Croc 2




The original Croc was graphically impressive for its time because it showed that seamless 3D platform worlds were possible on the PlayStation (something Spyro did to a much greater degree a year later). It seemed to have all the elements in place to be a great title: a cute mascot with a bevy of different moves, and elements from all the major platform games. But two fatal flaws knocked it down: The gameplay was repetitive, and lack of camera control led to numerous frustrating, cheap deaths.

The sequel, however, no longer requires you to muddle through level after level with the same exact goals to accomplish (“Free the Gobbos”). In fact, there are no longer levels, at least not in the linear sense. You now enter hub areas where you accept missions from your weepy Gobbo friends (miniature tribble-like creatures that are always in need of help). Some of the quests are similar to minigames in other games, such as a short race against several opponents in speedboats. Other missions have you collecting lost items within large environments. Granted, “Get the Sandwich” isn’t essentially much different from original’s “Free the Gobbos,” but there’s enough perceived variety so that the gameplay doesn’t feel repetitive. And the hub setup lets you try out other missions without having to beat stages to progress. Another improvement is the basic inventory system, which lets you use items you find or buy, such as binoculars or high-jump Gummi Savers (hello, product placement) that let you access special areas.

Unfortunately, Croc 2 still uses the camera system that the first game did. Instead of being able to shift your perspective to the left and right using the L2 and R2 buttons (as in Spyro, Gex, and Kain), the camera eventually catches up to whichever way the character is facing. Since Croc usually takes a few steps when he turns, you’ll often find yourself off a cliff or platform when you’re trying to line up for a jump. It’s hardly an ideal system for leaping across a series of collapsing platforms – unless they’re all conveniently lined up in order.

It’s also far too easy to get killed in Croc 2, perhaps even more so than in the original. Cheap deaths are everywhere due to the perspective problems, as well as the fact that health power-ups (or hearts) are far too few and far between. Falling into lava or similar hazards causes you to start up at the last checkpoint, which is all well and good except that you begin without any life energy. That thing that gave you trouble when you had a full life? Well, now you can try again with none at all.

Instead of subscribing to the Super Mario 64 way of teaching players how to overcome obstacles (where the player learns new moves gradually along the way), the Croc series expects you to learn by dying, and since you frequently lose lives because of the camera, you get mixed messages, which leads to frustration and consequently to turning the game off. One bit of redemption comes in the form of those aforementioned side games in which you’ll find yourself zipping through tunnels on a mine cart or flying through loops Prop Cycle-style without the cycle. While these new tricks hardly save the game, they do break up the morbid monotony of falling off platforms. All in all, if Croc 2 had learned its perspective lessons and it wasn’t so easy to get killed in the game, it’d end up at par with or perhaps even above games in the Crystal Dynamics’ Gex league. It held promise, but once again two fatal flaws hold it down. –Joe Fielder
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