Saturday, 19 November 2016

Rod-Land (Arcade)

Rodland title screen
Developer:Jaleco|Release Date:1990|Systems:Arcade, Amiga, Atari ST, CPC, C64, ZX Spectrum, NES, Game Boy, iOS

This week on Super Adventures I'm taking a quick look at arcade action game Rod·Land! I'm tempted now to look up if there's some CSS trick I can use to display the title in color-cycling rainbow text. Though I'm not even sure if I've written it right, as sometimes it's called Rod Land and other times it's Rodland.

Rod·Land is one of the games I used to play as a kid on my Amiga, so I'm not exactly going into this blind. Though I used to cheat the hell out of it back then by pressing the 'Help' key five times and getting infinite lives; one of the few times that 'Help' button was ever helpful.

This is my first time playing through the arcade version though and I can already tell it's not quite the same. For one thing this title screen fanfare sounds terrible; it's all synth brass and clock chimes. Amiga wins this round.



The Fairyis Village looks nice. Plus it's within walking distance of the creepy cave, the sinister tower and the inexplicable pyramid!

The attract screen then goes on to tell the story of how our heroes got their magical gear.

The rods of "Sheesanomo" were a gift from their dad and the shoes were given by the village elder. Turns out it wasn't a particularly interesting story.

That's Tam on the left and Rit on the right by the way. They fight crime.

The intro proper shows Tam and Rit's mother getting kidnapped by a bird and taken atop the "Maboots" tower.

I really hate it when birds do that in platformers. Though at least when it's happened to me they always used their giant claws instead of grabbing my character's hand in their beak. That looks so painful.

Alright so the goal is to climb the tower and rescue the parent. Not quite a damsel in distress situation, but I'm still sticking the label on the bottom this post.

And this is the actual game! The object is to grab enemies with the rod and then slam them into the floor over and over until they turn into high explosives. I can then use these bombs and missiles to kill their friends! (Fortunately fairies are immune.)

Once all enemies are eradicated I can move on to the next single-screen level and repeat the process.

Well that failed. I knew that I couldn't safely jump onto enemies but I couldn't stay where I was either. I can't jump at all in fact, so I have to create pink ladders with my rainbow shoes to get around. Ladders can go both up and down (but not sideways) and when I place a new one the old one vanishes.

Hey there’s Maboots tower in the background! I just noticed it now.

Now I'm inside!

Plus I just remembered how the flowers work. Once I've collected every flower on the screen the music changes, the lights dim, and I get a few seconds of EXTRA GAME mode! Which means the enemies all turn into these brown things and I need to smash them open quickly to get the EXTRA letters within.

When I get all the letters... something happens. Probably something good!

Wow, a boss fight already? I'm only on the fourth level! (You can tell because it says SCENE- 4 at the bottom).

I was worried something had gone wrong at first because the screen started flickering like crazy. But then I suddenly found myself facing off against two arrays of crocodiles, each spitting out smaller crocodiles. So I started worrying about that instead.

Fortunately Rit's set her wand from stun to kill so I just have to keep zapping their noses to win. Hopefully.


A FEW STAGES LATER.


Huh, that's interesting. I remember back in the Amiga port when I slammed an enemy into his buddy, the other guy would get pushed away, but here they're instantly annihilated. They don't even leave behind a bomb for me.

Amiga
See, here's me doing the same thing in the Amiga version with considerably fewer fatalities. I didn't even connect with that creature on the platform above until he'd fallen down. In the arcade game he'd have been dead the second his friend swung by.

The Amiga port is actually pretty close to the original though overall and I can't say the differences have made it any worse. Well okay the arcade game's got better visuals and the Amiga game's too mean to give out even a single continue, but the Amiga port has far less irritating music and that almost makes up for it.

Here, have some YouTube links if you want to compare the sound yourself:
Arcade level music / Amiga level music.

Just don't look directly at the faces on the Amiga version box art.

Atari ST
The Atari ST port doesn't sound as good but other than that it seems basically identical to the Amiga game to me. There's none of the system's typical issues with scrolling because the game doesn't do any scrolling during gameplay.

These two are the closest you can get to an arcade perfect Rod·Land port. But the game also came out on 8-bit systems...

Commodore 64
Now that's a bit of a visual downgrade, plus it's weird how the hero sprite has a higher resolution than the rest of the playfield. Also this time there's virtually no music.

But the C64 port does run at a decent speed and it gets the gameplay right. Well, as right as any of the ports. Plus it has continues!

Amstrad CPC
And then there's the Amstrad CPC version, which looks like ass, has no music in-game, stops to load between levels and runs painfully slow. This is not good Rod·Land.

ZX Spectrum 128K
The ZX Spectrum game on the other hand runs surprisingly fast and has some proper explosions! It's a bit on the black and white side perhaps and like the other two it's missing in-game music, but it makes a pretty good attempt at the title theme at least. It's much better than I expected from the Spectrum anyway, and that describes this port all over. The biggest problem with it is that it came out in 1991 instead of 1986 so 8-bit was kinda over.

Game Boy
The game never made it to the SNES but it did get a Game Boy port thanks to Eurocom (makers of all your second-favourite James Bond first person shooters).

This is the only version of the game with scrolling, because the levels are so zoomed in that you can only see a section of it at once. Plus the sprites are half the height so they seem absolutely tiny. It feels very legit though, aside from having no continues and letting you fall onto enemies heads to stun them. It's even got in-game music, though one of the instrument tracks cuts out to make room for sound effects whenever you do anything.

NES
Rod·Land also got ported to NES, with a few minor tweaks... like the ability to jump on enemies! That's definitely going to have a big effect on gameplay. Plus look at those awesome sparkly ladders; much flashier than the original rainbow effect.

But aside from that this is still clearly Rod·Land, and most changes are optional.

I can change the character's colours, adjust or turn off jumping, disable scene transitions, edit the names, decide if players share their score or are tough dudes, and even put tutorial hints on. There's no option to give me any extra continues, but otherwise it's impressive.

Also if you name the fairy children something dirty they get embarrassed and their face turns red. I've been told anyway, I'm not going to corrupt these innocent little squirrel murderers by giving them filthy names like "SHT".


MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE ARCADE GAME.


Oh come on that was hardly fair! Seems like the uni-snake broke his horn and went crazy with the pain. I was trying to last out on my ladder until the balloon arrived and took me to safety, but I guess I'm just going to have to kill these two and give up my hopes of getting the T this round.

Plus it wouldn't have been safe even if I'd made it up there, as they'd have just taken a balloon up and followed me.

Oh COME ON! My timer ran out just as the orb turned around to T. This really does not give me much time to collect these letters. In the Amiga version I had way longer.

Whoa, I've rescued their mother? That was fast.

Or maybe not.

The bird's come back to relocate her to a more secure part of the facility.

So now I'm back to crushing adorable squirrels and hurting... uh... volcanoes? I have no idea.

The levels are always limited to the one screen, but they do get more complicated, with balloons, magic doors and other things getting thrown into the mix.


FOUR FLOORS LATER.


Yes! YES! It took me 19 stages, but I've finally gotten the T! Now I can see what it does.

It's... an extra life. I was hoping for more to be honest.

I mean I don't want to sound ungrateful but it cost me a few credits trying to get those letters, so I would've been far better off if I'd left the flowers and just killed all the enemies instead.

Here's what the fairy looks like on the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64, showing off the systems' comparative graphics ability. For the Speccy version they avoided the garish colours and pixelled her in black and white with dithering, while the C64 fairy has double-width pixels. Plus she sounds a lot more enthusiastic with all those exclamation marks.

But the Amiga and Atari ST ports both have this sexy fairy instead.

The Game Boy and NES versions too. It's very strange.

I didn't have the patience to get the Amstrad CPC fairy, but that worked out for the best really as I check and it doesn't even have one. Amstrad CPC Rod·Land is the worst. Alright I'm going to fight a flying elephant in a nappy now.

If there's one thing I hate about the elephant in the room, is that it's bloody everywhere! I assumed the ledges on the side would be a good place to hit it from, but nope! The floor's not a great place either though.

Plus it's gross how it keeps spitting baby elephants at me. There should be a limit on how many children an elephant is allowed to carry in its mouth at one time, and the limit should be 0.

Haha, I figured it out! If there's one thing Dumbo here hates, it's missiles. Another boss down.

Starfish should not have butts! Or boomerangs.

And so I continued through the levels, still trying to evade the enemies and collect all the flowers like an idiot. If the game was forcing me to collect the letters I would've gotten frustrated by now, but it's only me making me do it, so I'm the only one I've got to blame. Though I really could use some 1UPs right now as you may have noticed I've got zero lives and zero continues.

Scene 27 was as far as I got in the end, as the timer ran out and the enemies turned into evil blue cloud monsters and got me. I could've put more credits in, but I think 9's enough. GAME OVER.

But there's also a complete second episode hidden in the arcade game that takes place in that mysterious pyramid next to their fairy village. To get to it you have to beat the entire game... or just press down three times before pressing 'Start' after inserting a coin.

The second episode less fantasy and more sci-fi, as Tam and Rit fight tanks, mechs and sometimes stapler fish to rescue their dad.

See, stapler fish.

But even though I'm collecting gems instead of flowers, in front of a background of Egyptian slaves, the gameplay hasn't changed one bit.

The cutscenes have gotten a bit darker though. Sure seeing a woman getting her hand caught in a bird's mouth isn't all sunshine and rainbows, but now there's there's dramatic scenes of military hardware being built, and their missing dad communicating via magic wand.

Could've told me that earlier, ghost dad. Wait, do ancient pyramids even have a basement?


A COUPLE OF EXTRA LETTERS LATER.


Whoa, it's the other fairy. So that's where the other ports got her from! I doubt any of them have included episode two though.

Well I'm satisfied now, I can finally turn this off.


CONCLUSION

Rod-Land is a colourful joyful arcade action game with addictive gameplay, cute enemies, and the music's just about bearable too. Better than bearable if you're playing the Amiga game. I do have two problems with it though:
  1. It's an arcade game, so it gets repetitive. 
  2. It's an arcade game, so it wants you to lose.
Some might not be impressed that you can beat the whole thing in half an hour, but I can't beat the damn thing at all without giving myself a million credits so that doesn't bother me so much. Wait, hang on, it's only got 31 stages? I got up to 27... I was so close! There is that second episode though that doubles the length.

The best version to me was the original arcade game, but the Amiga and NES versions are different enough to be worth considering as alternatives. The Amiga game's got all the flash of the arcade version, but with slightly different mechanics, and the NES lacks the beautiful visuals and colourful BOOOOMS, but makes up for it with options like a jump button. No continues or second episode for them though.

Rod·Land may have been old-fashioned even at the time, but it's one of the best there is at what it does, and it's probably even better in co-op, so I'm giving it a shiny Not Crap badge. Personally I don't 100% love it, but I found it fun for a short while and if you like this kind of arcade game and haven't tried it yet, I'm sure you'll find some joy in it too.


Thanks for reading! I'll return the favour by reading through all the comments you write underneath. Though don't bother trying to guess the next game this time, as I'm doing something different for next week.

5 comments:

  1. Next one gonna be some weird Commodore Amiga comparison of some kind ? Like that time you did that character creation comparison

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  2. I look forward to next week's comparison of the different Workbench versions!

    I remember the C64 version being quite good. I also remember one of the magazines -- it was Commodore Format I think, but it could have been Zzap! -- printing a guide showing maps of all the levels. As they are single-screen levels and the -- not pictured -- movement of the enemies is as important as the layout, the guide was less than useful.

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    Replies
    1. Nice to know that someone's looking forward to it, I was starting to worry that I'd made a terrible mistake.

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  3. One of my favourite games on the Amiga. It controls so well that it's still a joy to play nowadays.

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