Tail 'Gator
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy
  • Developer:
    • Natsume
  • Publishers:
    • US Natsume
    • UK Natsume
    • JP VAP
  • Released:
    • US June 1991
    • UK 1991
    • JP 01/24/1992
Score: 70%

This review was published on 11/07/2016.

Tail 'Gator is a side-scrolling platform video game developed by Natsume for the Game Boy. It was originally released in North America in June 1991, Europe in 1991, and Japan on January 24, 1992. The game was published in North America and Europe by Natsume and VAP in Japan. Considering the developer, Natsume, is headquartered in Japan, it's a bit strange that the game came out in other regions first. On that note, Natsume is better known for creating the famed farming simulator game series called Harvest Moon, which first came into existence in the late 1990s. Before that, however, the company developed more traditional arcade-like games, and Tail 'Gator is one of them. This is one of Natsume's lesser known titles, even among those in the retro gaming community. There's really not a whole lot to say about Tail 'Gator itself, other than it's a decent little game. You won't be blown away by it, but if you're into simplistic platform games, then you may find some enjoyment here.

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The story is set in the peaceful kingdom of Moberry, which is inhabited by anthropomorphic animals. That peace soon comes to an end when a dragon warlord named "Basso Gila" teleports his castle and army into the animal kingdom to start a large scale invasion. Basso Gila's goal is to completely destroy Moberry. Why? Well, because he's a jerk. A meeting occurs within Moberry's council of elders to decide on what to do next. After much discussion and a little procrastination, the council elects to send in their greatest hero, a highland alligator known simply as Charly, to deal with the invasion. Can a single alligator stand against an entire army? The answer to that question and more can be found by playing this here game. None of the plot is explained within the game itself, so you'll have to consult with the manual to learn this top secret information. That's how it should be.

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Despite its title, this game isn't about tailgating. Instead, you control Charly as he ventures forth into the great unknown. The directional pad moves Charly and the A button makes him jump. His jumps and walking speed are rather slow, so controlling the little alligator takes some getting used to. When in water, Charly can swim in any direction that's pressed on the d-pad, making him quite adept at aquatic movement. He's an alligator, after all. Lastly, the B button causes him to do a cute little tail whip. That tail whip is Charly's best friend, as it's his main method of attack. It's got very limited range by default, but it's good enough to get the job done. Charly's health is represented by hearts at the top of the screen. He starts out with five of these but can get up to seven by collecting hearts in the environment. Aside from his overall sluggishness, Charly controls well enough.

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Every stage is divided into countless rooms. The objective of each room is to unlock the way forward by finding a key, which is located in a nearby treasure chest. It takes a few tail whips to break open a chest and each room is absolutely littered with them. Finding chests is never really a problem, though, because they're always in plain sight. Additionally, the key is always in the last chest you open, so you essentially must open every single last one of them. That's the whole game in a nutshell. Due to the delightful little "clang" noise, breaking chests is initially incredibly satisfying. However, considering you do it several times per room, it does get old pretty fast. You know what? I'm also getting old pretty fast.

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In all the treasure chests that don't contain keys, there will be random goodies instead. These goodies include hearts that refill Charly's health or extend it, bonus point granting balls that increase their reward every time Charly grabs them without being hit, bombs that instantly kill every enemy on the screen, and special items labeled with a P that increase Charly's offensive capabilities when enough are collected. That last one is of particular importance, because once enough of these mysterious P items are gathered, Charly will be able to shoot projectiles out of his tail. The projectiles do the same amount of damage as his standard tail attack, but they have much greater range, making them much greater. Charly only gets a limited amount of these projectiles to shoot, but collecting more of those P items will give him more ammo. This power-up mechanic is simple, yet effective.

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There are four stages, or as the game refers to them, "areas." The first three areas are further broken down into four sections each. The sections are usually arranged based on environmental themes, such as the sky portion being placed at the top, the land segment being below that, the caves being below the land, and the underwater section being placed at the very bottom. The game is ever so slightly nonlinear in that you can do the sections in any order, but all sections must be done one way or another, plus each individual section is linear. Area four is completely linear, though. Occasionally, there will be a simple boss at the end of a section, and some areas have more than one boss. All of the game's varied environments look nice, and the music is decent, too. However, the same environments and music tracks get recycled all the way up to the final area, which is a bit lazy.

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In addition to different layouts, every room typically contains within it a number of obstacles. Obviously, the underwater sections are submerged in water, whereas the sky sections have cloud platforms that you'll slowly sink through. Sometimes multiple gimmicks will be used inside a single section. The real obstacles are the enemies, however. Most enemies die in two hits, and all of them will come back to life after a short while. This gets quite irritating later on, because rooms will contain swarms of enemies and there's no way to permanently be rid of them. Four digit passwords can be used to start back from where you last left off in the event that you die to the onslaught of foes, which is nice.

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It may not be the greatest thing ever, but Tail 'Gator is still all right. The game is kind of repetitive, but it's short enough for that to not be too big of a deal. There are certainly better titles on the Game Boy out there, but this one isn't bad if you go into it with the right expectations. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go drink some Gatorade. See you later, alligator.

Word Count: 1,135

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