102 Dalmatians: Puppies to the Rescue – PlayStation
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Release Date: November 8, 2000
Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10
When it feels like the odds are stacked against you because newer games have left you felt defeated, perplexed, or unsure of your skills, it’s nice to take a step back and journey into some nostalgic games to remember where your passion for gaming originated. For me, a certain game called 102 Dalmatians: Puppies to the Rescue was my God. The game seduced me for hours on end when I was a child, and when I finally beat it, the world felt like it made sense for the first time. I loved that game and it loved me back. Fast forward a few years later to when my fiancee brought home a copy of Puppies to the Rescue and a PlayStation… and a GameCube… some GameCube games… an N64… some N64 games… and a receipt that had over a $300 total on it (I’m not kidding, that actually happened). Obviously, I was stoked to re-visit the game that had given me such joyous childhood memories However, a few questions popped into my brain:
1. Does the game still hold up by today’s standards?
2. Will the game be too easy now that I’m an experienced gamer? Or is it so easy that it insults the intelligence of children?
3. Didn’t Frankie Muniz voice the character of Domino?
So I began my playthrough right away.
The game begins with a lengthy cut scene showcasing our two playable main characters (which you can switch between anytime) Oddball and Domino. Puppies run amok around the house while our two canine heroes complain about their boredom while watching TV. When a commercial break ensues, Oddball and Domino decide to go digging in he back yard. While digging by a tree,
Oddball finds an ugly doll representative of Cruella De Vil, our fur-loving, cigarette-smoking, wickedly fashionable villain. Domino explains to her that it was part of a line of low-quality toys that Ms. De Vil was producing. And, of course, this segues into Cruella’s office, where the plot becomes recognized. Since the toy sales are suffering immensely, Cruella formulates a plan to kidnap puppies, drown them in a super glue-type concoction and sell them as realistic animal toys. I would say that that premise is a tad bit dark for Disney, but since Cruella’s intentions in the original 101 Dalmatians were to skin the pups alive to make a fur coat, I think the dark humor joke has created itself.
Oddball and Domino come back inside the house to see that all of their brothers and sisters have been kidnapped by Cruella De Vil’s henchman while they were in the backyard. The pups’ parents, Dottie and Dipstick, decide to go after Cruella, warning Oddball and Domino to stay home and not go after them. Naturally, they decide to also go out and help recapture their siblings despite their parents’ pleas. And so the game begins.
With the story being fleshed out once more in front of my adult eyes, it was safe to answer my first question. Yes, the game still holds up. Quite nicely, in fact. The graphics are, of course, flawed and outdated, but that’s a given especially when it comes to the first PlayStation. If we can forgive Lara Croft’s triangle boobs, then we can certainly forgive this:
Regardless of the triangular graphics and predictable story line (What else was Cruella going to do? Join PETA and undermine their superiors so she could convert it into a massive animal-killing cult? Oh wait… ) the game is still pretty damn entertaining and most importantly, it is fun.
So what’s the gameplay like? Very standard, really. Don’t expect anything like combination/up-gradable attacks. The two attacks used during the whole game are barking and tumbling. Bark, tumble, bark, tumble, tumble, bark. It sounds mundane and boring, but, the entertainment factor is in the variation of environments and how the attacks are used, not with variety in the attacks themselves.
The level designs are done fairly well and creatively, with puzzle-solving, timed puzzles, and some enemies. The enemies being Cruella’s evil toys which vary from remote-control cars that reciprocate Cruella’s evil laugh while it chases you, and cymbal-clashing monkey, a bopper toy that resembles Horace, a teddy bear that is way too trigger happy with his water pistol, an evil toaster that launches delicious toast at you, etc. Even though the toys sound like they would be bad ass in real life, those suckers can do some significant damage to your puppy. Not to mention a certain Jack-in-the-Box reminds me of Sweet Tooth, which is the womb that nightmares are conceived in.
In addition to those baddies, every couple of levels or so, Oddball or Domino must have a special one-on-one battle with one of three of Cruella’s henchman: Jasper, Horace, or La Pelt. Try and guess which one is French. Luckily, there are other furry friends to help you temporarily get rid of the henchman so you can complete the level. The puppies can recruit the help of a squirrel named
Fidget, Manny the groundhog, or Yvonne, the bat who obviously has a smoking problem but claims it’s her allergies that are bothering her, as well as several other friendly animal muses.
Often, a game geared towards a younger audience will have an annoying, repetitive soundtrack, but not Puppies to the Rescue. Every level has its own composition that matches the mood of the level and it’s very breezy, upbeat, and catchy. I still get the songs stuck in my head after 14 years.
There are more sweet incentives as well. Every level has 100 bones that can be found or dug up by sniffing around, six puppies locked in crates that can be busted open, and plenty of other secrets and goodies. The game keeps a “sticker book,” a creative way to keep track of your progress by adding a sticker for every achievement earned, ultimately creating a scrapbook of your adventure. The boss battles, I have to admit, can get repetitive. All of them have the monochrome premise of
fighting Cruella in a linear setting by throwing some kind of fruit at her. First pineapples, then watermelons, then pumpkins (Yes, I know pumpkin isn’t a fruit).
It’s not until the very last boss battle at the toy factory until a new mechanic is introduced. The biggest incentive is the six unlockable mini-games ranging from Mini-Golf to Jam Dance. Not playing favorites, but Ice Race and Jam Dance are the best ones.
Now, with all of that being said about the levels, bosses, and mini-games leads me to my next question: is the game too easy for an experienced player or is it so easy that it insults the intelligence of children? My answer is iffy on that one. The game was easy for me, but it wasn’t so easy that it was boring or a waste of time. There were parts toward the end of the game where I did feel a bit challenged, and coming from a game where the age range is from 8 to 12, that’s impressive. So it’s also safe to say that this game is perfect for kids without falling into the preconceived notion that kids’ entertainment is dumbly made. Kids are clever, and 102 Dalmatians: Puppies to the Rescue amplifies that.
Don’t be surprised if they get nightmares from that damn Jack-in-the-Box, though.
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