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Review: Wonder Dog (Mega CD)

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  • Review: Wonder Dog (Mega CD)

    In the early 1990s, a lot of platform games were introduced across multiple systems. Core Design's Wonder Dog is one such title, initially released for the Mega CD add-on for the Mega Drive (then followed by an Amiga version that is quite different due to using floppy disks and a one-button joystick), and making the era's typical use of the added space that compact discs provided. That is to say, it's a standard, solid platformer that could just as easily have been done on the base hardware, but it uses the CD-ROM add-on to provide a redbook audio soundtrack, and a cartoon short that is played when you boot the game up, which serves as an introductory sequence.

    Wonder Dog's opening short sets up the story nicely, introducing the main character as a doggy parody of Superman - a puppy (with a hairdo modelled after a Japanese "lucky poo") who was sent to Earth to save him from a threatened planet ("K-9", of course!). In this case, before he was blasted off, he was given an untested serum meant to grant super-powers and as the intro ends it's shown that this worked - and of course, that's where the game begins. In contrast to the one featured in Core Design's other Mega CD platformer of that time, Wolf Child, the intro to Wonder Dog is a bit poorly-paced, so you may not want to watch it a lot of times. It can be skipped, however, so this is not a big problem.

    Once you're past the intro and have started the game, you'll find yourself in a brightly-coloured, cartoony world with the typical level of detail that you'd expect from any decent 16-bit era platform game. It moves smoothly, and the animation is good but perhaps a little unremarkable.

    Controls-wise, Wonder Dog is somewhat similar to Super Mario Bros. - you have Jump and Run buttons, and also a separate Fire button for using Wonder Dog's bouncing Shooting Star weapon. The only quibble with the controls lies in the fact that it's possible to dig through some oddly-coloured patches of ground in order to find secrets, but it isn't at all obvious how to do so: You must hold Down on the d-pad, and press the Jump button, causing Wonder Dog to spin like a tornado and dig downwards - it probably would have made more sense to use Down in conjunction with the Fire button instead.

    The various stages in Wonder Dog are themed in different ways, but they're mostly pretty different to the usual things seen in platformers of that time, or, for that matter, now. Words cannot describe how amused I was at one point to find myself in a location by the name of "Planet Weird", which lived up to its name by greeting me not only with very suitable music, but also with strange little men descending from the sky by means of small umbrellas that had sprouted from their arses.

    Video from ColdCrimSonarExtreme on YouTube

    All that's left to say is that Wonder Dog is a pretty by-the-book platform game, of the sort where that isn't a bad thing at all - the game has a nice amount of levels and some gigantic bosses, it isn't insultingly easy, there are bonus rooms to find, the soundtrack is good and catchy, the sound effects are fun and varied, and it's well-made and fun to play.

    Image from MobyGames

    In conclusion: Wonder Dog is a solid, fun game that doesn't break any moulds, from an era where "an average game" meant exactly this, instead of "It hasn't got a 100% score, so you should avoid it".
    "No need to design a new game - just change the graphics in these few basic designs and put a picture of Indiana Jones on the box! You'll never have to think again!"
    --Jeff Minter, Llamatron Readme
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