In the early 90’s, Sega and Nintendo were in the midst of a titanic tussle for the top spot in a rapidly developing and competitive video game market.
Mario had become one of the most famous icons across all of entertainment while Sonic the Hedgehog had landed to challenge him for his throne.
As a result, developers the world over clambered to create the next big thing in gaming, the next big hit platformer and, the next video game icon.
And so, the market became flooded with colourful cutesy platformers. This meant it was impossible for any new platformer to get noticed in a saturated video game market.
Arriving a little late on the scene in 1993, Plok is an action platformer by Software Creations. It would be another cutesy colourful droplet in an ocean of platformers, floating amidst the multitude of the good, the bad, the mediocre and the unoriginal of its kin – Plok didn’t stand a chance.
Plok is the eponymous hero of this adventure. He is a curious character, in fact, I’m not even sure what he is. He somewhat reminds me of Futurama’s Dr. Zoidberg, but in a yellow t-shirt.
The fact that Plok went largely unnoticed is a true shame, as this vividly colourful game is one of the finest and outstanding platformers for Nintendo’s Super NES.
Alongside great, cute and colourful visuals, Plok also boasts one of the best soundtracks of the SNES library. Another fine, eclectic and consistent composition from the prolific likes of video game composers Tim and Geoff Follin. The Follin brothers, either individually or side-by-side, brought us such exemplary musical work as the soundtracks of The Silver Surfer, Ghouls n Ghosts, and Sky Shark. From the very beginning of Plok you’re hit with an upbeat bluegrass menu tune with protagonist himself Plok, providing some solid live harmonica work, it’s hard not to listen to it for just a little while and it truly sets the scene for what is going to be a charming and challenging adventure.
Plok resides on the fictional island of Akrillic in a region called Polyesta. Waking to a quiet, bright and beautiful morning Plok is full of beans and positivity. That is until he discovers, to his absolute horror, that his precious big square flag, which once billowed proudly above his homestead, has disappeared!
Retreating back into his home and emerging with his trusty telescope, he uses it to scour the island for his precious flag. He spots what could be his flag on nearby Cotton Island (there is an odd textiles theme to Plok). Furious, Plok then sets sail to Cotton Island where according to Plok himself “limbs are going to fly!”
Plok soon discovers that he is being led on a wild goose chase which takes him all over Akrillic, from the pits of Creepy Crag to sunny Breezy Beach until he discovers who is behind this flag swiping shenanigans!
At its heart, Plok is a fairly straightforward platformer. What sets Plok apart from its competition is that it’s more charming than most, original and solidly fun to play throughout. Each stage area has its own soundtrack and character and manages to stay interesting. No level seems like a rehash having its own unique challenge.
Plok is threatened by multiple peculiar enemies, and to help defeat them, Plok has three forms of attack. He can throw his limbs in turn (before the likes of Rayman, I might add) allowing for a sequence of four hits to be dealt each time. But be careful, as once all his limbs have been thrown, Plok will hop around limbless until his legs and arms boomerang back to his body. Later, Plok will gain the ability to cast a swarm of bees, which acts as a homing missile type offensive and later will gain a spinning jump aerial attack.
Ploks limbs have another purpose – inexplicably scattered throughout Plok’s varied stages are pink and white targets. Hitting these targets with his limbs will activate a platform or open up a passageway to items, power-ups or areas of certain levels, sometimes causing part of the level to shift. However, on this occasion Plok’s limbs will not immediately return to him, they appear on a literal clothes hanger somewhere in the level. These hangers can be near to the targets or they can be elsewhere, once a target is hit Plok will lose one limb until he retrieves it from a hanger, if he were to hit another target before then, Plok is reduced by one more limb. It’s bizarre and contrived but players will be forced by this mechanic to consider how many limbs they are willing to fire at any particular set of targets, firing all four limbs renders Plok not only limbless but defenseless. Plok is also incapable of jumping without at least one leg. This system of hangers and targets makes Plok more than just a standard action platformer. Some areas are rather complex and require some significant planning and forethought.
Scattered throughout levels are various enemies, in the game’s initial chapter strange hopping potato/aubergine looking creatures are the first encountered. In this chapter Plok recovers his big square flag, defeats the scoundrels who stole it and returns home. Here Plok encounters the most frequent enemies, the Fleas.
While he was away, the Fleas had infested the island he calls home so Plok sets about ridding them. These Fleas are a little different from those you may find on a household pet, they do indeed leap all around yet are almost frog-like in appearance, nothing more than a tiny creature with long legs and two beady eyes. While not being all that intimidating, these Fleas in number can prove tricky to dispatch as their movements are seemingly random. Timing Ploks horizontal attack is key.
Helping you against Plok’s numerous foes (and making the dispatching of Fleas much easier) is a variety of Power-Ups. Each Power Up has a time limit, its own attack, theme tune, and outfit such as the Blunderbuss. The Blunderbuss has an effective projectile attack resemblant of the Spread Gun from Contra, outfits Plok with a hunting jacket and deerstalker and has its own amusing jolly theme tune. Another is the Boxing Glove, which outfits Plok with head gear, a gumshield, and the ability to fire boxing gloves which are larger than Plok’s own fist and can be launched infinitely. What’s most amusing about the Boxing Glove power up is its theme tune, which you may have guessed, is an homage to a certain Rocky Balboa.
Plok quickly becomes a very challenging game. It is a vastly under-appreciated, vividly colourful, charming, amusing and musically brilliant platformer. A true hidden gem of the Super NES library. What’s more, Plok has yet to gain the attention and desire it deserves, which means you can pick up a copy for pretty cheap these days. Plok should be part of every SNES collection. 8.5/10