Nobody makes games like Greendog: The Beached Surfer Dude! anymore. It seems increasingly rare that a game company takes a wacky subject and runs with it. I guess games are just too expensive to do something risky these days. Greendog is a 2D platformer for the Genesis released in 1992. It was developed by the Sega Technical Institute, Sega of America's group of programmers that created Comix Zone and Kid Chameleon, as well as assisted on various Sonic titles and Die Hard Arcade. The team was eventually fell apart with the cancellation of Sonic X-Treme, their Sonic game for the Saturn.
It was an odd coincidence that I ran into this game at a used game store just the other day considering I had just mentioned it in my Chakan article. They were selling it for a mere two dollars, and when I realized that I had probably spent more than that to rent it years ago, I just had to purchase it. Greendog stuck in my mind for all these years for some reason, and it probably isn't the fun of the platforming that I was nostalgic about, but the art design and unique theme. Greendog himself is stereotypical surfer dude, as the full title explains, and it was sort of interesting how you never saw his face because of his long blonde hair.
Seeing the story again reminded me of why I must have found it so charming. Greendog wipes out when surfing and wakes up on the beach with a necklace around his neck and he can't take it off. A beach babe randomly shows up and explains that it is a cursed Aztec necklace, and he can't take it off unless he collects six other Aztec artifacts. Greendog doesn't really give a shit, because, so what if he can't take off some necklace, but he is totally bummed when he finds out the necklace's other effects. While he's wearing it, all animals will try to attack him, or as she puts it “go berzerk-o,” and worst of all, he can't surf. As a dude that defines himself as a surfer, this is unacceptable, so he goes off on a journey to find these magic macguffins.
Armed with only a pair of shorts and a Frisbee, Greendog ventures into the jungle. You have three buttons, jump, attack, and the oddly named “panic button.” Attack throws the Frisbee straight forward, from crouch, or at an upward angle. The panic button activates whatever special items that may have been picked up throughout the level. These items can do a variety of things, such as having a floating Frisbee in front of Greendog that automatically attacks any enemy on screen. These items as well as other items that heal you or give you points can be obtained by attacking various stationary objects.
My main problem with Greendog is the jump physics. They aren't bad, but they just feel a bit off. It's hard to articulate what it is exactly, but it just doesn't feel as good as Mario or Sonic game. It took a while to adjust, but I eventually got good enough to not fall into every little bit of water and get bit up by piranha. Of course, the game isn't made up of simply jumping. There are point when you have to swing on vines, ride skateboards, and even fly a gyrocopter. Even if the game isn't particularly amazing mechanically, its unique soundtrack is entertaining, and adds to this overall charming game.