Thursday, 19 December 2013

Single Screen Platform Games #11

Wani Wani World a.k.a. Trouble World (1992)
By: Kaneko Genre: Platform Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 52,500 (one credit)
Also Available For: Nothing

I doubt many gamers would argue that the best and most influential example of the single-screen platformer was Bubble Bobble. Near enough everything about Taito's game was close to perfect but one of the many things that made it so appealing was the cute characters it featured. Being so popular was bound to attract imitators though, and that's exactly what this here Kaneko release appears to be at first glance - little more than a blatant clone. It, however, is not. Well, not specifically of Bubble Bobble anyway, for inspiration seems to have come from several sources. The main characters definitely look familiar - a small green dinosaur for player one and a similar pink example for player two, and their ultimate objective is predictable, but the stages that lay before them are notably different to those found in Bub and Bob's classic adventure.

Oddly, the enemies on the Forest stage are... robots...
Our spiny heroes have 50 stages to battle through here which are divided equally over five themed worlds - Forest, Desert, Mountain, Sea and Ice. The first nine stages of each are a single screen in size and populated by a set number of cretinous enemies from the off. Unsurprisingly, your job is simply to destroy all interlopers before moving on to the next stage. The final stage of each world scrolls automatically (either up or down) and features a few normal enemies which can be destroyed (although it's not necessary this time) before arriving at a large and scary boss. A few things like moving platforms, teleporters, springers, lifts, and falling blocks can be found on most stages (and increasingly commonly as you progress) but most of your movement around the stages will be via good old platforms and ladders.

Only the red porcupine looks remotely menacing...
Most of the actual platforms are made of small rectangular blocks and it's by fiddling around with these that the pesky enemies are disposed of. In a similar fashion to the very earliest platform game, Space Panic, our reptilian friends can only see off their deadly foes by trapping them in the platforms. To this end, they both carry a large mallet and can pop platform segments out by hitting them. If an enemy passes over such a section he then becomes trapped at which time Green and Pink can then use their tails to flip the platforms back up, sending the stupid enemy down to his doom. This obviously means that any enemies on the floor of the stage can't be defeated via conventional means and, most inconveniently, the idiotic dinos can't jump either which means some stages require a little more thought and planning than examples from similar games. It also makes the game pretty tough!

It's raining power-ups, hooray!
For example, none of the enemies actually start off at the bottom of a stage - they're distributed only onto the upper platforms - but all of them can move up and down ladders and some of them are fleet of foot too, which means you could have company within just a few seconds. Therefore you'll often have to be quick off the mark at the start of a stage or you could soon find an unavoidable death situation looming. Luckily there are a few items to make things a little easier. As well as exploding in a shower of stars which damage any other creatures that might be nearby, all enemies also drop something when they perish. This is usually just a coin or food item for bonus points but you may also find a speed-up, temporary shield, bombs (send swirls of deadly stars), bowling ball (rolls along smacking up enemies and soft bricks) or a hammer (lets you hit additional blocks simultaneously).

Eeeek! Scary scorpion-thing boss!
Another handy item that appears occasionally is a fruit machine, and collecting this sets the reels at the top of the screen spinning. Unlike real machines, however, you win nearly every time with this one which sees billions of bonuses cascading down from the top of the screen. Sweet! Despite such a kaleidoscope of icons, it's still a good idea to collect some items sparingly though. For example, it's easily possible to collect too many speed-ups and find Green (and/or Pink) zooming back and forth so fast that their somewhat slidey momentum will often carry them into enemies as well as make it difficult to line up with ladders. Aside from that there are no complaints with the controls - once you've gotten used to the non-jumpy nature of the dinos, of course, which can prove mighty frustrating to begin with, but it's not a particularly unfair game. Unlike many other examples, the enemies here don't get faster the longer you leave them (although the last one does) and, much to my eternal gratitude, there's no time limit either!

Pow! Take that, stupid green octopus!
This obviously means you can take as long as you want stalking the enemies and that's wonderful news as some of the later stages can get decidedly puzzley. The main reason for this is the restricted movements of the dinos as well as their need to use flippable platform blocks to trap enemies - the latter become increasingly rare and it can be a challenge to even reach them on occasion. The enemies don't make things any easier either. Almost all are unique to their world and at first they just pootle around - the Forest, Desert, Sea, and Ice worlds each feature different coloured versions of robots, porcupines, octopuses, and penguins respectively and, while their colour does denote their behaviour (one colour is faster, another is apparently smarter, etc), and some do home in on your location, many of them don't actually do much but move to and fro. For some reason the Mountain world alone, however, features more troublesome creatures.

You can't flip those stupid orange blocks :(
Here you'll face armadillos which can roll at you in a ball, skunks which can aim deadly fart clouds at you, high-jumping rabbits, and large yetis. Whether they have attacks or not, all enemies kill by mere touch and some can move very quickly, but the bosses aren't actually very tough - often the biggest challenge here is the auto-scrolling part beforehand; if you should drop off the top or bottom of the screen you'll lose a life, and this cost me way more than the bosses themselves. Regardless of how much of a pain in the arse they might be though, all the enemies look pretty cool. Most of them are nicely animated and all are distinctive and well designed - just look at some of the amusing creatures in the screenshots here! The graphics are really nice all round, actually. Every stage has a different background related to the theme of its world (the Forest world even seems to be set in Mobius!) and nearly everything is colourful and very appealing.

A penguin-fest awaits in the final world...
The audio is of a similar quality, consisting of lively tunes and effects which all helps make this a mighty enjoyable game to play. It can be pretty unforgiving at times - there are no extra lives available and all hammer and speed power-ups are lost when you die. The former is probably the most helpful item in the game too - the more of them you collect the more blocks you can whack at once, so losing that ability makes the going pretty tough. It also takes a while to get used to the vulnerability of our spiny friends, what with their inability to attack the enemies directly, or even the option of jumping out of their way. With practise, though, Wani Wani World quickly goes from frustrating to spiffing. There are lots of stages, most of which are well designed (although some are a lot trickier than others), and there's nary a dull moment to be found. It's not very original, of course, but neither is it a direct rip-off of any other one game - it just takes the basic, well-worn concept, borrows a few ideas, adds a few more, dresses everything up in some appealing aesthetics, and the result is yet another addictive single-screen platformer!

RKS Score: 8/10

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