Review by Lagoona
A nice and colorful Climb&Run without much depth
Imagine a cruel monster would kidnap your mother and carry her away to the top of a tall tower. And to make things worse, all of village inhabitants would turn into monsters. Wouldn't you want to take out your magic rod and the magic shoes the village elder gave you so you could embark on an epic journey to defeat the monsters and rescue your mother?
Well, good thing this isn't likely to happen to you, but that's exactly the situation our hero(es) find themselves in. In Rod Land, you control the cuddly fairy Rit on her way to rescue her mom. The game is an adaptation of an arcade game and was released in Japan for the Famicom as well as in Europe for the NES by Jaleco Entertainment in 1992/93. Other ports were released for the Amiga, C64 and even the GameBoy.
The game consists of individual scenes, each taking place on one screen only, with two exclusive exceptions - these being two boss stages. Each scene is mainly built of platforms and ladders and populated with flowers, enemies and some traps. You, controlling Rit (or however you name your character) have to get through them, climb the ladders and kill the enemies. A scene can be beaten in different ways. The most straightforward way is to kill all enemies, which directly takes you to the next scene. If you take too much time, 'Meanie mode' starts, all enemies turn into fast Meanie enemies and if they kill you, this costs you a life, but it also takes you to the next scene. The best option, however, is by getting to the EXTRA game. This can be reached by collecting all flowers in a scene, which causes all remaining enemies to transform into letter-bearing creatures. If you kill these, they leave behind such a letter, and once you've completed the word EXTRA, the scene ends and you get an extra life together with a lot of points. Why this bonus is awarded to you by a beautiful, well actually a very hot-looking fairy woman, is beyond me. But who am I to complain about something like that...?
As already mentioned, you have two main items to help you on your way. While the magic rainbow shoes allow you to create your own ladder wherever you want it, the magic rod is your main weapon. You do need the ladders to dodge enemies and reach platforms, as per default settings you can't jump - and even if you activate that ability in the settings, you'll evade no enemy that way. With the rod you can zap, stun and bash around your enemies. Additionally, beaten enemies leave behind one of a selection of one-time special weapons such as rockets or 4-balls. These also greatly help in defeating remaining baddies and also in increasing your point score. If you're aiming for big points, EXTRA game is the way to go, but if you simply want to beat the game, don't overdo it. The risk of losing a life just to get one more EXTRA letter is quite big.
Appearance-wise Rod Land is a very joyful game. The levels are very colorful and everything is clearly visible, only the backgrounds often could have done with a bit more detail. All sprites, you, the special weapons and the enemies are nicely animated - only the bosses, while bigger and still well designed, look a bit flat and more static. Together with the cute graphics comes a nice soundtrack. The music score nicely carries the game and suits the level themes and situation, e.g. changes when Meanie mode starts. The sound effects are nothing spectacular but don't stand out negatively, either. This makes for a very pleasant presentation overall, even if it doesn't reach the details of the Amiga version by far.
The game's difficulty is actually not very high. Mostly. However, there are a few very nasty scenes where you can easily lose more than one life even if you're careful. There are notably the scenes with flying enemies that can do this to you. Special mention also goes to the boss levels and battles. They add a nice variety, and the last two even have some challenging jump&run sequences before the actual boss fight. Overall, don't take the game too lightly. Even with the extra lives from the sexy fairy, you only get one continue to restart where you died with three more lives, but then it's game over. No save points and no passwords.
A nice addition to the game is the two player mode. Here you can play through the game with a companion helping you, which can make the game a bit easier. Or you can adjust the settings such that you can hit each other - only stun and throw, not kill - and have fun getting on each other's nerves by keeping the other player from getting items or flowers.
Rod Land is a game that you should immediately buy if you see a PAL cartridge of it - it's that rare. You also won't regret the deal for the game itself, it's a well done and entertaining platformer. Even though difficulty is a bit uneven, mostly easy with a few almost unfair parts, one can still have good fun with it nowadays thanks to its solid gameplay and joyful presentation. However, once you've beaten all 32 scenes and the final boss, there's not much left to do, also trying to beat your highscore isn't really motivating.
Final score: 66/100 - which is rounded up for GameFAQs to 7/10.
Product Release: RodLand (EU, 12/31/93)
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