My first memory of Greendog: The Beached Surfer Dude! was seeing it at the house of one of my friends when we were young. He was an amazing guy who would pretty much perfect anything he put his mind to.
The first thing I really saw him perfect was Greendog, then later it was Ridge Racer and finally it was the electric guitar. He made the game look like a work of art. He hadn’t owned it long but he seemed to totally understand everything about how it worked and he made it look darn easy to play.
I didn’t actually own it till years and years later. I think I got a boxed copy complete for £5 from an indy game shop and in all honesty the second I saw the game it made me think of my friend. Simply put, for me that game will forever be linked to him because not only is it the first time I saw it being played, I have also never seen it being played so well anywhere else.
OK so lets start with the story. Well, the main character is called Greendog which you could probably guess from the game’s name, and he has an issue. This issue is the fact that he was surfing and then he wiped out finding himself on a beach with no surfboard in site and a strange necklace around his neck. He soon finds out that the necklace can not be removed when a ‘beach babe’ appears before his eyes and informs him that the necklace is cursed and that he will be stuck wearing it until he finds the lost parts of an ancient Aztec treasure. Without the treasure he will be stuck with the necklace unable to remove it, unable to surf and – worse than that – every single living thing in the world will attack him. OK, so in a world where so many games involve random creatures trying to kill you for no apparent reason its actually pretty interesting to have a reason given here for why your character is homicidally pursued by birds, crabs, starfish and all manner of other creatures.
OK so I want to start by talking about the game play. Greendog is a platform game. You go from left to right jumping, swinging and traversing the levels, you have a Frisbee that you can throw at enemies. The real issue with this though is not in what Greendog can do, it’s in the way Greendog controls which can best be described as sluggish. Your button presses never quiet seem to work quite how you want, or quite as fast as you want. At its worst this game can be extremely frustrating. The Greendog sprite feels like a pretty large one really and the hit detection box around him feels like it is even bigger. Add to this his bad slow-motion feeling jumps which often end in either you taking damage that you feel is unjust and can cause people to seethe with rage or even worse instant death on occasion. If you think Greendog is hard to control on land then just you wait until you get him to go underwater.
I do have to give the game some praise though for trying to break things up a bit. There are skating levels, in which Greendog either jumps on a red skateboard or puts on pink rollerblades. And then you have levels with Greendog’s pedal copter, which he uses to travel from one island to the next. In these pedal copter levels you bash the C button repeatedly to remain airborne while using the B button to use the copter’s spring-loaded boxing glove weapon to attack enemies. The game is playable and it is completable despite feeling tough, because eventually you seem to get on board with its janky controls and learn to work around them. If you just watch someone play it and don’t feel what it’s like then you’d be forgiven for thinking that its a great game as there was certainly a lot of effort put into it.
Yes, you could say that Greendog is yet another platformer on the Mega Drive – a console that certainly is not short of 2D platformers, but to its credit I think it does enough to have its own flavour and therefore stand out as its own thing. The game has its Caribbean sort of style you find yourself traversing through jungles, across beaches, exploring an aquarium, visiting a native village and other places. It’s nicely varied while also managing to keep everything connected to a central theme and I think it does this very well. Along the way you will collect items, these are usually foods such as French fries, burgers and doughnuts, but you also get power-ups which upgrade your Frisbee or give you more protection from damage.
Lastly I want to talk about Greendog’s music. In all honesty I think it is simply excellent. Much like the graphics it sticks to this Caribbean style but it also offers a wide variety of tunes. Most importantly I think what is on offer really fits the games general theme, it works well with the graphics and gives the whole package a certain degree of charm. It’s just a shame that these good things about the game are not really backed up by the gameplay.
OK so I tried this game at 50hz UK and 60Hz US and I have to say that the game is more fun at 60hz as moving that little bit faster helps the way the game feels, and the music also sounds a lot better. I did think it was a little bit easier when it was slower though I guess that’s just because it allows for you to be a bit slower in your reaction to enemies, etc.
It is kind of hard to rate this game, I mean on the one hand it is really broken in some departments, but then its full of character and it does make a big effort to break up the action. There is a lot about it I really like and also a lot I dislike. I feel that what it really deserves is a six out of 10. It’s slightly above average and there was certainly all of the stuff here that could have taken it up to classic status but there was also far to much dragging the game back down.
If you really want to play it then complete copies seem to be around the £15 mark, with loose carts being about half this much. While not exactly bad prices there are much better games you could spend your money on.