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

Retro Gamer - - CONTENTS -

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.

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