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Marko

Genre: Platformer Developer: Domark Publisher: Good Deal Games Players: 1 Released: 2003

Good Deal Games has released some fairly decent games, but Marko is for the most part, a true gem. Some may argue that it’s a gem of rough cut, but it is a gem none-the-less. I first heard of the game many years ago, upon seeing an ad for it in a game magazine of the time, only to believe that I would never hear of it again. I don’t remember ever seeing it in stores, and it wasn’t until I visited Good Deal Games for the first time that I would be reminded of its existence.

The first thing I noticed upon opening the case was the CD design, which is made to resemble a soccer ball. This is very ingenious, not to mention appropriate, as your main weapon in the game is indeed that. After popping it in my Sega CD, I was treated to a nice cut scene of the titular main character kicking his magic soccer ball right into the screen, along with a scrolling text explaining the game’s story. It’s nothing special, just your typical “bad guy tries to take over the world and you must stop him” cliché, but upon pressing start, I began to become more impressed.

The graphics are vibrant and colorful, with detailed backgrounds and foregrounds and smooth animation. Everything looks like a well-animated Saturday morning cartoon, and almost everything is instantly recognizable.

The soccer ball Marko uses as his main weapon at first seems like a gimmick (to be perfectly honest, it kind of is), and sounds like it would be hard to control, but after a few minutes of playing, it quickly becomes natural and intuitive. The ball can be summoned with A or C, A toggles between attacks, and C kicks the ball. You can bounce the ball off your head, kick it behind you, and kick it different heights. The game rewards you for getting used to using the ball by the fact that enemies die in less hits from different attacks. There’s even a practice level on the main menu that allows you to get used to all the moves and attacks.

The sound effects and music are nice, but not memorable. The sound effects, especially the little voice effects, sound a little muffled, but this might be to prevent them from being distracting. The music is bouncy and cute, but you won’t be humming any of the tunes when bored. One song is really repetitive and gets annoying after you’ve listened to it for a while.

The level design isn’t anything special, but it gets the job done… usually. There was one level that I played that was absolutely infuriating, requiring you to destroy all of the cans of sludge before being able to complete it, and you MUST search EVERY nook and cranny of the level to find them all. It probably took me over an hour! Besides that, though, the levels are quite entertaining, with a few secrets here and there. One nice touch is that on some levels, you get a password, which is very important due to the fact that there are no continues. Also, most of the passwords were simple words, and not gibberish, making them easier to remember.

The game has a subtle yet wacky sense of humor that made me smile. Every once in a while, the game will do something to surprise you. In one of the sewer levels, you’re just climbing around in the pipes, minding your own business, when all of suddenly, you are attacked by… well, let’s just say you have to see it to believe it! This sense of humor is most apparent in the cut scenes between levels, my favorite being the one with the karate master.

Overall, Marko is a fun, quirky, and slightly innovative platformer that can be rewarding to play, even when taking into account its faults. It’s arguably the best of the Good Deal Games releases that I’ve played so far. It doesn’t push the Sega CD to its limits, but it realizes that it doesn’t really have to. Still, I was subtly impressed.

This game’s got balls.

SCORE: 7 out of 10

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