Greendog is one of the weirdest looking characters from the 16-bit era. On the surface of it, he looks human. But then you check out his feet on the game cover, and he has two toes. You never see his eye for the floppy fringe he possesses nor do you ever see a mouth. If you look at his head a certain way, he looks like planet Saturn, with the rings surrounding it. He has 3 fingers and a thumb on both hands, massively over-sized shorts, and the weirdest looking ‘crouch’ I’ve ever seen in any game I’ve ever played. He’s weird.
And so is the game you get to play as him in. In a plot that Hollywood has never come close to replicating, the story goes like this; Greendog is surfing one day when a killer wave takes him out and he’s knocked unconscious. He wakes to find himself in what seems to be possibly an alternate version of our universe, with a pendant around his neck. Which he inexplicably is unable to remove except it’s actually cursed and as a result all animals and creatures will continue to attack him until… he travels 6 Caribbean Islands so he can find 6 pieces of an ancient treasure which, when pieced together, will lift the curse. Somehow. It’s bonkers. But fun! It never takes itself too seriously and let’s be honest with ourselves, we never played platformers for their story in the 90s.
As a platform game, it’s fairly standard fare for the genre on the surface of it but it has plenty of neat little touches to keep you interested. There’s the animation for starters which is smooth with both Greendog and the enemies all showing charm and character in the way they carry themselves. Greendog has some cool moves and is very ‘cowabunga’ about it all. That crouch though, I’ll never get my head around it. The backgrounds are all immacukately designed with amazing attention to detail. The game uses a lot of foregrounds too so you often feel more ‘there’ when playing the game. There’s plenty of parallax scrolling to enjoy with this, and despite the fact there’s some much going on on-screen at times, you’re never struggling to tell what’s what. Everything is clear and all with a certain charm. It looks excellent. I guess if I have to complain about anything’s the colour scheme, but this can’t be fixed on the Mega Drive which was notorious for it’s muddy visuals compared to the vibrant visuals that Nintendo were presenting at the time.
The audio… the music is unbearable. The opening level features this song which is so bloody repetitive it feels like the same 5 seconds looped with one slight different part that plays every 30 or 40 seconds if you’re lucky. Before the loop starts again. The sound effects aren’t much better, especially the frustrating noise that plays EVERYTIME an enemy gets freaked out by your presence and you have to endure this horrible alarm type blare go off. It’s funny the first couple of times but it becomes so regular you cringe, waiting for the next instance of it. There’s loads of animals and humans in the game, and none actually make any noises you might expect. Just that bloody airhorn sound. Check out the skateboard level when Greendog has to ride through a temple on his board, and the only sound effect you ever hear is the wings of stone birds trying to attack you. Or when he’s underwater and all you have to accompany you is the sound of bubbles every 0.5 seconds. In terms of quality, it’s as opposite to the game’s graphics as can be.
I think a lot of people who played the game will always remember the public aquarium level, where Greendog has to travel through what feels like the world’s largest public sealife centre. He needs to contend with sharks, puffer fish, and a snorkel wearing bastard dog who just won’t leave your food alone, effectively hindering your chances to regain life back. For some reason, you’ll find some fishermen seem to be dangling their hooks into the tank and you have to avoid them and their worms. You’ll see static images of people outside the tank seemingly taking it all in, and all the while that bloody dog is bouncing about looking for scraps. It’s a standout level in a game which is half great fun locations, and half bland repetitive temples. For every beach, aquarium, and subway level, there’s a temple level which never get any more fun the further you play into the game.
The game is hard. It requires some pixel-perfect jumps, and you’ll often feel robbed when you’re certain you’re about to avoid an enemy attack only to find you’ve lost another life due to that one pixel overlapping. Combat is also tricky to get used to, what with having just a frisbee to throw which can sometimes be difficult to judge the direction of, and is quite limited too. You’re screwed if you want to hit any enemy attacking from above. The skateboard levels also leave a lot to be desired and never get any better as the game progresses. The floatiness of Greendog’s movement also leaves a lot to be desired and often leads to more trouble than is necessary. On the flip-side, should you manage to complete the game, you must have balls of steel and the perseverance of a saint!
You never fully understand why the natives are attacking you, or why seemingly innocent strangers want to end your life on the subway. Why is a frisbee your method of attack? Why are there no bosses in a game which, with such style, would have probably provided some awesome end of level bad guys?? The temple totems don’t count, they’re the same in every bloody level. I guess when a game’s plot-line follows a dream-like explanation, anything goes and you can’t question it. It’s all just a bit too random at times, which is ultimately topped off by the end of game which features no boss, but a roller-skate level which feels of no import when you’re in the middle of it. Get out of this temple (again), and you’ve finished the game. Greendog can surf again with no necklace and he goes flying up into the sky while his bimbo girlfriend stands on the beach telling you your adventures have only just begun. Well listen sweetheart, it’s been 25 years now and we’ve seen no such further adventures for the greenest of dogs so unless you know something we don’t, keep your trap shut.
Despite the flaws of the game however, it’s hard to be angry with it. It’s so charming. Bizarre, but with such an odd charm about it. Greendog has no qualms with throwing his frisbee at banana throwing homeless people in the subway. He always seems to have this never-ending non physical battle with this puppy which just won’t leave him and his food alone, unless you feed it a bone of course. I also just realised after all these years that what I thought was a can of worms you can pick up is actually supposed to be a pack of French fries. Wow. Not the longest of games, and you could have been heavily forgiven for feeling short-changed when this was first released, but it’s worthy of a play-through. It’s unique, different, a challenge for first-timers, and has the greatest crouch in gaming history.
Catch me crouching @auto2112
Check out another classic Mega Drive game HERE