Do you believe in fate? Do you put it down to bad karma when you walk into a lamp post as you are checking how cool you look in a shop window, or just particularly poor urban planning? My fate, if fate exists, seems to have drawn me closer and closer to ugly little creatures with blue eyes and nasty hair, and I do not mean the rest of the AMIGA POWER team.
Being a new kid both in the quaint, historical town of Bath, as well as at AMIGA POWER, I have been doing my homework and generally nosing around the place. Flicking through back issues every night as I am tucked up in bed, I have noticed that AMIGA POWER reviewers seem to have caught onto 'console-esque' as being THE key word to refer to cute platform games involving humorous ants/goldfish/eggs/etc leaping around onto the heads of equally humorous bad guys.
Completely separate from this observation, or so I thought, was the point that Bath shops are currently packed full of trolls. Row upon row of these small plastic nasties line the shelves, each with a permanent smirk that is, I suppose, meant to look cute; huge blue eyes that undoubtedly are cute; and a shock of lurid hair that would not look out of place on any of the 'My Little Pony' range of monstrosities. I have seen these troll dolls everywhere and, what with marketing tie-ins being the way they are, can see that only total thermonuclear war will prevent a Trolls cartoon from appearing on children's TV in the next few months.
You might think, as I did, that my bedtime reading and yucky plastic figures are two seemingly unconnected events plucked at random from my hum-drum existence, so imagine my utter surprise when a game landed on my desk that was not only completely impossible to review without using the words 'cute' and 'console-esque', but also features a purple haired troll as its main character. After such an astonishing display of some unknown, higher order of destiny manipulating the very essence of my life, who am I to dismiss the fundamental interconnectedness of all events? I won't even try.
Trolls is extremely cute and the gameplay can be described as highly console-esque (just though I'd get these references over with as soon as possible) and the story line would make even Dr H Lector MD weep over his chianti and fava beans at the beauty and tragedy it portrays.
We are told that the troll started off as one of thousands of toys that are currently clogging window displays around the country. This lifeless toy sat amongst the wood shavings of lovingly handmade items in an old toy maker's store, until one night, at the stroke of midnight, a magic portal into strange new worlds opened up and breathed life into his still form. It all sounds perhaps perfectly credible to me, in fact during my shelf stacking days at college I lost count of the number of times I saw Ken and Barbie magically spring to life only to shrug off their middle class values and clothing and hit the road as new age travellers in Barbie's dubiously pink camper-van.
However, unlike these miniature plastic beatniks, the little troll not only has new life, but also a deep sense of destiny, with a voice from within urging him to take up the heroic task of rescuing lost troll babies and returning them to their mummy and daddy trolls. Eat your heart out Hansel and Gretel - see how the word 'cute' is an inevitability?
Perhaps my parameters are too constrained
In its favour I would have to admit that Trolls is the best re-animated plastic figure platform based game I have ever seen, but perhaps my parameters are slightly too constrained to be in any way objective (Of course they are. I was only thinking almost the same thing myself - Ed).
To anyone who has seen Zool and Doodlebug, Trolls is going to seem eerily familiar, with themed levels, backgrounds and graphics shockingly similar to both. Not that this is an uncommon state of affairs, everyone seems to be trying to release their own 'definitive' version of a platform game at the moment, so like 'flu going round the office', there is a lot of it about.
At the beginning of each level you are given the number of baby trolls you must find before progressing onto the next level. Progress from level to level is by flying pig (and why not?) and your journey is occasionally marked by a big red elephant. Since elephants never forget, when you lose a life you are returned to where the elephant remembers seeing you last. Nice touch.
Each level is based on a particular theme and within fifteen different lands and each land having several levels, there is obviously plenty to plough your way through. Also by collecting the letters to spell 'Bogus' or 'Bonus' you get life-taking or giving levels, and altogether the game boasts over 70 levels. I am sure that this has to be enough, even for the most ardent platform fan.
But of course it is not all babies, babies, babies. Spread thickly around each level are balloons which you can run past and pop. After an impressive shower of spinning stars you can pick up objects or powers that also change the troll's hair colour. For springy shoes you get blue hair, red for a shield and so on. Problem balloons lumber you with a ball and chain, which slows you down, or a can of Skol, which makes your control over the troll highly unpredictable and presumably gives the little fella a pounding headache when it wears off.
The most useful item you can get is the yo-yo, with which you can swing spiderman-like across gaps and also smash down walls. After all my previous comments about the ugliness of the toys, I am forced to admit that although the character looks exactly like them, he still manages to look cute. I'd put it down to his animation, with his long hair wafting and his stubby little arms flailing around as he leaps the obstacles. It is all very well done and a lot more impressive than in Doodlebug, for example.
The baddies are themed to each level, to unusual effect in some cases. In 'Candy Land' you are pursued by jelly tots and other wobbly things, which is understandable. In 'Boardgame Island' there is plenty of dice and snake tomfoolery which is fine by me. But in 'Media Land' you are principally attacked by cameras, erasers and, quite bizarrely, the letter 'T'. Not generally known as one of the more ferocious consonants, this twentieth-letter-of-the-alphabet type attack took me completely by surprise, and resulted in a great many troll deaths before I realised the devious intentions of this capital letter.
And that, as they say, is that, really. Lots of running around and trailing coloured hair, more beautifully animated stars than you know what to do with and hoards of peculiar nasties leaping about. It is colourful, tunefully packed with boppy little, er, tunes and features wonderful visual touches like the troll blinking and the flatulent-looking elephant.
It is not without its flaws though. There are numerous points where you have to take leaps of faith into the unknown that frequently end up in your swift demise. Taken as a whole, though, this is a pretty seamless presentation. Okay, so it is a cutesy platform game, and if you do not like them you won't like this, as it follows the platform rule book to the letter. If you do like them then I would say this is the one to get, as it is approaching near perfection (ish. - Ed) as far as smoothness and graphics are concerned. I could live without the dolls littering my life and won't be holding my breath to see if my idea of a TV franchise will take off, but Trolls the game is definitely worth a bash.