Sunday, 6 April 2014

Cover Art Face Off #1

Wetrix by Zed Two / Ocean (1998) - Nintendo 64

Hello and welcome to another new feature here at Red Parsley! Well, kind of. As some of you may know I've taken a look at the contrasting quality of video game cover art here before, just for the Master System and PC Engine so far (at time of writing), but some games warrant some attention all on their own. One such title that's always stuck in my mind is Wetrix, the addictive isometric puzzler by John and Ste Pickford, known then as Zed Two. It was released initially just for the Nintendo 64 and received unique cover art in each of the three main territories, so it's this version I've taken a look at.

If you're not familiar with the game, there's a full review here, but in brief: it takes place on a single static screen featuring a square piece of land. Falling down onto this are various shaped pieces of land with which you need to build up walls on your cramped plot. This is because the falling items soon start including gloops of water which your land has to contain - if too much water leaks over the edge of the land, it's game over. It's an interesting idea and makes for a tricky game, and it also resulted in some memorable covers too...

North America
Most of my pageviews here come from the US so this will be the cover most of you are familiar with, and it's... pretty good I suppose, at least in terms of its accuracy. In fact, if you've ever played the game you might have noticed that this cover could almost be a screenshot from it. It's not, however, a particularly interesting or eye-catching piece of artwork, especially compared to the other two examples...

Hooray, this is the cover we had over in Europe, and a mighty spiffy one it is too! The title looks nicer and stands out more but it's that rather startled-looking blue guy who takes centre stage. He does of course represent the falling gloops of water that feature so prominently in the game but it's still funny how endearing a coloured sphere can be once you adorn it with basic facial features! Closer inspection reveals a number of other appealing characters too, representative of various other in-game features like fire, bombs, ice blocks, mines, and pretty much everything else. If you didn't already know anything about the game, this cover wouldn't really have changed that, but it was intriguing enough that you'd want to find out.

I'm actually a little surprised the Japanese publisher (Imagineer) didn't just use a reworked version of the European cover given their appreciation of such amusing characters, but they instead went for a totally new design featuring all-new, and perhaps even more awesome characters to represent stuff from the game. Even the 'Rubber Ducky' looks happy this time! I'm not really sure what that sad, brown, necklace-wearing whale (or something) is supposed to represent but this is still one of those covers that would make me want to buy the game immediately, without even needing to find out anything else about it. Just look at it!

So, three very different covers for one very unique game. The best one is down to personal taste though, I suppose - do you consider a realistic representation of the game to be best or simply the most appealing piece of artwork? I'd go for the latter, unsurprisingly, which means the Japanese effort just about pips the UK example to the post, so to speak, leaving the US effort covered in dust back near the start line!

Such different approaches did make me wonder though - how much input did Messrs Pickford have into these covers? Did they design all three, or did they not even see them until they went on sale? I actually had a quick word with Ste Pickford about that very point. Here's what he had to say:

"We knew the guys doing the UK cover art as that was Ocean's internal department for that kind of thing. They got involved in the game during development and came up with the little icons for water, fire, bombs, etc., and also came up with an idea for the front end menus which we implemented on the N64. So although the UK cover art was their doing, we'd worked with them during development of the game, liked what they were coming up with, and had some conversations with them, so probably had some influence. I think what they did was great. They also came up with some great advertisements for the UK press as well. The US cover we had nothing to do with. For some reason Ocean US did their own cover artwork, which was awful, instead of using the UK stuff. Same again with Japan. Nothing to do with us, and the first we saw of it was the released game. I really like the Japanese cover though."

So there you have it. No one could blame Ste for liking the fantastic Japanese art (although it could fool some unsuspecting Westerner collectors into thinking they'd stumbled upon an obscure Japanese game) but it's good to know that both he and brother John approve of the great cover their splendid game received in its native territory. Thanks to them both for their time, check out their website here.


  1. Europe looks nice amazingly but good old Japan probably gets it.

  2. Yep, same for me. They're both great though, I can rarely resist cute/weird characters like these ones :P