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SummaryOne of the best, most addictive Junior Arcades
The GoodPrevious review: Putt-Putt and Pep's Dog on a Stick
Info and discussion: http://www.mobygames.com/forums/dga,2/dgb,5/dgm,197698/
Not long after Putt-Putt's Junior Arcades hit the shelves, Freddi followed suit. The result were two games that may very well be polar opposites of each other. One of them ended up being the most well-remembered and respected Junior Arcade, and the other fell into obscurity for quite a few reasons. Luckily, we'll first be discussing the former.
In a better but still flimsy attempt for a plot, Luther stops by for his favorite worm doodles, but while he decides to go looking for them near Grandma Grouper's house, he scatters the kelp seeds everywhere (not this again...). Now it's their job to find the seeds.
This is a Pac-Man inspired game, but compared to the Putt-Putt arcades, this one drastically deviates from the original game formula and can be considered its own. You control Freddi through maze caverns and your goal is to collect all the kelp seeds. Once they are all collected, it's onto the next level. Of course, it isn't as simple as it initially sounds. There are all sorts of enemies out to get you in some levels, each with their own characteristics. For example, there's a crab who moves quickly horizontally but not vertically, a puffer fish who does the opposite, the junkyard dogfish from the first game who follows you mercilessly, and many more. There are also extra items you can obtain for bonuses and some power-ups. There's a worm doodle that speeds you up, bubbles you can use to fight off enemies, and items that function as keys to doors.
There are fifty levels in total, with the theme changing and bonus levels appearing every five. It may disappoint you at first since that's half of what we normally see, but it's actually not so when you realize the levels are nearly twice as long as they were in the past two Junior Arcades. Some levels also have multiple mazes in one, as there will be exits that take you to another area. The best thing this game does, though, is keeping your attention. The Putt-Putt arcades fell victim to being too repetitive and long, but this game balances it out perfectly by introducing new game mechanics at a good rate. Not every level will be as simple as finding all the seeds; you will also have to solve puzzles in order to get to new rooms. There are bubble fields that prevent you from steering, geysers that create one-way paths, one way doors that rotate ninety degrees from the proper direction, portals that have to be figured out, plants that open and close randomly, and so much more. The game avoids the mistake of throwing them all in at once, which is commendable.
At times the game does get a little boring since there's only so much you can throw in, but that is solved by the greater variety in level design. The first time I played, I kept wanting to know just what the next level had to offer, and to my surprise, it kept me playing it from start to finish in one sitting. That is nothing I can say about any of the otehr arcades. The levels are all well though-out and can be memorable in their own ways, with a few gimmick levels even thrown in.
If it's too difficult for kids, they offer the Junior Helper as well. You may have infinite lives or always have the bubble power-up. The latter is useful if you want the levels to go by quicker -- the enemies are a bit of a burden at times. Of course, I don't know if all the mechanics work so well. The opening and closing plants end up adding an annoying amount of fake difficulty to certain levels, and it's really annoying waiting for them to open especially when the game plops a bunch of them down together in one area. It would have also been nice if we had more ways of fending off the enemies.
By far, though, the weakest part of this game is easily its level creator. If you thought Dog on a Stick and Balloon-o-Rama's editors were restricted, this game will make you feel grounded. The editor offers maybe twenty percent of the items that are found in the actual game, if that. I understand there is a line that needs to be drawn in order to keep it simple enough for kids, but that doesn't mean we can only have three of the possible enemies in the actual game, or not have multiple cavern levels. You also can't have proper portals; if you put down more than two, the portals will just be random. This is something that seriously could have used major work, and it's a shame considering what the levels in the actual game provide.
Jeremy Soule is back once again for the music, and while I don't know if I can say this is my favorite soundtrack of his, it's still a dang amazing one. It's a fairly needed one as well, since the level backgrounds don't exactly provide a clear picture of where you are -- the music has to do a lot of the work, and it does it really well. It's catchy and fits the environment beautifully, with a pirate-y theme for the ship hold, a creepy eerie theme for the dark cave, and a bright cheery theme for the lighter set. It's just another thing to enjoy for the ride.
The Bad(every time I write this section I have more and more trouble coming up with a joke)
The Bottom LineOn the whole, it's easily one of the best Junior Arcades and seems to be the fan favorite. While I think it's somewhat overrated in some regards, I can't deny that I would easily recommend this one at only five dollars. It's addictive and well designed, and is one of the few that manages to keep your attention so well.
For such a fantastic spin-off, it's absolutely amazing how the next one we'll be looking at from the same series manages to be so forgettable by sheer comparison.
(Up next: Freddi Fish and Luther's Water Worries)