Pushing The Limits: Town & Country II: Thrilla Surfari
sometimes a deep dive will lead to the discovery of a technical triumph, like this extreme sports platformer
No, we’ve never heard of it either, but Nick has and it pushed some limits, apparently
» Platform: NES » Developer: Sculptured Software » released: 1991
LJN isn’t a publishing outfit with a tremendous reputation. In fact, the company achieved notoriety for publishing licensed games of dubious quality during the NES era, and that reputation only became worse as Acclaim acquired the company in 1990. However, just as no publisher is perfect, none are completely imperfect, and amongst LJN’S redeeming games you’ll find a pair based on the surfboard manufacturer Town & Country Surf Designs.
Where the original game was based on the whole range of the company’s mascots, Town & Country II: Thrilla’s Surfari concentrates on just the most popular of the lot, Thrilla Gorilla. With his girlfriend kidnapped and taken to Africa by the evil Wazula, our simian hero has to ride whatever he can to complete his rescue mission, be it skateboard, surfboard or even a shark. In gameplay terms, this means navigating tricky assault courses in a sort of hybrid of extreme sports and platform game conventions.
What makes Thrilla’s Surfari stand out is its graphical achievements. Part of this is simply good work on the part of the artists, with great sprite work and wellchosen colours, but other aspects are simply good technical practice. Thrilla’s sprite is constructed in such a way as to allow him to be as colourful as possible, skirting the limitations of the NES. Backgrounds combine good art with clever tile recycling, and the developers exploit background tiles for game objects too. With a minimum of sprite flicker and speedy multidirectional scrolling, the graphics give the impression of a very polished overall product.
Of course, for all of the technically impressive graphics, Thrilla’s Surfari is only okay as a game. Level designs are interesting, but often include sections with awkward enemy placement or an inability to regain enough speed to pass a gap if momentum is lost. Desert stages are prone to nasty rock mazes, and boss fights sometimes feel like they depend more on chance than skill. That’s not to say you won’t have fun with the game – just that it’s not in the upper tier of NES games. It’s still a worthwhile diversion for anyone interested in fun but flawed games that display some admirable technical prowess.