Genre: Platformer Developer: Interactive Designs Publisher: Sega Enterprises Players: 1 Released: 1992
At one time, Sega was really pushing for another mascot hit to compliment Sonic, and it tried its hand at several new franchises in a sort of throw-them-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks philosophy. Sadly, very few actually did stick, and the remnants instead slid down the wall on a slow path to oblivion. The unfortunate fact is that a few of these would-be brands, like Greendog, were actually quite good and truly did deserve a second shot at stardom.
It’s weird, isn’t it? Certain games sell millions of copies, despite rank reviews and abysmal gameplay, while competent titles get cast by the wayside. A cold truth of the industry to be sure, and while it is cool to be able to obtain these gems later on for a pittance, the undeniable reality is that there will never be another installment to improve upon all the goodness we loved the first time around.
That’s what makes Greendog so special to me. For some insane, kooky reason, I love this game. The pace is plodding and the story is almost as cliché as the character himself, but there’s just something about it that keeps me coming back. Perhaps it’s the gorgeous visuals? The laid back soundtrack? The low challenge level that still embraces my forever lackluster platforming skills to this day? Who knows? Better yet, who cares? When a game captures your attention, that’s all that matters. Forget the haters, and ignore the looks of bewilderment whenever you mention its name; a game like Greendog does indeed have its fans.
In all sincerity, I’m not surprised at the unique concept. Producer Mike Latham, of Eternal Champions fame, had something of a penchant for characters and storylines that were somewhat off the beaten path. It’s only logical that Greendog also bears his stamp, and the whole idea of a surfer out to free himself from an Aztec curse while battling sea fowl and mad tourists would most likely seem forced had it been done by anyone else. Just think about it for a second: Greendog’s lost his surfboard, been cursed for no apparent reason, and vanquishes his foes with merely a frisbee. It may not seem odd to gamers raised on fat men who jump on turtles or supersonic sneaker-wearing mammals, and I suppose that it doesn’t matter much in the long run, but I for one wonder why he didn’t just buy another surfboard.
That’s not all some people might have a problem with, initially at least. At first glance, the gameplay seems loose and floaty. After such fast-paced and tight-controlling platformers like Sonic The Hedgehog and Kid Chameleon, such a change in style may take some getting used to. But once you’ve played Greendog for a while, it becomes apparent that Blast Processing has no place here. How many ADD-stricken beach goers do you know? This is the Caribbean, man! There isn’t anything that can’t be attended to in due time, and that’s what this game is all about. This is the kind of title that you can sit back and enjoy, soaking in the incredible graphics (check out that underwater stage!) and lazy score. Greendog himself appears to be in no rush to resolve his predicament, seemingly confident that everything will work out just fine, and after a few minutes I half expected a Corona Extra to be one of the power ups.
That wouldn’t be far off, either. French fries and soda pop keep you healthy (take that FDA!) and pad your score. Aside from that, all you need is a trusty frisbee and skateboard/roller blades to take out the hostile marine life. When you’re dealing with frogs and pelicans, what more do you really need? Each stage has its nice little share of jumping exercises and foes to dodge, leading up to Greendog’s retrieval of one of the Aztec treasures needed to break his curse. His main method of transportation between islands — an Alex Kidd-style pedal-copter — also provides for a cool little bonus stage, where falling items must be artfully gathered while killing jumping fish. Didn’t I tell you this was unique?
If there’s anything to take issue with about Greendog, I would most certainly bet my money on the control. Most gamers are bound to find it unresponsive at times, especially underwater, and this is true. Perhaps Sega took the whole “island lifestyle” thing too far in this area, and the learning curve can be a bit harsh at first. Greendog, being the beanpole that he is (I still think it’s Fido Dido under that blonde mane), tends to get caught up in just about everything that flies or moves above him. His meandering stroll can also be problematic when trying to outrun enemies or obstacles. Fortunately, things aren’t bad enough so as to permanently mar the game as unplayable. As I said above, if you’re willing to give it a chance, you’ll get used to it, and you might even forget it had ever been a problem.
When the sun finally sets on the white, sandy beaches, and the soft rhythmic beat of the kettle drums soothes its way into your soul, Greendog is fun little game that is worth the few hours of play required to see all it has to offer. It won’t set the world on fire, and anyone looking for profound meaning in it is obviously in need of a vacation themselves. Taken for what it is though, you’ll find that the unique visual style, relaxed atmosphere, and goofy premise all combine for an enjoyable romp that’s pretty entertaining. Now, where’s my lobster bisque?
SCORE: 7 out of 10