Originally released as Trolls in 1992 for the Amiga, Super Nintendo and PC, Oscar in Toyland is a remake of what many consider an Amiga gaming classic. The game combines platforming with a “scavenger hunt” game mechanic which challenges the player to find a certain number of “baby Oscars” per level.
The game begins with the titular character standing in a long hallway of different doors which lead to the different game worlds: think of an extremely primitive, 2D version of Peach’s Castle in Mario 64 and you’re not too far off. The game gives no introduction as to what you’re actually supposed to do so it’s up to the player to enter the first world, Candyland. It’s advisable to read the included instruction manual, as there is no in-game tutorial on controls and no information on what each power-up actually does. Each of the game worlds has a different theme ranging from the aforementioned Candyland to a world based on media with newspaper scenery and appropriate enemies to match. It seems as though the game may have been given a slight update since it’s original release in terms of the levels as Media Land featured iPod-like platforms for the player to climb on.
One of the things that really makes this game standout is how bright and colourful each world is and at times this isn’t a particularly good thing. Some of the game’s levels are pleasing and genuinely quite detailed and vibrant: however, some of the game’s more colour intensive levels such as featured in Candyland and Fable Land are a little bit too intense. Seizure-inducing intense, even. Furthermore, some of the game’s backdrops are simply psychedelic gradients of colour that really do add to the overall nausea-inducing vibe that this game gives off at times. Besides the visual discomfort this can cause it can also interfere with gameplay, as at times it is hard to work out what is a jumpable platform and what is part of the backdrop. At the time of its original release I’m sure the bright colours impressed the gaming masses, but in this day and age colour alone does little to impress. It should be noted that some levels are really quite nice; it’s just a pity that this isn’t a majority of levels.
As far as actual gameplay goes the game is reasonably solid: it’s an overall decent platformer and the added task of finding baby Oscars to complete each level is quite a nice addition to the formula, as the game could easily become quite dull otherwise. Oscar moves quite quickly and this is great for zipping around levels and jumping from platform to platform in quick succession. However, at times it is difficult to judge exactly when Oscar will stop moving and where he will land on a platform; the movement isn’t 100% accurate and this is only compounded by the visually busy levels. An addition to the DSi version of the game is the map of the level which is displayed on the touch-screen which provides a zoomed out view of the entire level. This helps to navigate the sometimes sprawling levels and avoid falling down pit holes.
Just like Mario and Sonic, Oscar has various collectibles that have both positive and negative effects on Oscar’s performance. “Speed Up Shoes” do what they suggest and allow Oscar to move quicker and jump further while conversely a “ball and chain” slows him down. A shield gives Oscar extra protection against enemies and wings allow him to fly, and there are various other items to discover which have similar positive and negative effects. Furthermore letters can be collected throughout levels that spell out either “Bonus” or “Bogus.” A bonus round consists of a level full of items that increase the player’s high score, while a bogus round challenges the player to find a certain item in the level or they lose a life.
The game has quite a steep difficulty curve and at first can seem quite difficult due to the re-spawning enemies and Oscar’s slightly tricky controls. However after the first world is completed the difficulty doesn’t really seem to increase and in fact some later levels seem much easier, in particular the underwater world which basically allows Oscar the wings power-up for the duration of the world albeit with a very slowly depreciating oxygen limit. Furthermore for every few thousand points added to the player’s high score they are awarded extra lives and continues making a game over really quite difficult to achieve!
One of the strangest things you are likely to find about the game is that it features the same audio track for every level. This is really quite odd considering the different themes for each level, and indeed it can quickly get very annoying listening to the same piece of chirpy music over and over. This is perhaps due to the original size restrictions that the game would have faced, and indeed Oscar requires only 38 blocks of memory on the DSi system. Still, a more varied soundtrack would have been nice!
To conclude, Oscar in Toyland is a fairly decent platformer which expends on the basic idea of the genre. The game packs a decent amount of content for its price-tag and, despite some dodgy controls, plays pretty well. Unfortunately the game is majorly let down by its gaudy and over-the-top presentation, with some levels being monstrously cluttered with platforms, enemies and too much going on in the background. The bright visuals which were praised at the time of its original release can only now be described as excessive. Furthermore with only one audio track to accompany each level it's hard not to feel like the game is on loop with it's all too similar gameplay and generic backdrops.
Overall, if Oscar in Toyland had been polished and updated for 2009 this could have been the DSiWare service's first big platformer. As it is, Oscar in Toyland only just manages to escape mediocrity, and yet doesn't quite fall into the "good" category.
Nice review! Got a tad confused when it said gameplay was "reasonably solid" and then claiming it barely escaped "mediocrity" at the end but the presentation and difficulty issues you mentioned cleared up any doubts. I don't think I'll be getting this when I get my DSi but it's always good to have a platformer in the catalogue nonetheless.
Ahh that is a shame. I liked the original.
So does it warrant a purchase or what?
I'm pretty sure "Oscar" and "Trolls" are different games, they just happen to look very similar. Look 'em up in the Lemonamiga database. Besides, I'm not so sure about the original being considered an Amiga classic, it already got pretty average reviews back then.
Refers Cheezy to Nintendo Life's scoring policy that can be clicked underneath every review.
6 - Not Bad
This game is not good enough to rush out and buy without doing your homework. Whilst you should approach with a degree of caution you might still really enjoy this game. A good example of a six is a lazy sequel, it doesn't innovate but it doesn't really do anything wrong. Other games with a six may be flawed in crucial areas.
Glad I waited for the review. Lucky escape.
The developer states: "The game was originally called Trolls and featured the gonky Trolls that were so popular with kids a few years ago."
Seems like just an update/rebranding rather than a separate game.
Never mind. Seems not too bad, but not worth spending your ninty points on at all. Sounds like they should have put a tad more effort into it...
Hah, interesting. Taking a closer look at both games (I actually played both myself but it's been a while), this seems to be some kind of remix comtaining elements of both games. Or probably it's just "Trolls" with the "Troll" replaced with the protagonist of "Oscar". Check this out:
Hmm, not a brilliant score, but I still quite fancy this...I love platformers and the gaudy style of the game reminds me of early 90s computer games, in a nostalgic kinda way. Might still pick it up
I'm pretty sure "Oscar" and "Trolls" are different games, they just happen to look very similar.
Yeah, so similar that all the background images of Oscar look like trolls...
@Corbie - D'oh!! I knew I forgot to check the policy >o<
Hmmmm.....actually a platformer with some degree of difficulty. That actually sounds appealing at the moment. May have to buy it.
I figured it wouldn't get any higher than a 7...
For some reason that freaky kid reminds me of Ogura. o_o
Anyway, great review, I might consider this game if it comes to America, though I would have preferred 500 points (mainly because I'm cheap ).
Too bad, I thought it would be awsome, but a 6 still is good enough for me!
I bought it, and I do love it, but I think it's because I like all the colors and the game genre... I recommend it to everyone who loves platformers!
hmmm just a 6. May still try this one, depends on what else comes out in the next few weeks that may prompt me to use my last 1100 points from my most recent points card.
i heard that this was a disaster. was it good?
I'd like to see a gameplay video, but the only one on Youtube is the trailer.
I just beat new super mario (fun game), and needed something new so I bought some points and got this piece of crap, I could have ordered a way better used game off ebay for cheaper. I dont understand why they would release something so aweful, and actually charge people more then a pound for it.
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