the medium before. It follows an anthropomorphic crocodile named Croc, who is out on an adventure to free the king of the Gobbo race, King Rufus, as well as every other captured Gobbo throughout the game, from the game’s villain Baron Dante. It was a story conceived in a time when narrative in video games was just starting to play a more prominent role, and would eventually become one of the most important aspects of gaming, as Final Fantasy VII had already been released, and VII and IX were not far off.
Originality – 3/10
It’s said that Nintendo took inspiration from Argonaut’s original pitch to them, but in all honesty, it seems that Argonaut took more inspiration from Nintendo when they created Croc: Legend of the Gobbos. The difference being was that they were unable to make as much innovation in the genre as Nintendo did with Super Mario 64. There is a small basis in originality in the game’s conceptual design, but not a great deal; especially as that in itself was a modification of the original idea, which was comprised of characters and setting originally conceived by Nintendo anyway.
In summation, Croc: Legend of the Gobbos is one of the lesser games to cite whilst talking about the early years of the PlayStation. The most likely reason behind Nintendo’s refusal to go ahead with Argonaut’s Yoshi idea was to continue work on other titles in development at the time, and in all honesty, I think that decision would have been the right one.