Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Retro Review - Chuck Rock (Mega Drive / Genesis)

What shall we call this guy who chucks rocks?

The imaginatively titled Chuck Rock puts you in the, no doubt incredibly stinky, loincloth of the knuckle dragging titular hero. Chuck is a neanderthal man with a penchant for lobbing great hunks of stone around the place. Handily for him this skill will come in rather handy as he sets off to rescue his fair maiden from a boxing glove clad dinosaur named Gary. Nonsensical plot devices aside, Chuck Rock is a standard 2D platformer which sees you traversing such prehistoric locales as swamps, grasslands, snowy mountains, and underground caverns. There is even a delightful trip into the insides of a large reptile in store for our hero. As well as being able to pick up rocks of various sizes Chuck can also use his rather substantial belly to good use, butting away the reptilian foes as they come close. He is also surprisingly nimble for a fat man, able to perform a jumping kick to take down any flying foes. The rocks can not only be used as a crushing weapon, but can also be used as a shield to protect Chuck from air projectiles or bouncing boulders. They can also be used as handy platforms, allowing Chuck access to higher platforms that might otherwise elude him. 

The graphics are colourful, clear and extremely cartoony. Both the backdrops and wide array of dino-critters that Chuck faces - from tiny fish and freshly hatched pterodactyl chicks, to mud beasts, giant squid, rampaging porcupines and waddling dinosaurs - are full of charm and have an almost lovable air about them. The music is also extremely catchy, and you will have the ditties playing in your head long after you have turned the game off. 

Each world, of which there are only 5, is split into smaller stages with a boss fight at the end. These are fairly straightforward affairs - usually consisting of repeating the same move over and over until the beast expires. Annoyingly, the boss encounter music - often a chance for a tense sounding tune to enhance the dramatic effect - is just the stage music sped up, and it is quite irritating. 

Chuck Rock is fun to play, with enough variety in the stages to keep you interested, and there are plenty of different enemy types that await you. The rock mechanic is well implemented and makes the game world far more absorbing and interesting to explore. Using rocks to reach higher platforms - often leading to secret areas - is the main draw of the gameplay. There are plenty of collectibles along the way, with Chuck nabbing many different types of food along his journey. These are merely for points, but - much like James Pond : Robocod - it is fun to collect as many as you can - and who wouldn't smile at the sight of a large sausage with a face.

It won't set your world on fire, nor will it pose a serious challenge to those who possess decent platforming skills, but it is a straightforward, unpretentious slice of gaming fun. One with great cartoon graphics and a decent dash of humour.

Chuck Rock is also available on many other systems. From the Amiga and Atari ST originals (released in 1991), to the Super Nintendo, Master System, Gameboy and Commodore 64 versions that came out the following year. All have their own merits but I, personally, prefer this Mega Drive iteration. 

Title :  Chuck Rock
Developer : Core Design
Year : 1992
System : Mega Drive

Also on : Amiga, ST, Archemedis,  CD32, SNES, Master System, Game Gear, Gameboy, Mega CD, Commodore 64