Ocean seem loathe to develop any game that hasn't first appeared in cinematic form -Hudson Hawk, Bart vs Mutants, Terminator 2... the list goes on and on - in fact Cool World is only the first of three film licences to be released by Ocean in the coming weeks. It isn't such a bad idea actually, this licensing business - it removes the need to come up with a plot, give it a title, and make up a few characters. Such tiresomeness has already been taken care of by the film producers, and leaves the game team with nothing to do except write a completely stonking classic based on the hard work of others.
Should be easy. But it's not - at least not if many of the past releases of this nature have been anything to go by. Perhaps programmers see it as an easy ride, but for whatever reason, numerous film licences - not just from Ocean I hasten to add - have turned out to be not only disappointing conversions, but plain old crap games. Cool World is due to hit the cinemas in the early new year, and although little information has surfaced as yet Biff tells me with a lecherous leer and through a -mouthful of drool that it stars Kim Basinger. From what we can gather, the action centres around some guy who produces a cult comic, unwittingly creating a parallel universe, thus enabling cartoon characters - Doodles - to enter the real world.
Well, all right, I read it on the box, but it's a pretty safe assumption that the game closely follows the plot of the film, so that makes it OK, doesn't it? These Doodles are characters created by Jack Deebs for his comic, and inhabit the mythical land of Cool World. What with the parallel universe and all though, the Doodles are making the quantum leap from comic-strip immortality through to the real world, by means of spooky-looking vortexes that have cropped up all over the place.
The Doodles aren't quite as daft as they first appear though. It turns out that they don't have any wish to actually exchange their safe and easy lives in Cool World for the forbidding recession-ridden melancholic monotony that is the real world (having another bad day Paul? - Ed), but simply want to "borrow" certain items from our dimension to make their own lives more comfortable. Nothing wrong with that. Share and share alike, I was always told. But hold on! All this parallelic universal to-ing and fro-ing is upsetting the cosmic balance. If too many items are taken from our dimension, it's not entirely out of the question that the whole world will simply explode.
Ignoring the obvious solution of asking the Doodles politely not to blag anything else. Deebs enlists the help of Harris the Policeman to counter the imbalance. You are Harris the Policeman, and this is where the game begins. The idea is to beat the dastardly Doodles at their own game by using the same vortexes to travel through the worlds, returning purloined items to their rightful place. Beginning in the streets of Cool World, you must first collect enough coins to bribe your way through to the actual level.
You are armed only with a Handy Pen, which is used both to "shoot" the Doodles and to suck them in. For those of you who think this all sounds a bit dubious, let me explain. The whole point of the exercise is to prevent items from finding their way into the Cool World. Obviously, the more Doodles who make the crossover, the more objects they can take.
Shooting the Doodles with your pen turns them into big inky blobs, which can then either be shot once more for extra points, or "sucked in" in a Ghostbuster type fashion by keeping the Fire button depressed. When shot, it's only a matter of time before the little beasts become re-animated, whereas sucking the buggers in disposes of them for good. To complete a level you must prevent too many items making the cross-dimensional leap for a specified period of time, which shortens as you progress.
My instant reaction to Cool World was one of disappointment. After the excellent animated sequence at the beginning, the graphics - while colourful - seemed rather flat. The gameplay was rather repetitive and I quickly gave up. On returning to the game later in the afternoon though, I became quite involved, and dare I say it addicted to saving the universe from its impending oblivion. More varied levels are definitely needed if the game is to reach anything close to classic status, and beefed up graphics - especially in the confrontation department - would have made for a more compelling game.
As it is, Cool World follows in the tradition of many previous Ocean games, in that it is a competent and enjoyable arcade platform adventure - but come on Ocean, surprise us!
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