Judging from the title alone, I wasn't expecting much from this game. It's the sort of word you might associate with suppliers of jetting equipment or fishing tackle.
But no, this has nothing to do with either. It is an arcade game in the same genre as Bubble Bobble and New Zealand Story, and in some ways it is better than these. For a start, the graphics are fantastic - better quality than any other ST game I can remember, where every pixel looks good.
I should point out that this game dates from 1991, and this was a good year for the ST - it was at the peak and tide of it's popularity. Many of the games that came out in this year showed themselves to have had considerable effort in the sound and graphics department. Sales Curve have done well with Rodland, and if you look through their back catalogue starting with Silkworm and then running through Gemini Wing, Saint Dragon, and so on, you can see the evolution happening in their work, which is quite interesting.
Sound, Graphics & Gameplay
The improvements in sound are apparent too. A chip tune continuously plays in the background and adds to the overall feeling of quality.
Your character that surfs these platforms is a fairy from what I can make out, and looks not dissimilar to the Pokemon characters. There is a two player option as well, which is twice as much fun.
Your weapon is a wand (so that's why it's called rodland) which projects its magic about two steps in front of you, and you have some magical rainbow shoes too which allow you to build ladders... It's all explained in the introduction if you sit and watch it.
The area you play in is much like in bubble bobble: a single screen with rows of blocks that you can walk across. But here we have ladders to climb up because you cannot jump up.
What you are warding off are these cute little animals that are very well drawn and beautifully animated. Shaking your wand will either push a critter away, or by multiple shakes, you can throw them over your shoulder which reduces their energy by one. Do this three times, and they turn into prizes, which are as varied as you can imagine. Some of the critters have defences of their own, like the whales that sqirt water droplets, and the starfish with boomerangs.
Also, there are flowers to pick up on many levels which give you bonus points. If there are some which are out of reach, there are occasionally balloons which float up that you can hitch a lift on, and their are your magic ladders don't forget.
After a few rounds of platform hopping / sprite zapping, you get a boss level. These baddies are giant creatures that float around the screen and throw little critters down to you, although these don't look like baddies. The first you'll meet are the six happy crocodiles, and then I think it's the big monkey who only want to play with you, then you're whaling (contraversial), and then the acrobatic elephant who sheds tears when you zap his feet... This fairy is a nasty little bitch really.
After about an hour I started to get tired of this. I'll certainly be playing it again, but I can't imagine my interest will last for many weeks. Difficulty is not a one dimensional thing - Rodland has difficulty, but not in the best possible way. Bubble bobble was difficult yet fun because each level was a milestone, and we deperately wanted to know/remember what the next one looks like, and to learn how best to complete it using bubbles/water/sparks/extras etc. The seldom seen umberellas made the progress easier and added to the anticipation and excitement. This kept us hooked for years. The same was true for Manic Miner.
The trouble with Rodland is that it doesn't have this appeal. The inclusion of EXTRA bubbles is OK at best, and is more revealing of the developers intentions. They've missed the point by a mile: Each level feels similar to the previous, and once you've learned how to play one you can play them all. One doesn't need to use the EXTRAs, or save them up to use as a contingency, and I'm not at all interested in what level 40 or 50 looks like, and that's a shame.
Ocean replied to this game 6 months later with the third episode in the already tiring Rainbow saga, the so called "Parasol Stars". This suffered from too much colour, too many sprites, and it tasted sickly sweet in comparison to Rodland. I can't help but wonder whether Parasol Stars might have looked more like Rodland if it had been made first. I shall leave you with that thought.
Oh, and watch out for the pink worms from Dungeon master!
- Graphics: 10
- Sound: 10
- Gameplay: 7
- Overall: 8
The title screen of this colorfull adventure
The main character seems to be a fairy ... Better watch out for her rod ;-)
Fairies aren't always sweet, you know
Your weapon is a wand which projects its magic about two steps in front of you...