Chuck Rock (Amiga) | Retro Review

Developed by:Core Design
Published by:Core Design
Format played:Amiga / Mega Drive

How much rock would a Chuck Rock chuck if a Chuck Rock could chuck rock? And did I review this just to make that awful joke? Um, maybe.

From our friends at Core Design, responsible for both the good an the bad of video gaming history, Chuck Rock is a side-scrolling action platfomer and a game that very much epitomises early-90s gaming. Laced with humour, you must help Chuck rescue his beloved Ophelia, carried off to his cave by the nefarious Garry Gritter (erm…).

Yes, we are knee deep in torturous pun territory here. Rest a-saured though that we at VG Almanac are professionals and you’ll find no such resort to cheap humour here. We don’t cobble these reviews together you know, we grit our teeth, leaving no stone unturned in our pursuit of the grains of gaming truth.

Despite originating on the Amiga, and despite this being where my strongest memories of the game reside, the Mega Drive version is far superior. Whilst graphically they are on a par, Sega’s console pips the Amiga version not only with variable music in each stage but by virtue of having more than one button. It seems crazy looking back that the majority of Amiga games were built around the limitations of a single fire joystick, meaning that in games like this, where the fire button was required for throwing boulders or other interactions, the only resort was to use ‘up’ to jump. It makes control a cumbersome affair as you have to wrestle with the stick just to execute a simple manoeuvre. Freed from these shackles by assigning jumping and action to separate buttons, the Mega Drive version by contrast becomes a breeze to control and allows you to focus purely on the gameplay.

Whichever version you plump for, you’re bound to have a pretty groovy time. There is nothing especially sophisticated here; levels are simple in their construction with little in the way of exploration or hidden areas and Chuck’s rather generous proportions don’t allow him the spritely moves of a Titus the Fox or Harlequin. What it lacks in technical innovation though it more than makes up for in creativity and humour.

You see, Chuck Rock isn’t just a name, it’s a description. Can’t reach that fruit-packed ledge over there, so temptingly just out of reach? Pick up a boulder and place it underneath, giving you the extra height you need to make the jump. Crawling beast or deadly brambles blocking your path? Lob a boulder on top of them and step safely across. Irritating bird flying overhead and sapping your energy or off-screen avalanche resulting in a continual torrent of deadly rubble tumbling over the platform ahead? Hold a rock over your head like a stone umbrella and stride through care free. Need to reach a higher ledge to progress, one so high that even a boulder to stand on won’t do the job and at a complete loss as to how to proceed but wondering why there is a seesaw shaped crocodile rather conveniently situated at the bottom of the wall? Grab a boulder, stand on one end, chuck the rock on the other and watch amazed as you are flung up and away!

These neat touches abound throughout. In fact the tone is set right from the outset with a cracking piece of intro ‘rock’ music. As Chuck languidly strolls through the levels, various prehistoric pests line up to halt his progress. Staying true to form, his method of attack is either a front kick or, if you are close enough, a belly barge, which soon sends the critters scurrying. Some parts of the level require a bit of help to travail though and so luckily Chuck can rely on the assistance of a giant bird to lift and fly him across gaps, or climb on the back of a friendly brontosaurus to cross the perilous rivers.

With only a handful of levels and a degree of repetition, Chuck Rock certainly doesn’t provide a long term challenge, good players probably able to roll the thing over inside of an hour. That said, my initial playthroughs were exercises in frustration, constantly losing health to the array of critters or clumsily stumbling into energy sapping obstacles, my scant supply of health and lives quickly used up. Pretty soon though, I discovered the rhythm of the game and a lot of my early frustration ebbed away. In line with Chuck’s dad-bod physique, this isn’t a Sonic-esque speedrun, rather you need to take a bit of time, keep an eye on your surroundings, make use of the environment and progress soon follows. Similarly the end of level bosses are reasonably straightforward fare, easily dispatched with kicks or rocks.

Simple stuff then but good old fashioned platforming fun and a nice change of pace from other platformers of the time. A sequel would follow in 1993, Son of Chuck unsurprisingly focused on the antics of Chuck Jr who now has to rescue his dear old dad.

Unga bunga!


5 Stars

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