Oscar in Movieland Review
Posted by Jon Wahlgren
Cut, cut, cut
Oscar in Movieland was originally released for Amiga computers in 1993 under the name Oscar. While its predecessor, Oscar in Toyland, was centered around Troll dolls back in the day and later shoehorned the character into the game when developer Flair lost the license, Movieland was the first straight-up Oscar game.
Like Toyland, this is essentially a platforming scavenger hunt. In order to reach the end of the stage you need to collect a varying amount of Baby Oscar statues scattered throughout. There’s a handy map on the bottom screen to give you the lay of the land, and stages can be quite large and well-designed in places. There’s a lot of stages too; the seven “worlds,” which are loosely based on genres like sci-fi, cartoon and, uh, game shows, each include three stages to explore. You can tackle them in any order as well via the game’s hub world. Unfortunately the graphics make actually navigating the place a frustrating process in trial and error.
While the psychedelic backdrops of the first game have been nixed in favor of more detailed (and quite pleasant) sprite art, there is still a problem with not being able to distinguish the background from the playing field. Enemies are nigh-impossible to avoid without prior knowledge of their placement or by intense concentration on the playing field. Not knowing what’s a platform and what’s background can be very misleading at times, resulting in many a death from accidentally leaping into a pit. A few times we came across sections of stage that we were able to walk on only to have them straight-up disappear below our feet with no prior warning, eliciting the mixed confusion and anger that Wile E. Coyote must feel on a daily basis. These problems were there in the first game and it’s very annoying that they’re still here for the sequel.
And then there’s the matter of Oscar himself, who is a pretty obnoxious hangover from a gaming era whose sins included forcing ‘tude into characters. He’s just not very likeable, and for a mascot-driven game it’s kind of a problem when you can’t stand the mascot. Trolls are charming because they’re intentionally ugly and have roots in mythology; Oscar just looks stupid.
The save system is best described as puzzling. You can’t save when in a world and instead are only able to while in the main hub. The problem is that players aren’t on an Amiga anymore, and not being able to save unless you either beat three (occasionally lengthy) stages while on the go isn’t always a viable solution and there really isn’t a good reason for this. Not a big deal if you primarily play at home for long periods of time, but it kills short-burst sessions that portables are so good for.
Your mileage may vary on Oscar’s second outing. There’s a decent core game here, but the graphical issues of the first game are still intact and frustrating, and the save system might drag things down depending on how and where you tend to play. The 800 point price tag would be easier to justify had it been on Virtual Console (or if there were some sort of Virtual Handheld), but as a DSiWare release our expectations are higher since games are not intended to be a static snapshot of a bygone gaming era. As it is now, it's still a slightly broken, average game on the higher end of the pricing tier. That's not a great place to be.