Developed by Argonaut Software and published by Fox Interactive in 1997, Croc: Legend of the Gobbos is a colourful 3D platformer featuring a cute crocodile.
Croc actually started out as a prototype 3D platform game featuring Yoshi from Nintendo‘s Super Mario series, but when it was pitched to Nintendo they rejected the idea, so Argonaut re-worked it into an original property.
The aim of the game is to work your way through an ever more difficult series of levels, collecting gems and rescuing cute furry creatures known as Gobbos from the evil magician Baron Dante.
Croc can jump; do a jump/drop (which breaks boxes or anything underneath you); hang on to platforms (useful if you’re short on a jump); spin to attack enemies with his tail; do a 180 degree about-face, sidestep left and right, climb up ladders, and – later on you realise – climb on overhead mesh fences, monkey-bar style, and swim underwater.
If you bump into an enemy or fall into lava you’ll drop all the gems you’re carrying and must collect them again before they disappear (similar to Sonic the Hedgehog). When you reach the end of a level you must hit a gong with your tail and the game will then total-up all your collected gems and rescued Gobbos. For every one hundred gems collected you get an extra life.
As the game wears on new features are constantly being introduced, increasing the challenge. Some platforms will crumble under your feet after a few seconds of contact; balloons will fly you to new areas; jellies (jello) bounce you higher; plugged wells (that you must break open) house hidden areas; sparkly things transport you to hidden areas, and various minigames come into play at certain points.
Each level also has five coloured gems to collect that open a magic door at the end of the stage. Behind the magic door are more goodies to collect and also an alternative exit to the level.
Some might see Croc as nothing more than a “kid’s game”, because of the cartoon graphics and the lack of violence, but it’s not just a throwaway children’s adventure – it’s actually a very playable and challenging platform game.
What makes Croc a good game are the controls and the camera movement, which feel refined and user-friendly. Which is ironic because these were (unfairly and incorrectly) criticised by some reviewers at the time of release. History has shown that reviewers often get it wrong (as an ex magazine reviewer, and Reviews Editor, I myself know this as a fact – I’ve gotten it wrong on occasion too). I think the problem that some reviewers had with Croc was that they were jaded and suffered from a dose of confirmation bias (that it was a kid’s game), without treating it with the respect that it deserved.
In fact: Croc has lots of neat touches, like allowing you to backtrack to previous sub-levels to collect anything you might have missed previously. Lesser games would not let you do this.
As an early example of a 3D platform game Croc stands up well to Super Mario 64 on the Nintendo 64, which was its main competitor at the time. The graphics are crisp and colourful and the music is perfectly suited to the Mario-esque gameplay. Presentation throughout is superb. Croc is a decent game and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It didn’t sell over three million copies for no reason…