Tag Archives: mascot

FGC #558 Mappy Land

Mappy time!Namco, you screwed up. You chose the wrong company mascot.

Pac-Man sucks.

Look, I get it. Pac-Man is definitely a cultural touch stone. In a lot of ways, Pac-Man is the original videogame mascot. Statistically, most people reading this are too young to remember (as people that remember so far back at this point are mostly just slurping up apple sauce and accusing the staff at The Home for Retired Gamers of being “space invaders”) but there was a time when “Pac-Man” gripped the nation. You could buy a Pac-Man lamp, watch, and mini freezer down at the local Sears, and still be home in time to watch the Christmas Special. Pac-Man had his own hit song and a parody song by Weird Al (granted, it was more of a B-Side, but it counts!). Pac-Man was everywhere for a few years, and, while many regarded it as a fad (because it absolutely was), the idea of a culturally significant videogame character paved the way for Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Steven McMinecraft.

But, in much the same way that early videogames had to work out all the kinks before graduating to their later, sublime heights, Pac-Man was not built for the big leagues right out of the gate (maze?). Sonic showed his attitude from the first moment he paused to sneer at the player, and even pudgy, boxy little Legend of Zelda Link established his adventuring roots once he was told how dangerous it was to go alone. Pac-Man, though? That dude didn’t even have eyes. There is genius in the simple, immediately recognizable design of Pac-Man, but you could say the same of a football. And you don’t see any NFL mascots that are just giant, sentient footballs, do you? (I am genuinely asking here, I don’t watch a lot of sports.) Pac-Man is amazing, but he’s more pac than man, and an outside longshot to attach to an entire merchandizing empire. This ain’t a funny Star Wars beeping trashcan pushing action figures, Pac-Man is barely a complete pizza.

And then there’s Mappy. Mappy’s got legs.

(… Uh, literally. Pac-Man doesn’t naturally have those, either.)

Let's danceLet’s start with an obvious advantage: Mappy is vaguely human shaped (eat it, puck man). He’s also a cartoon mouse. Those things are pretty popular. He’s also a cop, and, while it is difficult to approve of that vocation, it does give him a clear purpose. Mappy has the eternal goal of arresting the bad guys. Pac-Man? He’s just a mortal sin (gluttony!) personified. Mappy is trying to clean up the mean streets of wherever anthropomorphic cats and mice hang out, and he’s doing it one trampoline at a time. Oh! And that allows for an immediately recognizable dichotomy, as Mappy winds up involved in a literal game of cat and mouse. That even explains how this all works, right? Mappy is a mouse, so contact with an unrestrained cat is going to lead to instant death. It is immediately easy to understand, which is essential in a videogame. Nobody needs a tutorial to understand that cat beats mouse.

And the gameplay of the original Mappy? Similarly straightforward. You can use trampolines to bounce to separate levels, and it’s your job to collect all the doodads scattered around. Unlike some protagonists, you’re not collecting for the sake of amassing wealth (though you do get points), but to rescue these stolen items from the nefarious cat gang. You’re raiding a criminal warehouse! Just like Batman! Everybody loves Batman! And also like Batman, Mappy is not a trigger happy police officer, he uses traps and strategy to tackle his foes. Mappy’s greatest weapon is not a gun, but a bunch of doors that open with varying strength and inexplicable abilities. Some doors possess meager door-range, but a number of rainbow doors fire… I don’t know… door-beams across the arena. Microwaves? And, if you’re smart, you’ll be able to utilize these magical doors to negate an entire gang of nefarious cats. Mappy is not a strong hero, he is a clever hero.

(Which, incidentally, is better than a certain “hero” that can only be described as “hungry”.)

I recognize this mazeAfter the success of the arcade-based Mappy, Namco(t) did its best to adapt that clever mouse gameplay to the home consoles. In much the same way that Mario Bros. had to go Super and involve gigantic, scrolling stages, Mappy left the warehouse, and started to venture across multiple levels. Mappy Land saw Mappy visiting island getaways, the Old West, and haunted graveyards (yes, Pac-Idiot, Mappy can handle ghosts, too). It is not a coincidence that the first area of Mappy Land is a train station, sending a clear message to the player that Mappy is ready and willing to travel the world. And don’t worry! The different stages are not just some half-assed attempt at graphical variety: every land Mappy visits has its own share of tricks and traps, from bowling balls to boxing bags to other things that probably start with B.

And, to be absolutely clear, these items and traps are the best thing to come out of a videogame from 1986. In every level, your cat opponents will ineffectually dance at the sight of a common cattail cat toy or stack of coins (those money grubbing cats), or be knocked out by catnip. In a medium that usually involves your opponents being blown to smithereens, it is delightfully goofy. And even more than the items, the traps are continually cartoony. Mappy rides a pulley that zooms across the screen and bowls over his opponents. Mappy rapidly spins around on handlebars to banish pirates. And, my personal favorite, Mappy drops small “bombs” that detonate and launch cats into the sky to become glorious fireworks. At a time when games were abstract but still clearly violent (you think Mega Man is shooting tickles at the robot masters?), Mappy evidently inhabits a “toon universe” where physics are only important if they don’t get in the way of a gag. No, I don’t think an adult mouse man can actually fly across the dawn while suspended by a balloon, but it does make for an interesting stage mechanic.

And then what was in store for Mappy after his stunningly creative 1986 adventure? Nothing.

BANGOkay, yes, there have been a handful of Mappy games since his NES premiere. Much like Pac-Man Jr., Mappy’s son got into the act for the sequel, but Mappy Kids almost entirely dropped the trampoline-based gameplay of the originals for something like a more traditional platformer. It was more standard, but it was also a lot more forgettable (you know, except that part where you play Spot the Difference with a picture of a klansman). Then, about a decade later, there was the arcade “arrangement” version that was basically Arcade Mappy 2… though with the significant caveat that it never made it over to home consoles. And from there all Mappy could ever scrounge up was a pachinko machine or two, and a mobile game that has an extremely dubious existence (go ahead and find me a video of Mappy World. I’ll wait). And then there’s Touch the Mappy. Nobody wanted to touch the Mappy. Poor dude had a memorable arcade game, a stellar console debut, and then he was trapped by the mousetrap of history.

Pac-Man, meanwhile? There’s a guy who barely had a game to begin with, yet, after decades of games that barely make a lick of sense, he’s palling around with Donkey Kong, Lucina, and Cloud.

Let's fly

And he stole Mappy’s trampoline! And he’s letting everybody use it!

Namco could have had an excellent, understandable mascot creature, but they dropped him for a gliding circle. You messed up, Namco, and everybody knows it. Mappy should have had that top spot, and yellow dot creature is still the most hopeless of gaming’s popular mascots.

FGC #558 Mappy Land

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System to start, then there were a few dozen years of no Mappy Land, and then we got it on WiiU. Now it is available on Switch as part of the Namco(t) Museum Archives Collection (Volume 2).
  • Number of players: 1 Player Mappy, because, what, you going to feature Mapico, Mappy’s wife? Preposterous!
  • Hey, what about Hopping Mappy? We don’t talk about any pogo-stick based games here.
  • Lovin' the tropicsFavorite Level: I’ve always appreciated the tropical stage that features moving trampolines, climbing vines, and all the fish you could ever eat (or feed to cats). In a weird way, the whole level feels like an expanded version of Donkey Kong Jr., and I would certainly be down for a Super DK Jr. any day of the week.
  • Favorite Trap: Did I already mention the fireworks? Because it’s the fireworks. You can somehow get multiple cats at once with one wholly stationary bomb. These cats are apparently pretty dumb!
  • What’s in a name: The actual names of your feline antagonists are Goro (the big guy) and his lackeys, the Meowkies. I would use these names more if Goro didn’t call to mind another significant arcade antagonist.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: This was one of my few NES titles when I was the youngest of the young. I hated it. I played 800,000 hours of it. I… was a conflicted child.
  • Did you know? Namco Super Wars, a tactical RPG for the Wonderswan that may be the precursor to other tactical Namco games, includes Mappy. He’s a white, fuzzy mouse-man, and, given the art style of the game, this anthropomorphic animal would likely be a lot more comfortable in the Five Nights at Freddy’s universe. I would post some official art, but I’m afraid of those cold, red eyes following me into the night.
  • Would I play again: I mean, if you’ve got a general hankering for some slightly graduated arcade action, you can’t go too wrong with Mappy Land. It is easily available on the Switch now, so the only thing holding me back from another playthrough is the Switch currently contains every game that has ever existed. That’s some steep competition for a little mouse.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity! That’s going to be a fun time for all those lil’ Hyrule Warriors. Please look forward to it!

Looks familiar
This is what all weddings are like

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

FGC #171 B.O.B.

BOB!During the 16-bit era, there seemed to be a lot of mascot 2-D platformers. Of the furry variety, we had the likes of Aero the Acro-Bat, Bubsy, and Frantic Flea. Animated shows/movies led to Aladdin, Family Dog, and Itchy and Scratchy. “Based on a real media property” gave us Home Improvement, Wayne’s World, and Dino City. And through it all, we had the “mainstays” like Mario, Arthur, and Sonic (arguably the rodent that started it all). In short, if there was a thing in the mid-90s that existed for longer than three seconds, it wound up with a 16-bit platformer. We nearly had a game starring the president’s cat!

But through it all, one has to ask the obvious question: Why?

The 90’s was an interesting time for gaming. The Atari crashed the entire industry in the early 80’s, but Nintendo brought it all back inside of a few years. Gaming had gone from dead to back in business in less time than a presidential term, and, what’s more, it really did rebuild itself with “mascots” as the cornerstone. Videogames are fun an’ all, but when you need sustenance, Mario and Zelda cereal is where it’s at. GI Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, and even Transformers all had videogame tie-ins of varying quality, and, in time, that became absolutely standard for any “kiddy” franchise. Videogames had become another media pillar, so now any franchise worth its salt had to have a tie-in game. Otherwise, what’s the point? There’s money on the table!

So, somehow, 2-D platformer became the style of the time. It worked for some properties (Sega Genesis Jurassic Park immediately comes to mind), and not so much for others OUCH(Did I already mention Home Improvement? That happened). But whether the property could be adapted to the platformer formula was immaterial (you could always toss a dinosaur or giant insect boss in there and claim a mad scientist was involved), what was important was your star was out there, and the lucrative “videogame demographic” was eating up your media with a spoon. Bubsy in Close Encounters of the Furried Kind is just one stop in the Bubsy empire!

The obvious answer to the “why” here is the same reason we saw Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves: The Cereal. It’s all about the merchandising, and NBC, Disney, or whatever eldritch horror was responsible for Aero the Acro-Bat didn’t care about the game so much as the raw advertising potential. This inevitably led to a lot of terrible platformers, because if Activision could get away with selling a blank SNES cartridge labeled “Eat at Joe’s”, they’d do it. Actually, that may have been preferable to Arcade’s Revenge

But… why bother?

What was it about the platformer that was so enticing back in the 16-bit days? Why not just make a (sloppy) fighting game, or a (messy) RPG? Sure, these genres have a reputation for being more complex than “run, jump, boss”, but that’s only because everyone remembers those genres’ successes, and not the Fighter’s Histories or Beyond the Beyonds. Wouldn’t practically any style of game be better suited to character-driven narratives than the platformer? You don’t have to create an endless array of anonymous mooks for a fighting game (there aren’t really foot soldiers in The Jungle Book), and you could actually insert some witty dialogue in RPGs (ideal for those oddly pervasive sitcom-based games). But, no, let’s call it a virtual reality mishap or whatever and get Bart Simpson as a dinosaur. There’s an excuse to hop over an ice level!

OUCHSo here’s B.O.B. B.O.B. is an original creation of someone at Gray Matter Inc. or Foley Hi-Tech systems. B.O.B. is just a little yellow robot dude that is trying to meet his robo-girlfriend for a date. B.O.B. appears to be vaguely insectoid, and has a gun for a hand. B.O.B. has a tendency to make “amusing” quips at the start of each level, and end every stage with a “whacky” dance. B.O.B. is basically every mascot character in microcosm, albeit more metallic than furry.

The World of B.O.B. is… annoying. This game comes from the same studio that produced the previously mentioned Wayne’s World SNES game, and it shows. Basically, every stage is a different area that did its absolute best to cram as much of a maze into a roughly squareish collection of pixels as possible. Like Harley’s Humongous Adventure, expect aggravating stages that place the exit just beyond a wall that must be circumvented by traipsing all over the whole stage again just to find one stupid ladder. Some stages are more straightforward, “platform challenging” affairs, but even then, the nondescript hallways and shafts make it impossible to gauge your own progress. There’s a (strangely strict) timer for every stage, and when it ticks down to zero, good luck determining if you were inches from the goal or practically at the starting line. Oh, and there are “vehicle” segments, ostensibly designed to break up the monotony of every stage being samey to the point of parody, but they just seem to exist to encourage the player to memorize the poorly constructed maps/tracks, so, basically, they’re a poor man’s speeder bike.

Moving right alongIn short, one could conceivably have fun with B.O.B., but the odds are low. I guess some of the guns and gadgets are interesting, but even then, you’ve got limited ammo and no “safe” areas to test the more esoteric devices. You just acquired one (1) light bulb… that’s… probably useful? Want to waste it to find out? Or wait until you’re fighting a boss, and find out it does practically nothing? Your choice!

I’m sorry, that paragraph got off track. What I mean to say is that B.O.B. sucks. It is a bad game.

So… what was the point of this, yet another 16-bit platformer? Simple, if you look at the box, you’ll note the custom B.O.B. logo. Yep, this nothing of a platformer was intended to launch the entire B.O.B. product line, so you and your whole family could soon be wearing B.O.B. hats, shoes, and shirts. Look at that whacky robot go! B.O.B. has captured the hearts and minds of an entire generation of B.O.B.-heads. Keep making the world a better place, B.O.B.!

Except… none of that happened, because B.O.B. sucked.

Which circles back again to “why?” Why did anyone, least of all people who created and maybe actually played B.O.B., think B.O.B. was going to be a success? The actual “videogame” here isn’t any fun at all. It’s passable, but it’s certainly not something that could compete with Mario, Sonic, or Mega Man. The cartoony characters are mixed with vaguely Alien-esque graphics and environments, so this wasn’t exactly pre-packaged for Saturday Morning. About the only thing that really makes a positive impact in this game is the “attitude”. B.O.B. appears to be a teenager robot with a disciplinarian father and an overbearing girlfriend, and he’s unerringly sarcastic in response to everything in the galaxy. And his animations are kind of amusing. That’s all B.O.B.’s got.

YuckSo Electronic Arts thought they could build a Sonic-esque empire on… a sassy robot.

Bite my shiny metal ass, 16-bit platformers. Be glad that the worthless cash-in games of today have migrated to the domain of cell phones. At least CSI: Match Three never wasted a bi-weekly video rental.

FGC #171 B.O.B.

  • System: Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and, oddly enough, it got a rerelease on the PSP. So very doomed.
  • Number of players: One player. Kind of surprised they didn’t give B.O.B. a goofy sidekick. Though I suppose they have to save something for the sequel.
  • Favorite Weapon: I’d like the flamethrower if it didn’t run out of ammo instantly. Oh, hey, this is yet another lousy game that forces you to use a weak melee attack when your guns run empty. That’s never fun, videogame designers!
  • PARTY OVER HERESo you’re not going to do anything special because you both have the same name? No. I am personally insulted that I’ve got B.O.B. and “the fat guy” from Tekken. There are better Bobs!
  • An end: So the finale of B.O.B. sees our titular hero finally meet his date… and she turns out to be a (literally) big mouthed shrew of a lady bot. So B.O.B. immediately ditches her for a quiet girl that appears to be a surfer girl (bot). Score another one for the patriarchy!
  • Did you know? Gray Matter was the name of a videogame company long before Breaking Bad. All the same, it still gives me a vibe that this game was maybe created thanks to meth money. At least you can’t say good chemistry was involved in this nonsense!
  • Would I play again: There is nothing here that encourages the player to replay (or even continue). I might hit some random website to view the level maps and see if there was some method to the madness, but it’s not happening anytime soon.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Pinball Quest for the NES! Never before has the phrase “Pinball Wizard” been so apt! Please look forward to it!

FGC #044 Izzy’s Quest for the Olympic Rings

Pretend to be a winnerHistory has proven many things: you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole, you can’t walk 500 miles by tonight, and you can’t make Izzy happen. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put an Olympic Mascot like this back together again. Not that they ever tried.

Izzy was born in 1991, created by John Ryan of the incredibly trendy sounding DESIGNefx. This was an auspicious beginning for the young whatizit, as, clearly, this was a creature designed by committee to appeal to the masses. Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, even more contemporary creations like Finn the Human are timeless creations that could also have been birthed from a child’s notebook margins; Izzy was made to be cute and appealing, but was neither. Izzy was officially unveiled during the finale of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and the attending crowd didn’t know if that loud farting noise was part of the creature’s shtick or the sound of the universe audibly mocking its least favored creation. Bad news, guys, it can be two things.

Atlanta had a short four years to polish the big, blue turd into a shiny state of at least tolerability for the ’96 Olympics in Atlanta, and, bad news, they couldn’t pull it off. Among various other attempts to make Izzy a friend to children, there was an Izzy rollercoaster in Bush Gardens Williamsburg, an animated movie on TNT featuring noted Ninja Turtle Rob Paulsen as Izzy’s Dad (fictional dad, not the ad man that actually birthed him), and a trio of video games. The final game was an adventure affair for PC that didn’t see release until 1996, but the twins that were released in 1995 were a pair platformers created by “US Gold” and “Alexandria” for the SNES and Genesis. For the curious, US Gold was a game publishing company that published a number of Olympics based games up through 1996 (probably not a coincidence), and also was responsible for the PC ports of a number of Capcom games, like Final Fight and Street Fighter 2. They were also based in the UK, which raises questions. Alexandria, meanwhile, is a complete mystery due to its difficult to google name, so let’s assume they’re a legion of undead skeleton programmers who walk the Earth during lunar eclipses and animate mascot platformers when they get bored.

The chaseIzzy’s Quest for the Olympic Rings, as previously mentioned, was a mascot platformer, which was basically the baseline videogame of the time. Izzy himself went through a number of physical permutations throughout his lifespan, but it’s likely no accident that, by the time he decided to hit the 16-Bit world, he was a svelte, athletic blue creature with prominent red sneakers. Izzy graduated from the Bubsy school of platforming: he was destined to parade around poorly designed, repetitive worlds with his only reliable offensive maneuver limited to hopping on the same three or four hastily designed creatures. The Olympics is Greek, right? Here’s a medusa! You don’t get more Greek than Medusa, right? And how about a fire guy? Fire is an Olympic thing, too! Oh yes, before I forget, the plot of the game is that “The Ring Guardians” (who, let’s think about this, are probably guarding the rings for a reason) have decided to stick to their title and are guarding the Olympic Rings from Izzy, who wants to return the rings to Atlanta, because otherwise there would be no Olympics, and Ted Turner would be most cross. So off Izzy goes, jumping and climbing and losing an entire dimension in an effort to prove himself useful to his Olympic handlers.

Izzy has one other arrow in his quiver, and it’s the amazing power to turn into the Olympics. Well, nothing quite as amazing as that sounds, simply the ability to morph into various 2-D interpretations of Olympic events. “Fencing” creates a straightforward, sword-adept Izzy, while the shot put is swung over Izzy’s head to create a helicopter effect. There’s also a skateboard, because it’s a 90’s platformer, and the rocket transformation, because… someone on the team liked autoscrolling bonus stages? Was there a “space” component to the ’96 Olympic Games? Could… could someone look into that? Could someone make that happen?

ZOOOMIf I’m not being clear, Izzy wasn’t any good. Erm… Talking about the game this time, not the terrible mascot. It’s kind of weird, too, because US Gold was known for making Olympic based sports games, so, assuming that’s the one thing US Gold was good at, why didn’t they just take the route of going with what they know? You can’t blame Izzy’s utter lack of popularity on everything, I feel like if you got even just one or two popular mascots together, forced them to compete in the Olympic Games, and then just plotted everything after the real Olympics, you might have a hit on your hands. Hell, maybe you could still include a blue mascot in red sneakers. I realize this line of thinking is a mere pipedream, as I doubt any worthwhile game company would bother with the Olympic license nowadays, but maybe there could be a popular franchise to grow out of the oldest global sporting event in human history. Hell, it’s not like people line up to buy the same stupid sports game year after year. Nobody who likes videogames likes sports.

Perhaps Izzy (back to talking about the mascot) was simply not meant to be. Izzy was followed by The Snowlets, a quartet of adorable owls that look less like they were designed by committee and more like something that would be seen on a proud parent’s refrigerator (even if they share a similar corporate origin). Later mascots seemed to follow suit, with the next American mascots looking very much like a trio of vaguely anime-ish Hanna Barbera characters. Perhaps to stave off the focused failure of Izzy, nearly all Olympic mascots since ’96 have been “groups”, Toastysave WENLOCK, THE ALL-SEEING EYE, LONG MAY HIS GAZE LINGER ON THE DIVINE of the 2012 London Olympics. Izzy seems to have become a cautionary tale for Olympic Wranglers: never put all your eggs in one blue blob of a basket.

Izzy was terrible. Izzy’s game was terrible. But, since we’ll never see a game based on the adventures Fatso the Fat-Arsed Wombat, he’s about all we’ve got for Olympic Mascot platformers. Aero? Bubsy? You now have a buddy in mediocrity that can turn into a javelin. Try not to poke an eye out.

FGC #44 Izzy’s Quest for the Olympic Rings

  • System: Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis.
  • Number of players: The can be only one Izzy.
  • Version Differences: Wow, yeah, I can barely play twelve minutes of this on the SNES. Let’s assume the Sega Genesis version was equally bad. That’s probably accurate.
  • Could you check Youtube or something? Oh, fine. Oh, yeah, look, it is exactly the same. Geez, Izzy has the stupidest walking animation. Maybe that’s the source of the failure here: he’s the main character, and I just want to see him fail… or at least get hit in the face with a boot. Worn or unworn, doesn’t matter.
  • Any ’96 Olympics Memories? There’s a really popular pizza place by here that everyone raves about, but I’ve never been a big fan (and I live in an area with absolutely no lack of good pizza places). I remember distinctly the last time I was in said popular pizza place, the ’96 Olympics was on the TV, so I can very accurately recall the last time I ate there. That… is about how much I’ve ever paid attention to the Olympics.
  • Test it allFavorite Olympic Mascot? Miga, the 2010 Canadian “Mythical Sea Bear” that is a cross between a bear and an orca, and is possibly the best thing to ever come out of the Olympics. Aw, she has a lil’ scarf and enjoys surfing. Miga, you are the anti-Izzy.
  • Did you know? There’s a sort of “animation test” feature available right from the options menu of Izzy’s Quest for the Olympic Rings. It’s kind of neat to see that a lot of effort was put into making Izzy at least remotely memorable in his movements and “morphs”. It’s less neat to notice that maybe this is where the entire game’s budget wound up getting flushed.
  • Would I play again? Complete disclosure? This might be the least I’ve played any FGC game thus far. It’s not even that it’s particularly bad (which it is), it’s just so repetitive and boring. I would liken it to driving through the most boring state (or province, Miga) you can name. That is not something I want to do for recreation.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Tournament Fighters for the SNES. Now there’s a palette cleanser! Let’s get some Wingnut vs. Shredder action going for the good of turtle power. Please look forward to it!