Since its appearance on store shelves, Nintendo's Wii has become head target of any port that publishers can throw at it. From the heights of the Playstation 2 catalogue with gems such as Okami and Bully, to the lows of the Xbox 360 backlog of Rockstar Table Tennis, it seems the opportunity for a quick buck is never wasted. Yet you have to admire Neko for altering the rules a little, with a WiiWare showing of Cocoto Platform Jumper, originally a Gamecube and PS2 release. Has the move to digital distribution added another shocker to the WiiWare library, or has it given light to a lost classic?
Platform Jumper opens to a scene of Cocoto, the little fire imp that looks like a Kentucky-fried Gollum, relaxing and lazing around with his friends in a place know as the abyss; no doubt knackered out from the kart racing and fishing he's been doing in other Neko games. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, in swoop the winged minions of Zaron, the Lord of Lightning, to steal away his Cocoto's friends. In a typical gaming cliché, you must take control of Cocoto and save your friends. The story isn't a huge winner, but since there's so very little focus on it here anyway, it doesn't matter.
Upon seeing the startup screen and main menu, you may be reminded of Ubisoft's Rayman games, as the setting and music feel very similar. Gameplay itself is not far removed from the Limbless Wonder's own endeavours either, as you are presented with 40 vertically-scrolling levels to beat, and 5 bosses to best, all presented in 3D on a 2D plane. Your goal is to reach the top of the platform-tower by jumping, taking advantage of checkpoint faeries, and using a few limited powers of your own to get past floating platforms and other hazards. Defending you from certain death is a fruit collecting system that echoes the rings mechanic of Sonic; take a hit and you lose all you're carrying, take another and you're history. This can be a nuisance, however, as your supply is not replenished upon revival, and further fruit is only collected from beaten enemies. This would not usually be too much of a problem, but the enemies do not respawn after your death, meaning that you have to traipse further to gain your protective barrier, leading to frustrating and cheap fatalities.
To help ward against the many enemies in your way, Cocoto has a few tricks to use. A press of the B button will shoot out a half-pipe-shaped lava arch (not unlike the main character's power in Rainbow Island); this ability is your main leverage, as you can use it to build bridges, get a jumping boost, or to attack and trap enemies with. Make sure you base it on a solid piece of ground, though, or else it'll crumble beneath you! A shake of the Wii remote allows you a little spin, which in all honesty is rather useless since you have to be incredibly close to a foe for it to register. Rounding off the trifecta of offensive moves is the fire dart, thrown with a press of the Z trigger - a very useful move for projectile enemies. A, of course, handles the jumping, and while it's nice to see the double-jump move as standard for once, the response on-screen does feel a little detached. There really is little in the way of complaints on the control-mapping side of things, but after trying them, you won't be able to shake the notion that it all feels a little…forced. Platform Jumper doesn't use the Wii remote and nunchuk for anything beyond what a traditional controller is capable of, and yet they are your only control option for this game. Even the pointer, so often used as a menu selector at the lowest level of functionality, is ignored.
Although Platform Jumper sounds fairly limited in concept, as all 40 levels consist of a climb to the top, Neko have injected a good bit of variety into what you interact with and see. Each of the five main worlds takes after a specific theme - fire, water, and nature chief among them - and each level features obstacles and hurdles relative to that theme. You'll be going up against monkeys wearing glasses and moving totem poles in the jungle world, and dealing with fireball-spitting minions in the fire world (which raises the interesting question of why Cocoto isn't immune to his own powers…). Each end-of-world boss has a different pattern to memorize and overcome, with a certain gorilla being the most perplexing.
Your main task in each level is to reach the top, but there is another goal to consider; along the way there are multiple-coloured gems to collect, each yielding points. Dispatching enemies via different methods and finishing the level with life-meter fruit intact are also ways to bump up the score meter - getting you closer to a place on the game's high score chart, plus a go at a gem-infested special stage if enough points are collected. The leaderboard isn't online-enabled, but it's not a bad addition for life span's sake, as the main game itself is relatively short, and beatable in less than a dozen hours even on a harder difficulty.
There are some multiplayer modes; a two player battle mode featuring rival Cocotos fighting it out with power-ups, and up to four players can charge to the top of platform towers in the race mode. These are handy for a little time-wasting, and can be good fun with others in small bursts, but they don't help lower the amount of space that Platform Jumper takes up on Wii memory - a bloated 300 blocks. The 700 point cost required for Cocoto fits the bill much more than a regular WiiWare tag would, and for a 'My First Platformer' situation, or a 'take the plunge' initiative, this would be a considerable choice. Those with fond memories of Rainbow Island might find its spiritual successor in Platform Jumper.
Fun and unusual at its core. The controls are easy to grasp, but sadly they do not extend beyond what would be possible with a traditional controller. Enemies and the health system can be unfair at times, but that challenge helps pad out the longevity.
In the upper echelon of WiiWare efforts, with flashy and authentic element worlds and environments.
Forgettable tunes back the levels, and enemies provide that extra aura of menace with grunts and squeals. The checkpoint faeries may grudgingly remind players of distant Navi days.
A short game at its core, lengthened with difficulty challenge and basic but fun multiplayer additions. The Nintendo Points value feels just right here.
Not a game anyone will have been pining for since its release announcement, yet not something you'll lament stumbling onto. Platform Jumper doesn't bring anything remotely new to the table, nor use the Wii's controller to the fullest, but it does provide a fun platformer for the younger crowd to get started with, and the rest of us to enjoy for a few hours.