Once Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog made it big, video game developers and publishers everywhere seized on the idea of creating their own radical animal mascot character to star in colorful platforming games. Software Creations and Tradewest were no different, but instead of coming up with an animal with attitude, they went with a collection of animated clothes with a somewhat mild outlook on life for the 1993 Super NES adventure entitled Plok. Say hello to the eponymous Plok, the seemingly sole resident of Akrillic who spends his days relaxing at home and admiring his many flags. When one of his flags is stolen from the nearby Cotton Island, Plok sets out to retrieve it only to be duped by his nemeses, the fleas, who steal every last flag while our hero is preoccupied. Furious, Plok vows to hunt down and destroy all fleas in order to recover each and every flag. Today's installment of Beyond Beeps explores the world of Plok and its soundtrack composed by Geoff and Tim Follin starting with the title screen jam. Hit it!
Plok's soundtrack is packed with lively tunes with an emphasis on synthisizers, harmonicas, and snare-type percussion. My favorite part of the title jam kicks in right around the 0:50 mark, and while the whole thing repeats each 1:30 or so, the song actually lasts through the title screen into the game's introduction to the plot in which Plok discovers the missing Cotton Island flag. From there we go to the map screen as Plok automatically rows his way into adventure. Comparatively short and subdued, the map screen music recurs whenever Plok wanders onward to the next stage. Little time is spent on these segments, and with a single exception or so, the entire melody is seldom played before he reaches his destination.
Plok's main weapons are his powerful fists and feet of fury. Each attack sends a detached limb hurtling towards foes. The limitation is that when both of Plok's hands and feet are in motion, our hero is defenseless and — with his legs gone — must hop from place to place until he can recover them. Fortunately, limbs aren't the only offensive items in the game. Most levels contain a sparkly gift-wrapped present that contains a special costume that grants Plok temporary weapons such as boxing gloves, a shotgun, cowboy hat & six-shooters, rockets, flamethrower, and other such things. Each costume comes with its own theme song, of course. Up next are the boxing glove, flamethrower, rocket launcher, and cowboy themes.
Breaking up the run-and-jump platform levels, sometimes Plok is able to climb into a vehicle for a timed race to the finish. Reach the checkered flag before time runs out and Plok can skip the next three or four stages. Considering that Plok is a very long, difficult game that lacks passwords or battery-backed saving abilities, these races are pretty much required if one wants to finish the game. Up next is the bonus race theme, a driving, pounding beat that encourages speed above all else.
Now that we have the incidental and special themes out of the way, we can move on to the various stage background music. The same basic songs replay across many levels, and while it would have been nice for a little variety to break up the monotony, each song is rather long and has at least one memorable hook. Take a listen to the theme from the Cotton Island tutorial-type levels.
After finishing on Cotton Island, Plok returns to the beach coast of the mainland to begin his main quest set to the tones of the standard Akrillic theme.
After clearing a few levels, Plok takes a little detour to his modest home to search for his grandfather's amulet, a special object that allows him to turn the game's collectable seashells into buzzsaw fury. The amulet was lost long ago, so Plok sits down to think about where it could possibly be.
It's not long until Plok falls asleep. This leads to a dream sequence in which players take control of Grandpappy Plok in a silent movie, black and white tone set of levels that basically repeat the Cotton Island missions in style and tone (but not layout). Note the old-timey feel that takes over the soundtrack. Most of it goes to waste though, as the levels on Legacy Island only take a few seconds to complete, while the theme goes on for nearly two minutes before repeating.
Plok's dream helps him remember where Grandpappy stashed the amulet, so the main mission begins again, and it's not long until Plok continues on to the home of the fleas, the Flea Pit. The closer Plok gets to the pit, the darker and more menacing each level becomes. The first time this style shift happens is surprising, partly because of music like this Creepy Crag theme which stands out in contrast to the brighter, happier songs previously featured.
The beach a distant memory at this point, Plok makes his way into the abandoned remains of a shuttered city. Considering that nothing else in the game ever implies that anyone but Plok (and, long ago, his Grandpappy) lives on Akrillic other than the fleas and their henchmen, it leads one to wonder who used to live in this town and just why they left. Enjoy the haunting theme of the old settlement which has been, naturally, overrun with fleas.
Eventually, the only obstacle standing between Plok and the Flea Pit are a series of mountainous caverns. These levels are more vertical in nature compared to all of the levels that have come prior to these, exposing one of the game's more glaring weaknesses: Plok isn't much of a climber. Fortunately, his shortcomings do not impact the music.
The Flea Pit reuses music from earlier in the game, particularly the themes from Creepy Crag and the bonus racing levels. The pit actually pulls a bait-and-switch on the gameplay, as each level requires Plok to use one of the gimmicky vehicles to launch an assault on the last of the fleas and the vile Flea Queen. Still, we can't have an action platformer game without a thrilling boss battle theme in the soundtrack. Whenever Plok faces off against the angry creatures spread throughout Akrillic (such as the Bobbins Brothers (seen here), Pekino wizards, or the Womack Spider), the fight is set to this haunting song, sinister cackle and all:
All great soundtracks must come to an end, unfortunately, so that brings us to the end of another installment of Beyond Beeps.
(Images via MobyGames)