HIDDEN GEMS VOL. 6: Rolo to the Rescue (Mega Drive)

Rolo to the Rescue is an intriguing one for me, and maybe I’m kidding myself here, but I’m convinced that I am the only person on the planet who still thinks about this game when platforming games are discussed. It’s such an oddity where the 16-bit generation was concerned, and I want to go about this ‘Hidden Gems’ piece a little differently here. I am not researching the game beforehand. I’m not watching any videos, I’m going simply on my memories from what I believe to be about 24 years ago. I had to have been playing this game when I was 8 for sure. I am pretty sure of this because it caused a ‘situation’ between me and another kid in school who I had lent the game to, and he proceeded to let his rabbit have its bucky teeth with the case. Which is funny as one of the characters you play as in the game IS a high jumping bunny.

I believe I owe this game this kind of article because I think it says a lot when you can still remember so much from something you haven’t experienced in more than 20 years. I remember the music. The game cover stands out in my mind still, I even remember the great cameo from a very well known mascot of the 16-bit gen who has since sadly been forgotten about. Something about this game just clicked with me in a way that not many other games do. At the end of the article I’ll finally list some facts that I’ll have researched once I’m done and dusted.

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That is ONE loaded trunk

I remember the titled hero of course, Rolo. Rolo is an elephant who has been held captive for years, performing in a circus for an evil ringmaster. The ringmaster disrespects and mis-treats the animals he uses in his act, and after Rolo escapes, he decides to do the right thing and rescue all his compadres. Strangely enough, this consisted of a rabbit, a beaver, a squirrel, and… a badger? I think? Hardly circus creatures, but that’s what the game gave you. Hence the name Rolo to the Rescue!

Rolo would travel along a map which was actually fashioned out of an incomplete jigsaw, the pieces of which you earned whilst playing through each level. I am sure you earned these by defeating human enemies that looked like the ringmaster, and who carried keys with them. Earn enough keys and you unlocked each next area of the level, ultimately unlocking the next jigsaw piece at the end. The map would open up further and further, and the game starts off in a forest. I can’t remember any other area though there’s definitely other variants. No doubt an ice area, desert, the usual staples in your average platformer. I DO remember one other area which is where you come across the excellent cameo I mentioned earlier but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who might play the game after reading this, especially as the area was a very well hidden part of the game which took some figuring out to access.

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A squirrel trying to save his friends whilst being attacked by an angry cactus. Yesterday.

Now, Rolo would save these creatures by finding them in cages. Some had locks which… actually, you may have unlocked these cages from the guys I mentioned before. Ok, well some had locks, some didn’t, but they all opened up and you could then swap between Rolo and the creatures you’d freed. The rabbit jumped high, the squirrel could scale any surface, the beaver was the only one who could traverse water and I have to imagine the badger would dig to places the others couldn’t access… was there a badger?? Ah man, I’m sure there was, it makes sense with this kind of game! The levels were laid out in very clever ways insomuch as you felt good having figured out where each animal was supposed to be utilised. I remember some puzzles being really difficult for my little 8 year old brain to figure out, and it wasn’t helped by the fact that some of the platforming was unfairly difficult.

The controls took some getting used to. Rolo as an elephant shouldn’t feel like he’s jogging round on an ice-rink coated in butter, but he does. It can make certain jumping sections an absolute nightmare and it’s a little bizarre considering that the other animals don’t handle so badly. In fact, once you unlock the rabbit, you’ll not want to go back to controlling Rolo, despite how cute he is with his little round eyes and constant smile.

He's a lumberjack and he is NOT OK

He’s a lumberjack and he is NOT OK

The whole game otherwise reeks of quality. The soundtrack is beautiful, if a little repetitive. The game looks fantastic for its time, with vibrant colours and it comes with a very unique look when compared to other platformers of the time. Oh! I think I just remembered who developed it! EA?? I’m sure the game was on one of those awesome EA cartridges that had the little weird yellow square bit in the top-left hand corner of the cart. Those cartridges were excellent, so chunky and you felt like you were getting your money’s worth based solely on their size and weight!

I definitely completed the game. I definitely remember a sense of satisfaction from completing what I remember to be a very difficult game. I don’t remember any bosses, but surely there must have been considering the style of the game. I reckon there was probably about 60 levels, think Super Mario World length. And why didn’t the game stand the test of time? The 16-bit era was filled with platform games, god rest their soul, and if you didn’t have an easily marketable mascot for it, it was going to struggle. Sonic was a fast hedgehog, Zool was a ninja ant, Greendog was… actually, no-one knows what the hell that guy was. Rolo was simply an elephant with no specific traits other than a heart of gold. And considering Dumbo is THE elephant, if you don’t jazz up your trunk owner, you’re going to have a hard time getting the word out there, and it’s a shame because this is an excellent game that deserves more pundits. Give it a try if you want to try a drastically different platformer of the best gaming generation there’s ever been.

Ah go on then, have the colour photograph as well

Ah go on then, have the colour photograph as well

AFTER RESEARCHING…

  • Ok, so I did pretty well on just my memory alone. The game was published by Electronic Arts, but developed by a company known as Vectordean who developed the classic James Pond 2: Codename Robocod and its prequel.
  • It wasn’t a badger but a mole! Easy mistake I think. I at least got the digging bit down here!
  • Watching Youtube videos make me think I was wrong about how loosely the game controlled… Rolo looks to be fairly stable to be honest. Maybe I just found it difficult myself, and maybe actually wasn’t that hard and it was just me being a bit useless.
  • It was released in 1992 in Europe so I nearly hit the nail on the head with the age I would have been playing this game.
  • It apparently wasn’t just me who loved the game either, as Mega magazine listed it as 31st best Mega Drive game of all time, and MegaTech magazine gave it an 89% rating.

I like to think that this shows a lot about the game, at least where I’m concerned; the memories I hold dear have stood the test of time and despite not having played it in over 20 years, I STILL remember the little things that matter. The fun I gained from the game was immense and at a time when Sonic and Mario were ruling the roost, this little normal elephant and his friends somehow garnered my attention enough for me to lose myself in its tricky world and have me complete the whole thing. Great memories until some little red-haired kid’s rabbit destroyed my case. Bloody rabbits.

Follow Carl on Twitter ; @auto2112

Rolo to the Rescue can be played on the BLAZE TAB, JXD and GPD XD which are available to order from www.funstockretro.co.uk. You can even save 5% on your order by using the discount code NEWS5.




  • I was just thinking about this game a while back! I missed it the first time around, so tried playing for the first time. The graphics and large gameworld look superb, both for the time but holding up even now: I think this game was made near the end of the Megadrive/Genesis’ life, and if I’m correct in that, then the mastery of the hardware of the time really shows here.

    However, without the benefit of nostalgia I found the game really difficult to get into the same way I suspect I would have, had I played as a teenager. “Ice-rink coated in butter” feels pretty darn accurate, the field of view is surprisingly limited, and you die in one hit – not a fun combination. Plus 60 levels and no save feature! Really wanted to love Rolo, but just couldn’t stop wishing for the modern convienences.

    …and yet I’ll still glady replay Sonic the Hedgehog – despite it really having most if not all the same flaws (a limited view with moving really fast, how did that ever work?). Nostalgia is a hell of a drug.

    • It was not created near the end of the Genesis era though. Mega Drive was first introduced in 1989 in North America and 1990 in Europe, This game was created in 1992 and the Mega Drive Genesis was discontinued in 1997! 🙂
      And yes, it was hard after 10-15 levels or so. I remember i got stuck in a desert area because i could not reach a platform and died trying. it’s more of a ‘trial and error’ game but i think you had very limited lives/continues so “game over” could make you rage at times as you had to start completely over 🙂 It is a great concept i must say but as mentioned, the limited lives/continues was a flaw. BUT, With an emulator you can actually save it anytime so it makes it alot more forgiving 😀
      And indeed… Nostalgia is a hell of a drug! 🙂

  • A few “mistakes” i must say but not bad 😀 A few addons to your conversation and how it works.
    Each character had its own ability to find secrets and puzzle pieces. In each level that ringmaster walked (mostly close to the end of the level) with the key and you obtain it by jumping his head. After that you backtrack to places where you passed cages to save your buddies and use their abilities to find the puzzle pieces to advance in the world map. Only Rolo could open cages if i remember correctly.
    The levels are very small so that was a nice thing for variation and it also didn’t made it a drag to backtrack! 🙂
    I also loved this game and probably in my top 10 or even top 5 Mega Drive titles! if they release this on Steam i’d buy it in a heartbeat but hopefully it can get patched with a save system.