The eyes always have it.
It’s fascinating how much humanity is obsessed with eyes. When you get right down to it, eyeballs are just another in a long series of random bits of anatomy, but it’s not like any gems are named “cat’s elbows”. Eyes are said to be a window to the soul, while absolutely nobody is looking up your nostrils to determine the contents of your heart. Maybe the gateways through which we see the world were always destined to be a focal point of our collective attention, or maybe a beautiful set of baby blues just are that gorgeous. One way or another, eyes have been the subjects of more sonnets and songs than fingernails could ever hope to imagine, and I don’t think that’s ever going to change. Eyes are here to stay (in our collective unconscious/skulls).
Symbol or no, though, there is power in the humble eyeball. Obviously, people behave differently when they’re being watched. Do you read this site at work? Look out! Your boss is right behind you, and the jerk knows you’re reading a site with a series of articles titled “Wankery Week”. You’re fired, you damn pervert. … Or no one is watching you right now, so you can do whatever you damn well please. Want to open up a bag of doritos at your desk and dip ‘em in hot fudge? Go for it! Don’t get any fudge on the keyboard, and you’ll be fine. But what does that really mean? Essentially, there are two different realities, one where you are being supervised and restrained, and one where you can do anything in the world. And if this sounds bonkers, consider that the basis of some entire religions is simply “capital-G God is always watching you”. God has got his eyes on you, and he knows what you’re doing with those doritos.
But here’s a fun fact: people react to simple representations of eyeballs, and not just actual, living eyeballs. Studies have proven (google it!) that when an eye is in the area, like a simple poster with eyeballs staring straight at ya, people perform… better. People litter less when they get even the impression they’re being watched, and face punching incidents drop by almost 85% . Basically, humans are social creatures, but we’re also stupid creatures, so if we’re in the presence of even a fake audience, we behave more responsibly. This is why I’ve painted pseudo-eyes on the side of my house, and now those neighborhood kids have stopped peeing on my lawn. Life is good with eyes!
So it’s interesting to look at how eyes evolved in videogames. Nowadays, even Link is looking fairly realistic, but back in the early times of 8-bit adventures, eyes were a luxury some heroes couldn’t afford. Simon Belmont? No eyes. Bill & Lance? No eyes. Orin the Falconer of 8 Eyes? Barely got eyes. OG Pac-Man is eyeless (his opponents are sometimes only eyes), and Samus Aran can only win eyes through defeating Mother Brain. In fact, you could probably point to some of the most known mascots of the NES/Gameboy era for their eyes. Mega Man and his signature blinks come to mind, and Kirby is all about the eyes, angry or not. And then we’ve got Mario and his world that is filled with eyes. Turtles, chestnuts, mushrooms, bushes, clouds, and I’m pretty sure I saw a few eyeballs on flaming plants somewhere in there. And guess which franchise captured children’s hearts for a generation or so? Yep, it’s the one with the googly eyes all over the place.
But by the age of the Super Nintendo, sprites were getting a bit more spacious. Now we had room for big, cartoony creatures with appropriately scaled eyes. Now we could actually get some of those Mickey Mouse/anime eyeballs in there, and…. Sometimes it went terribly wrong…
Super Troll Islands is a very limited game. You control one of four trolls, and an evil fog has made the whole of the world (Troll Islands?) monochrome for some bizarre reason. But I guess trolls leak color wherever they go, so you’ve got to guide your troll to, basically, just walk all over the place, and thus this fog thing will just work itself out. Your troll doesn’t even have to walk everywhere, you just have to aim for places where, thanks to a number of ladders, you can navigate in a general square/rectangle around an area. Repeat forever, throw in a few bonus stages, and call it a day. Actually, to be honest, I have no idea how many levels are in this game, as I got bored about seven levels in, but there are definitely those seven levels. Are there bosses, too? Who the hell knows.
But that’s not what’s important about Super Troll Islands. What’s important is that, for reasons that can only be imagined by mortal man, at no point in this adventure do these damn trolls stop looking at you.
They’ve got cold, dead, black eyeballs, and they’re always staring right at you, player. Running left? Running right? Climbing a ladder? Swimming? There is nothing you can do to get these damn trolls to look in any other direction. Actually, forgive me, there is one thing: the tornado “super move” will temporarily transform your chosen troll into a whirlwind of deadly hair (?), and, for one brief respite, you are free of the troll menace. Then, after the powerup wears off, it’s right back to staring history’s lamest fad right in the face. Trolls are watching you. Trolls will always be watching you.
And you really have to wonder what the designers were thinking. This troll staring thing is immediately and obviously… disturbing. Some people might like troll dolls, but nobody wants to have a staring contest with the little buggers. This isn’t “that should be fun for kids”, this is the game you see in the opening to a particularly poorly planned horror movie from the 90’s starring Macaulay Culkin as the unfortunate child that thought he was just purchasing a simple Super Nintendo game, but wound up taking home… a monster! Super Troll Islands isn’t fun, it’s horrifying, and that’s not exactly a good match for a game where you collect ice cream after spreading rainbows. There’s… a bit of a disconnect there.
So remember the lesson of Super Troll Islands: eyes are important, but do not use eyes for evil. Just don’t do it. You are being watched.
FGC #280 Super Troll Islands
- System: Super Nintendo exclusive! Obviously, it was too much for the meager Sega Genesis.
- Only Troll Game on the SNES? Nope!
- Number of players: There isn’t even a perfunctory two player alternating mode here. One troll at a time, losers!
- Optional: The options menu allows you to adjust the control scheme, or…. Change the direction of your troll’s hair. That’s… important?
- Favorite Troll: I don’t know, the green one, I guess. I’ll also note here that I enjoy fluorescent colors… though you probably already guessed that from the site design. Hm. I should switch things up again at some point.
- Did you know? Troll Dolls have been around since 1959, but they really did the whole fad thing sometime around the early 90’s. This would be right around when the trolls released singles covering Beach Boy songs. It was a weird time to be alive.
- Would I play again: The eyes… they… they haunt me.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Doom! DOOM! DOOOOOOOOOOOM! For the 32X. Please look forward to it!