Rod Land is a one or simultaneous two-player platform game created by Jaleco and first distributed into arcades in 1990. In it you control one of two fairies – Tam or Rit – each armed with a magic wand (or a ‘rod’, as the game’s title implies) which can immobilise monsters that chase you on each stage. The aim of the game is to rescue your ‘mom’ (and later, your dad) who has been kidnapped and taken to the top of a large tower.
Rather than simply killing the monsters, the wand allows you to capture them and bash them from side to side, until they eventually die, which usually yields some sort of power-up. You can even bash other monsters with one that you have captured in the wand’s beam.
A second button allows the fairies to create a ‘custom’ ladder that they can climb up (in addition to ladders that already exist on a screen), although this can be used only once, and if used a second time the first ladder will disappear.
Flowers can be collected for points and a level can be completed by either collecting every flower, or killing every monster. If you collect all the flowers in a level the game goes into an ‘Extra Game’ mode where the monsters change and become faster and more aggressive. If you kill the monsters in this state they will drop letters that spell the word ‘EXTRA’. If you manage to collect all five ‘EXTRA’ letters you’re then awarded an extra life.
As the game progresses, new features are introduced, like balloons that you can float on; enemies that can break out of your wand beam or attack you from a distance; fireworks displays, and also relatively interesting boss battles (and did I find a hidden boss battle too?). Rod Land does have some interesting subtleties that a lot of arcade games from this period seem to have.
Rod Land is a jolly, colourful and very playable game. The Japanese to English translations in the cut scenes are so bad they’re funny (which is always charming and hilarious at the same time), and Rod Land is awesome fun to play two-player. It’s also fun in single-player mode and is more challenging overall. The game is quite forgiving, though, and you can always continue from where your last game ended. Of course in MAME you could easily go through the entire game in one sitting if you wanted to, although Rod Land is quite long because – once you’ve completed the main game – a sequel begins (with a new story – to rescue your dad; new levels and stronger enemies), which is pretty neat. Apparently only the original arcade version features this sequel mode, though.
Rod Land was ported to a variety of home systems in the mid-Nineties, including for the Amiga (which is an excellent enhanced port), the Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Game Boy, NES/Famicom, and ZX Spectrum (among others), and although the game is not widely known it is very popular among those who’ve played it. I highly recommend it – especially as a two-player party game – and it’s more than suitable for children to play too. Rod Land is a family-friendly arcade gem.
More: Rod Land on Wikipedia