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Games time forgot: Rolo to the Rescue

4:20 PM on 03.04.2009 // Ashley Davis

Many times, videogames are forgotten for fairly logical reasons. Among those are the games of the past that are left behind due to their intentionally childish content. As the main demographic of gamers grow older, it is only natural that titles like Barney's Hide and Seek Game (which is admittedly a bad example, as I did not enjoy the game even as a child) can not and do not hold up. This is simply because most of us no longer want or need games that teach us basic education, have giant, friendly looking sprites, or holds our hands through the process.

This week's Forgotten Game looks like a children's game, sounds like a children's game, and, initially, plays like a children's game. However, its story is somewhat different than most other games that have been outgrown and left behind. Read on to learn more about Rolo to the Rescue, a game that may have been forgotten even if it wasn't marketed toward children.

Story: A cruel circus ringmaster has trapped all of the cute animals in the world with the intention of using them in his shows. He has left them in cages to be collected later on, and has entrusted his minions with the keys to his cargo. However, he missed the one animal that has the know-how to free all the others: Rolo the Elephant.

It is up to Rolo to rescue every single one of his animal friends by defeating enemies, collecting keys, and enlisting the help of previously freed animals to progress through all of the areas. He will ultimately face the ringmaster himself to free his mother, who was trapped and taken away first.

Gameplay: Rolo to the Rescue is a platformer/puzzle game not unlike The Lost Vikings, although it is much less deep. You will start out each level with only Rolo in your control. He can jump on most enemies, with dangerous looking objects (porcupines, bombs, etc.) being obvious exceptions. There are also a few power ups that will grant the elephant various attacks and powers. Tall enemies, known as McSmileys, are the ones you will need to pounce on to find keys. You will need one key for each cage.

There are four types of animals that you will rescue throughout the game: rabbits, squirrels, moles, and beavers. After being rescued, the animals will follow Rolo and will act as playable characters. You can switch between Rolo and the other animals through the pause menu. Each one has a special talent that can help Rolo reach places he could not go alone. The rabbit can jump extraordinarily high, the squirrel can climb walls, the mole can dig tunnels, and the beaver can swim across large bodies of water.

A simple example of a puzzle in Rolo to the Rescue involves using beavers to help your party cross water. No other animal, including Rolo, can swim, much less touch the stuff. If you come to a large body of water, you can switch to a beaver and swim to the other side, where you will normally find a raft. You can then activate the raft so that it will float back to pick the other animals up.

The player will need to carefully use the talents of each animal to help Rolo get to other cages and the end of each level. Only three animals can follow Rolo at a time, and if a fourth is picked up, one of the others will leave the group. Because of this, you sometimes have to be careful about who you choose to set free first, as you run the risk of losing a potentially useful animal on one that will get you nowhere.

Once you clear an area of trapped animals, you will fight a boss and move on to the next area. There are also bonus levels to find, where there are points, power ups, and sometimes even more animals to rescue.

Why you're probably not playing it: As cutesy as the game appears to be, the graphics and childish name are not the sole reasons why this title has been forgotten, although they are most likely a reason why those who were not introduced to the game early on would never pick it up now.

The truth is that Rolo to the Rescue is one of the most incredibly difficult titles to have ever been marketed toward children. For starters, there are 70 levels in all and no save feature. The puzzles are not mind-bendingly hard, but the game is long and it can be a challenge to find everything. Even worse, the game begins to lose its charm as the player nears the end. The puzzles become almost nonexistent, making animals merely useless items to collect. If you are determined to finish the whole game, you have to either go through the entire thing at once or leave your Sega Genesis on constantly and pray that no one trips over the cord.

Then there is the issue of fully completing the game. In order to do so, you not only have to rescue all of the animals scattered throughout the main levels, but must also have to find all of the bonus levels (which also have trapped animals) and see them to completion. Some of them are hard to find and require some backtracking to earlier levels. Once found, they can be even harder to traverse due to bad level design. There is also the added difficulty of only being able to enter some bonus levels once. If you mess up or leave an animal behind in one of them, you will never have another chance until you start a new game.

One of the biggest testaments to the game's harshness is its bad ending. If you can finish the game without losing or missing any animal friends, you will get a heartwarming good ending that seems to be appropriate closure for a child's game. However, this is the ending that most children saw:

If I had ever finished the game as a kid, this ending would have made me drown myself in tears.

The breaking of children's hearts aside, the first few areas of Rolo to the Rescue are very much worth playing through today for their neat puzzle mechanics. It is an obscure title that some seem to love regardless of its graphics, difficulty, and heart wrenching ending. The big, colorful characters may make you feel a little silly now that you are older, but it's a good bit of fun that even adults can enjoy. Under the game's sickeningly cute exterior lies a rather challenging experience.

Ashley Davis,
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