Welcome to the very confused 202nd FGC article on Gogglebob.com.
I’ve mentioned it before, but I generally have an idea “going in” to an article before even playing the featured game. I own every one of these damn games, and, while I may not have played some in ten years, I often have lasting memories of everything in my collection. In much the same way I can look at that Donatello as a Gargoyle action figure and immediately recall my grandmother being forever insulted by a Wal Mart employee asking to see the receipt on the way out (seriously, she brought up “that awful store” at least once a week for a solid ten years there), I can recall when I first owned Plok as a kid. And they’re good memories!
Plok was a minor obsession of my friends and me for a period of about a month (which, in elementary school time, is roughly seventeen years). Plok was played an awful lot at my home (despite being a one player game, it was easy to alternate the controller between levels/lives), and, for some ridiculous reason, the instruction manual got dragged to school fairly often. I’m desperately trying to remember the exact “why” of that one, but I want to say it was simply because we were that obsessed with the game. Also, the art was cool, and there was a certain je ne sais quoi to the term “deeley-boppers”. But whatever the reason, we were momentarily infatuated with the yellow and red claymation creation and his detachable limbs.
And, honestly, looking over that cherished manual again now, I can kind of see the appeal. In a time when videogames were generally “press a to jump, press b to attack, save princess”, there is a lot of heart in this presentation. The jokes and asides land appropriately comically, and the illustrations spark a lot more wonder than even appears in the game proper. The unicycle (with water cannon!) looks like a lot of dynamic fun on the page, even if controlling the damn thing in the game is about as fun as attempting to redirect a train with your bare ass. But, at a time when my peer group was similarly obsessed with that newly discovered (by us) Monty Python troupe, Plok struck our imaginations and funny bones just right. If nothing else, Plok would always hold a shining place in my black, black heart.
And then I actually played the game again for the first time in years.
While I want there to be some hideous twist here, Plok does seem to hold up. It has issues that are mainly indicative of the time (limited continues, no password/save feature) that make continuous progress kind of insane (if you can make it to the finale without warping and/or save states, congratulations, Batman, thanks for reading my blog), but the minute-to-minute of Plok is still pretty great. Plok’s limb tossing inevitably draws comparisons to the more successful Rayman, and the storybook imagery seems a lot like what would eventually become a staple of Nintendo’s own Yoshi’s Whatever series. Couple this all with good (not great, but a lot better than a lot on the SNES) level design, and I’d download a modern Plok HD in a heartbeat.
But it’s the little flourishes that get my attention as an adult. Plok is animated wonderfully, but little additional bits seem to portray a character seemingly rooted in “old fashioned” animation. Plok might seem cute and unassuming in his basic walk animation, but his reactions to various obstacles (and stolen flags) seem to paint Plok as… well… I think the best way to put it is that Plok acts like Popeye walks (or Firebrand). He’s all swagger and bluster, and if he were to enter a bar and knock out every ruffian in the place, I wouldn’t be surprised. Plok’s enemies are all big-eyed and bouncy, and wouldn’t look out of place menacing Betty Boop. And, for some ridiculous reason, many of Plok’s early boss monsters appear to be circus folk, a frequent target of old WB and Disney cartoons.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the “Grandpappy Plok” section of the game, which features the Plok of a few generations back adventuring in sepia tones while listening to ragtime inspired background music. That whole area is a delightful diversion for anyone that has ever spent an afternoon watching old Disney short VHS tapes.
So I considered fashioning this article to focus on the animation allusions in the game, and maybe look up some info on the creators of Plok. Surely there’s a story here about some animation nerd not making it at Disney or Warner Bros. (or getting fired by Bluth) or something, and, because videogames were the thing of the 90’s, “Plok the Animated Series” became “Plok the Game”. Finding that kind of information would be a great capper to an article. Learning is always fun!
So, with ten seconds of Googling, I found Plok’s creators on their own website. Then things took a bit of a weird turn…
First of all, to dispel the previous paragraph, the Pickford Bros, creators of Plok, are videogame folks through and through. Their collective “softography” goes back to the NES days, and includes such games that made me super angry as Wizards and Warriors 3, Solar Jetman, Maximum Carnage, and Spider-Man & the X-Men: Arcade’s Revenge. At least two of those games could be considered a hate crime, so we’re not off to a good start here. But Plok is pretty rad, so it’s entirely possible that the worst parts of those other games had nothing to do with John and Ste Pickford. And it also turns out that Plok as we know it evolved from a former Rare arcade game by the name of “Fleapit”. Considering the Rare Replay Compilation contains an interview with a Rare employee bragging about how a certain well-known Rare arcade port was literally built to guzzle quarters, that’s not exactly a charm point, either. This is quickly becoming a situation where the more you know only makes things worse…
But it turns out Plok’s creators love Plok! Ste appears to have put together a Plok webcomic, and it’s up to five volumes since 2013! I love webcomics, and Plok, so this should be two great tastes that taste great together. I get my Plok fix, and, as someone that could get joy out of the friggen instruction manual back in the day, this ought to be amazing!
Except… the opening pages read like a resume for the creators (“Anybody remember Wetrix?”), a screed against modern game design (“Xbone is stupid, cell phone games are stupid”), and a bitter look back at the 16-bit days (“Bubsy sucks!”… okay, maybe I can get behind that one). I completely understand being upset that a project that was apparently in development for years got stomped at the sales counter because a damn bobcat detonated the cartoony mascot playing field, but making modern Plok similarly acrimonious seems… miserable. Yes, Plok didn’t get so much as a Genesis port, but he’s fondly remembered by his fans (“There are dozens of us!”), don’t be upset for decades because you made the next Aero the Acro-Bat and not Sonic. You’ll get ‘em next time, champ.
So that’s the story of how I had no idea how to focus on one damn topic to crank out this Plok article. And, sorry, I clearly have no idea how to end such a thing.
FGC #202 Plok
- System: Super Nintendo, and only Super Nintendo.
- Number of players: One Plok, forever and ever.
- Favorite Costume: The costume powerups seem to appear very rarely throughout this adventure, but there’s at least one Vigilante Costume that grants Plok a flamethrower, and that’s a hot commodity. I don’t even care that they reused the fire stream animation for the flying platform creature.
- Favorite Vehicle: Like in Dreamland, the UFO is the king of them all. Who needs a motorcycle when you’ve got deeley-boppers?
- An end: The final boss seems to be built to be impossible, as it forces the “Spring Plok” vehicle on the player, which is much like attempting to defeat Bowser while cursed with Spring Mario. I could probably confirm this with a Game Genie, but “regular” Plok would make short work of that otherwise impossible battle. Afterwards, you’re rewarded with an animation of Plok sleeping in a chair… which is exactly where his webcomic picked up years later.
- Just play the gig, man: Oh yeah, the music in this game is pretty boss. Again, I’m terrible at describing why, but it’s a collection of enjoyable SNES ditties.
- Did you know? Apparently, the Plok Bros. shopped this game around to various studios, and even met with Nintendo. I’m currently imagining the alternate universe where Nintendo accepted the pitch, and Plok is now an assist trophy in Smash Bros. No, even in my fantasies I can’t see him as an actual playable character.
- Would I play again: I have a lot of affection for Plok… but he’s no Mario. He’s not even Sonic. So it’s unlikely I’ll naturally gravitate back toward the land of Akrillic Polyester. That said, I’ll probably get bored enough to read the web comic in its entirety at some point. So minor win?
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Paper Mario for the N64! It’ll be 11/11, so let’s hope the wishing stars are ready! Please look forward to it!