Tag Archives: animation

FGC #569 Battletoads (2020)

There’s a moment about 75% of the way through Battletoads (2020) that… well, let’s let the GIF do the talkin’ here…

RAGE

That is Pimple, and, spoilers, he is freaking the heck out. He has been generally chill and mellow throughout this Battletoads adventure, but has now been pushed too far, and the following level is going to be Pimple rampaging like a toad built only for battle. Pimple, the reliable rock of the Battletoad trio, is well and truly done, and he is not going to take this lying down.

And this moment brilliantly features exactly how the creators of Battletoads (2020) fundamentally understand the Battletoads of 1991.

Let's motorOur favorite toads had an ultimately brief period of fame (or… close enough to fame) for approximately three years. We saw an NES game, a Gameboy game, a Super Nintendo game, an arcade game, and one vaguely memorable crossover. There was also a rigorous comic book promotion in there, and an animated series that arguably never saw the light of day (does direct to VHS pilot even count as real?). And was there any sort of unifying Battletoads mythos in all of this? Nope! The Battletoads were “real” people that were digitized into a virtual world, or they were “real” toad people from space, or they had that whole “Thing Ring do your thing” dealy going on with magical morphing. And there was some confusion within the original games if this was happening over and over again (apparently the Dark Queen really likes kidnapping), or if this was all some manner of Legend of Zelda “the same tale retold” situation, and Battlemaniacs was basically the “grown-up” telling of OG Battletoads. And the arcade version was clearly a version of Battletoads where we finally had the technology to let a toad fight a snake! Was that supposed to happen back in the NES days? Who knows!

So, if someone were asked to distill some consistency from three years’ worth of Battletoads mythos, would it be possible? The only thing that was constant across those games was that everyone in this universe had a general 90’s irreverent attitude, and, when the ‘toads punched stuff, sometimes their limbs changed. Across multiple games, mediums, and graphical capabilities, that was all we really had as concentrated Battletoads. They have attitude, and they morph their limbs.

And it is kind of amazing that that is exactly what is displayed in that above Pimple GIF. That is what is on display in the entirety of Battletoads 2020. Everyone in this universe has an irreverent attitude, and it is animated with a rubbery, lively style that is appropriate to heroes that have always been able to stretch and contort into whatever is going to be most visually interesting/proper for the moment. In the same way that Rash can transform into a battering ram on command (forward, forward+B), he can also morph into an office drone or spaceship pilot. The Battletoads are, fundamentally, just as adaptable as the Looney Tunes of yore, and they absolutely should exist in a game/universe wherein they are just as malleable.

My baby!In a world wherein the curators of Battletoads absolutely could have based an entire game on the “meme” of Battletoads, the idea that they are all “Turbo Tunnels and NES hard”, Battletoads 2020 wound up being true to a Battletoads franchise that is more than just its internet reputation. This is a triumph beyond measure, and my hats off to the writers, directors, and producers of Battletoads.

Also, while the designers of Battletoads are listening, I have one other thing to say about the 2020 game: it sucks. It sucks so bad.

The original, first level of the initial Battletoads game, Battletoads, is a beat ‘em up. Likely thanks to first impressions, many people (including myself) collectively refer to Battletoads as a beat ‘em up style game. Unfortunately, if you play past the first level (big “if”, because this is Battletoads, and you would be forgiven for losing to Giant Walker), you’ll find the second stage is practically a different game, complete with different rules. Similarly, the third stage, the infamous Turbo Tunnel, starts with a sprinkling of combat, and is then an entirely pacifist-friendly “battle” with stationary walls (you just happen to be going really, really fast). The next levels are (in order) a 2-D platforming/snowball fight, 3-D beat ‘em/surfing safari, and 2-D platforming (on snakes). In fact, once you clear Level 7 (of 12), you never see a 3-D beat ‘em up section again, and all combat is on a 2-D plane. In short (as I have documented in detail before) Battletoads is a beat ‘em up about as much as Mario Odyssey is with its occasional forays into t-rex-based carnage. We had one arcade game that seemed capable of staying on target, but every other Battletoads game cannot stick to a genre longer than the span of a level. When you’ve got Jimmy and Billy Lee piloting spaceships, you know something has gone terribly wrong…

Get those lumberjacks!And Battletoads 2020 initially seems to lean on the beat ‘em up trappings of its forebears. As one might expect for the update of a nearly 30 year old franchise, Battletoads 2020 is a might more complicated than its ancestor. This is no longer a simple case of “punch/jump/dash”, there are now options for strong and quick attacks, charge attacks, and a few possibilities for using your toady tongue as a grappling hook. And you’ve got grappling options! Would you like to collect flies, swing your toad from the foreground to the background, or, ya know, grapple (ala Mike Haggar). It is obvious that, in the same way a lot of thought went into an animation style that seemed appropriate for Battletoads, a lot of consideration was given to creating a beat ‘em up system that not only was fun to play, but was also appropriate to our heroes. The presence of a blocking monster means you’ll be using the stylish charge moves that were previously reserved for “smash” combo finishers. The mobile “shooting” creatures will encourage jumping for a dodge, and then a new jumping attack. And tongue moves! We are featuring toads, people, let’s act like it and highlight the one thing toads are known for (aside from hopping and kissing princesses). That slurping sound should have been for more than health refills for Battletoads from the beginning!

Except… it all kind of… doesn’t feel right? Or work right? There is a lot in the beat ‘em up sections of Battletoads that feels almost wholly broken. For instance, health drains stupidly quickly, so a single punch from an opponent can drain a third of your HP. In a way, this makes sense, as a single player game allows the usage of all three of the Battletoads, so you effectively have triple the health you see on any one life bar, and a fallen Battletoad revives if you wait a whole 20 seconds. You are practically invincible! But it still feels bad to whiff a dodge and be mercilessly punished. And, speaking of which, you will be punished, because managing the Battletoads’ battlin’ is a lesson in humility. It is very difficult to find the exact timing on when any of your protagonists can exactly cancel a combo to perform a dodge, so practically any string of punches is a risk. And that is not a good look for a beat ‘em up, as it means a conservative player is likely to zoom around the screen, eternally dodging, and only throw a single punch for fear of starting an inescapable combo chain. And that works, but it also works to make each individual fight move at a Battlesnail’s pace. And if you feel like being more loose with your health, good luck refilling on available flies, as those previously mentioned tongue moves are mapped to surprisingly confusing controls, and you are a lot more likely to accidentally drag a dangerous enemy into your proximity than down a life powerup.

And if you are getting the impression that I did not enjoy the beat ‘em up portions of Battletoads, congratulations, you have reading comprehension. The beat ‘em up portions of Battletoads 2020 are the worst parts of Battletoads 2020.

So it works out that Battletoads has the same inability to focus on any one genre as its ancestors.

Here is a vague spoiler warning for those of you that want to experience the manic intensity of Battletoads in its natural, astonishing way. Stop reading if you want to experience this all on your own dime…

FGC #337 Cuphead: Don’t Deal with the Devil

Sing along!Cuphead: Don’t Deal with the Devil is a videogame that was released last week (or so). It is, basically, a Contra/Gradius game with an extremely unique “old cartoons” art style. That’s it. That’s the game. Nothing revolutionary, nothing we haven’t seen before, just an old school, hard as heck game about the dangers of dealing with the devil (don’t do it).

And, somehow, I can’t toss a teacup without hitting another article about “what Cuphead means” or its greater sociological ramifications, or how difficult games are the gatekeepers of the industry, or whatever.

I’m sick of it. I just want to talk about how Cuphead is one of the best games, graphically and gameplay-wise, of 2017 (a year already chock full of amazing games). I want to say, “Dammit, look at this gorgeous nonsense. This is next gen. This is what I’ve wanted since I was five. This is all I need.”

So… uh… I may as well just say that.

Screw words, we’re just looking at GIFs today, because I’m going to bop back to this “article” every time I want to experience pure joy. Here are some random GIFs from Cuphead, boys and girls. Every single one is a delight.

Click here to download a bunch of Cuphead art directly into your brain…

FGC #202 Plok

Sing it!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 Here we godiscovered (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.

Classy

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…

ZAPFirst 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!

Also in the comicExcept… 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.
  • Dangit!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!

Nooooo