Rodland (Storm) Review | Amiga Power - Everygamegoing

Amiga Power

By Storm
Amiga 500

Published in Amiga Power #6

After experiencing the 'anti-cute' in Brat, Storm now offer an arcade conversion which is billed as 'so cute it'll make you puke'. Yes, but is it any good?


"So cute, it'll make you puke, eh? This sounds like a job for a man with a strong stomach, the kind of guy who can play Beast Busters for hours without getting even a little bit squeamish, someone whose idea of a relaxing afternoon is one spent playing Life & Death, taking people's kidneys out for kicks. Inconveniently though, Colin's on holiday this week so I've got to do it instead.

Rodland is a conversion of a Japanese coin-op by Jaleco, although it's not one that's been seen much in this country. It's a simple and rather old-fashioned arcade game, where the only real objective is to massacre screen after screen of baddies. In fact, what it is is nothing so much as an updated version of Universal's ancient classic Mr. Do's Castle. Now, before you all (well, the four of you who actually remember Mr. Do) write in complaining that it's nothing like it at all, I'm referring here more to the style, structure and mechanics of the gameplay than saying it's the same game. Nonetheless, if you've played Mr. Do the feeling of familiarity is almost overpowering. Still, we're not here to get bogged down in technical irrelevances, so let's find out what else there is to see on a trip to Rodland...

Skipping past the usual 'Rescue Mom/Dad/Grandpa/Champion the Wonder Hoser from the Evil Depraved Meanies' plotline, what we have here is 40 or so screens of platforms and ladders, all infested with meanies which have to be purged by the game's twin heroines, Tam and Rit. Despite being a couple of fairies, they're no soft touches. They deal with the baddies by catching them on the end of their magic rods (ouch) and then smashing them from side to side against the floor until they die. It all looks not a little like something from a Tom and Jerry episode, and it's one of the grooviest methods of meanie-despatching I've seen since Bubby and Bobby's magic rainbows in Rainbow Islands. If the monsters aren't dealt with quickly, they get angry and rush around after Tam and Rit. Our chums will find themselves in big trouble if they don't get their tutus into gear.

Luckily, Tam and Rit have another trick up their sleeves to help them out, in the shape of the magic rainbow ladders which they can use to create a quick shortcut between platforms, or just to climb up out of the way of the nasties. Also, when some baddies are killed, they leave behind an extra weapon of some kind (a rocket or a bomb or somesuch) which can be used against the remaining enemies. This, it has to be said, is a particularly satisfying way of getting rid of the little beggars...

The remaining item in Tam and Rit's arsenal is connected to the little flowers which grow on every screen. If they can pick all of the flowers, the monsters turn into turnippy-looking things, which when bashed reveal the letter E, X, T, R or A.

Collecting all the letters completes the current level instantly, and also nets an extra life (courtesy of an extremely cute fairy with funny ears), something which is all the more important when you note that Rodland doesn't have a credits system. When all your lives are lost, it's Game Over, and that's that. Which suits me fine.

Those Good Points In Full

So now you know what to do. But is it worth doing? You bet your life it is. Like R-Type II a couple of months ago, this is a pure arcade game with absolutely no pretensions to depth whatsoever, and I love it to death. The gameplay is simple but compulsive, the controls are natural and instinctive, the graphics are cuter than the cutest thing ever, with a bit more cuteness on top, and... I could give you a shopping list of its good points all day. Mind you, since I can't think of any bad points right at the moment, I'd better keep at it for a while until I cam come up with some.

Just A Couple More Good Points

Rodland isn't a perfect arcade conversion - it's better than that. Storm's programmers have added a few neat little touches of their own to this accurate conversion of the game, but nothing that affects the gameplay. For example, just before they get to the 'angry' stage, many of the baddies will perform a little animated trick of some kind, like when the rabbits find and eat a tiny carrot. The squirrels, in particular, have a very definite character to them - if you stun but don't kill them, they sit up and shake their heads, and just for a second a mean, determined look comes over their furry little faces. In a game that's already dangerously cute, stuff like this threatens to push the needle on the cute-o-meter right off the scale, but it's always on the right side of the fine dividing line between adorably sweet and annoyingly twee. Tam and Rit's method of defence is superbly versatile, too. Not only can you kill a baddie by biffing it around, you can also use it to whack and stun other ones, which might be attacking you at the time. You can flip baddies over your head just to get them out of the way (for example, if you want to get past a monster to reach some flowers, but without killing it, so you can get a letter from it later), or you can sneakily deposit them right on top of the other player in a two-player game, in an attempt to get your opponent killed and bag all the points and glory for yourself (ha!).

And then there's the general presentation, which is faultlessly slick throughout, creating a perfect arcade-like experience. Generally then, this is a flawless arcade game, strongly reminiscent of the Mr. Do games, but then that's no bad thing in my book. Rodland looks gorgeous, it sounds gorgeous, and it plays like the kind of dream people usually write worried letters to agony aunts about, wondering if they're unconscious perverts. And if you don't like this, you probably are some kind of unscious pervert. Lack of depth? Get a life.

Second Opinion

True, I agree with most of what Stuart says - this is a gorgeous coin-op conversion, and Storm have made an excellent job of it, indeed improving on the original in a number of significant ways.

My problem is it's all a bit too thin and, well, easy. At only 40 single-screen levels, and with such basically simple, repetitive gameplay, I think it's going to be hard-pushed to give you £25 worth of entertainment. That's it really, though the game's great as far as it goes. If I was reviewing it, my mark would be in the seventies, I fear.

The Bottom Line

Uppers: Beautiful and imaginative graphics, simple but addictive gameplay, lots of different ways in which to tackle each screen, near-perfect presentation, and mountains of cuteness. Storm have taken their time to get this one right, and it certainly shows.

Downers: Some sad cases will try to tell you it lacks depth. Since when were arcade games supposed to have depth? Simplicity is nothing to be scared of.

I haven't thought of any bad points yet - this is getting desperate. How about "There aren't any free Tam and Rit plastic toys in the box"? Best I can do, I'm afraid. This is brilliant. Buy it.

Stuart Campbell

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