Friday 31 October 2014

Snes Review : Goof Troop (Game 064)

I was at a wedding recently. The groom had a microphone in his hand and his new bride was looking radiant in her dress. The groom smiled at her, as he recounted to the invited guests the moment they met. "I remember it clearly" he said, "She was the most beautiful woman in the room that night and we just chatted for hours - I never laughed so much." The room is filled with applause as he kisses his new wife on the forehead, but I was there at this first meeting and I remember it a little differently. I distinctly remember them both being so drunk they could hardly see, and unless I'm mistaken the groom said at the time that the woman he was talking to (who would later become his wife) wasn't wearing enough clothes and wouldn't stop talking nonsense. For the happily married couple, years of dating have meant that a random drunk encounter in a university bar is now remembered as the most important meeting of their lives.

The present, it seems, can change our perception of the past. What was once insignificant and throw-away can warrant closet examination. "Goof Troop" is one such example, a game I probably wouldn't have paid any attention to were it not for one name in the credits - Shinji Mikami.

Shinji Mikami is a developer with the kind of CV that reads like "best of" list. Though he may be appropriately applauded for being the creative genius behind the 'Resident Evil' games Mikami's work extends much further. He has also had a hand in many of Capcom's most revered series; credited on the likes of 'Dino Crisis', 'Devil May Cry', 'Viewtiful Joe' and the 'Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney' series . Recently the visionary creator has moved to Platinum Games for 'Vanquish' and then he attempted to save the survival Horror genre with ''The Evil Within' for Tango Gameworks. While Mikami's career began at as a 'game planner', working  on ' Who Framed Roger Rabbit' on the GameBoy and 'Aladdin' for Snes, his first credit as overall 'game designer’ was on 'Goof Troop'. Like his previous credits this game too was based on a Disney property albeit one that most people have never heard of (particularly in Britain).

At the time of release, a licensed game based on an existing tv series or film meant a side scrolling platform game.  Though some games like the Super Nintendo adaptation of 'Jurassic Park' deviated, the majority were like Mikami's previous game ‘Aladdin’; move from the left of the screen to the right, jumping on enemies heads. The gameplay of 'Goof Troop' is radically different and much like the aforementioned dinosaur based game is more 'Zelda' than 'Mario'. The game is viewed from above and progression typically involves kicking blocks into set locations that are marked with a star. The review in Total! points out that “these puzzles don’t get any harder the further you get into the game. [They may be] Initially great fun but it gets very repetitive after you’ve played a few screen”.  Some of the stages are exceptionally easy, with the solution almost being laid out in front of you. Even in later stages there’s little challenge and the fire-breathing totem poles that are there to hinder your progress, are more of an irritant that a complication.
Solving each puzzle gives you a small key which allows progression to the next part of the stage and the next block pushing puzzle. Solving the last puzzle gives the player a large key which unlocks a boss room, from which the level can be completed. Sadly these parts of the levels present even less of a challenge and while each boss is varied the method to beat each is the same; hold up your arms, catch whatever it is they are throwing at you and throw it back at them. Even the final boss can be beaten before he even manages to get through his entire range of attacks.

I'm not the first person to look back at 'Goof Troop' to see if it has the seeds of game play ideas or mechanics that will later blossom in Mikarmi's more celebrated games. A few years ago Rich Stanton went to great lengths to see if he could find the genesis of what he calls "The greatest game ever made" 'Resident Evil 4' in 'Goof Troop'. He hoped to find a "glimmer of genius that hinted at the future", but in all honesty all Stanton could find we're tenuous links between the two radically different games. He notes how both games have "a sinister castle, closed until its drawbridge drops down, and a dining room within it full of tables you can dance enemies around". There is also a suit of armour enemy in 'Goof Troop'  "that's stock-still until you get too close, at which point it springs to life and starts chasing down Goofy and Max." Evidently  this same enemy appears in 'Resident Evil 4'. In his IGN article, Stanton may argue that the clothing worn by Keelhaul Pete, ('Goof Troop's final boss) and Salazar (the antagonist of 'Resident Evil 4') are similar but this seems more co-incidence than fore-shadowing. Yes, both games have candles in them, but this does not mean 'Resident Evil 4' is a re-make of 'Goof Troop'.

There is another game that serves as a much better comparison to 'Goof Troop' and the over head perspective is the big giveaway. Without the 'Zelda' games as inspiration 'Goof Troop' would be a massively different title and the similarities extend far beyond aesthetics. Total! magazine put it quite bluntly in their review; “the puzzle style, the game play, and even the graphics have been lifted straight from Nintendo’s wonderful adventure game. Played ‘Zelda III’? Well you’ve played ‘Goof Troop’ then.” The reviewer is right of course, the block pushing puzzle which makes up the bulk of this game was in ‘Zelda: A Link to the Past’, as was progress controlled by the acquisition of small and large keys. Super Play seemed to also notice a few familiar elements in ‘Goof Troop’; ”You rush from screen to screen, going out of a doorway on each edge of the screen, which have to be activated by killing all the baddies or finding the right key.” The items that Goofy and his son can pick up also give a sense of déjà-vu. The grappling hook for example can be used for stunning enemies, creating rope bridges, pulling faraway objects into your hands and in the right situation can even be used to push enemies off ledges.
Use of this hook-shot will clearly come naturally to anyone who has joined Link in a Hyrulian adventure, but it would be wrong to say there are no original ideas at work in ‘Goof Troop’. The bell item for example, I can’t recall using in ‘A Link to The Past’. Goofy and Max can use it to guide enemies to pressure plates to or to distract them long enough to solve a complex block pushing puzzle. Rather than being stolen from a ‘Zelda’ game, I would argue that this idea has in fact been incorporated into more recent titles in the series. It’s not inconceivable considering that Capcom, the developer of ‘Good Troop’ went on to create numerous hand-held ‘Zelda’ titles.

One thing ‘Zelda: A Link to the Past’ didn’t have though is a multi-player option, and it’s inclusion in ‘Goof Troop’ really is a saving grace. In two player mode, one player must be Max the other his dad Goofy, with each playing differently.  Max is fast but weak, while Goofy on the other hand is the complete opposite, slower but able to take out any pirate with one well-aimed object. In single player you can hold a pair of items at once and switch between the two as and when you need them. In co-op mode, each player holds one item and you work as a team to get through. It’s clear, therefore, that ‘Goof Troop’ was made with co-op in mind. Alone a puzzle take twice as long and it becomes a frustrating endeavour as a result. On your own, enemies are free to roam and all too often push blocks away that you need to use to solve a puzzle. However, when there’s a second player they can distract the guards leaving the other player free to solve the puzzle uninterrupted. In two player mode the experience is still basic, it’s still incredibly simple, it’s still hilariously easy but it’s just so much more fun with a friend.  When playing alone you I got bored very quickly, but when pairing up I found the game much more enjoyable, throwing blocks at my co-op buddy just because it’s fun to see them dazed and unable to defend themselves from the enemies closing in.

Unlike any ‘Zelda’ game the story of ‘Goof Troop’ is superficial and largely irrelevant, although it nice that some effort was made to include one. Bizarrely though the adventure is set somewhere totally different to the cartoon's suburban world and the tropical pirate island setting makes you realise how little the game has to do with the series.  Evidently it is only the characters that are true to the TV series that this game is licensed from.  Goofy and Max, have to rescue their neighbours Pete and PJ after a fishing trip is somewhat soured by abduction. Talking to the game’s villagers will fill you in on why exactly the pirates captured Pete, making the few cuts scenes the game has more understandable. But it is really a story that’s so far removed from the jolly japes of the series  that you have to wonder if the game carries the ‘Goof Troop’ namely solely to secure easy sales. The game does at least look like a cartoon, with bright vibrant well animated characters. The settings too are also vibrant and varied enough to keep you interested. While not as good as the visuals, the music about as upbeat as you’d expect even if somewhat at odds with the dungeon setting of  the latter stages. However, much like the game play the level themes can be pretty repetitive after a while and the music strangely manages to be irritating but also completely forgettable.

Essentially ‘Goof Troop’ takes one simple puzzle from ‘A Link to the Past’ and makes a game out of it. Even without playing it you can already guess how tiresome that gets even though tha game last at best a couple of hours.  You’ll get fed up completing puzzles that were clearly designed for more than one person which explains why it really is a two player only game. There’s no denying it’s an enjoyable experience when both Max and Goofy are on screen being guided by human players. If you’re considering playing ‘Goof Troop’, it is vital you have a friend to play it with, as without one you’re not even getting half the experience.

You could look at 'Goof Troop' on Shinji Mikami’s CV and regard it as a licensed game given to the up-and-comer, where greatness wasn't expected as the well known brand would sell the game regardless of its quality. If that's the case, the fact that's it's unlike any other Disney game of the 16-bit era suggests there's a genius, or at least a risk taker at the helm. As 'Resident Evil' loving Rich Stanton points out in his IGN article, "it's no wonder that, right after [finishing 'Goof Troop'], Capcom gave him the keys to the mansion."

Where did I get this from?

‘Goof Troop’ really is a game that fluctuates in value over any given year. When I first started collecting some 18 months ago, you were hard pushed to find a decent condition copy for less than £30 but now it sells for half that. I got my copy for free. I bought a couple of games from a US eBay seller, and on the listing he mentioned that he would throw in a couple of games as he was having a clear out. Though my copy has no instructions and a name written on the box, it’s nice to own, but I’m very pleased I didn’t pay anything for it . Considering I play the bulk of my games on my own, ‘Good Troop’ really wouldn’t have been a good purchase for me, even for the lower price that it sells for on eBay. 

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