Hey, guys. It’s been a while. I know. Trust me, I know. Stuff happened, and now stuff is no longer happening, so hopefully now I can get back into this.
But enough of that. What I have today is… well. It’s been something that’s stuck with me for a long time. Stuck, in this case, being more like something that sticks to your shoe. …What I’m saying is that this game isn’t very good. As a wee lad, I was primarily a DOS kid. I loved DOS. I loved the games. I loved learning how to use the command line. And what I loved most of all were the neon-colored shareware CDs that came with a bunch of random games, with absolutely no regard for quality or consistency.
Now, one of the series of games these CDs had was a series called Skunny. Skunny, you see, was an attempt by a Belgian outfit known as Copysoft to create a mascot for the PC, not all that long before the likes of Jazz Jackrabbit. It didn’t work. At all. Somehow, though, the bastard ended up getting 7 games, if you include the reboot. Yes, there was a reboot, in 1995. Well, reboot in so much that while it shared the same species of main character, same basic genre, and oddly enough, some of the same sound effects, but it was an entirely new game by different people. Yes, I’ll be getting into it, eventually.
Copysoft, shockingly, still seems to be around. Let’s check their website and see what they’re up to, why don’t we?
Note the “no refunds” thing. They had a good reason for specifying this, and trust me, it wasn’t because they weren’t sure they would work on your computer. Although, with DOSBox around, they most certainly would. And check out that value!
So, now that I’m on the game’s page on their site, let’s check out the features.
* “256 color graphics hand painted.” I don’t think that means what you think that means.
* “Parallax scrolling and masked foreground objects!” OK, that sounds reasonable.
* “Sound Blaster and Adlib compatabile.” Sure, that sounds about right for a DOS game.
* “Fast! Fast! Scrolling. (Sonic move over!)” …Let’s just note that and move on.
* “Beat the clock to finish the levels!” Uh, that’s not a feature, that’s a description of gameplay rules. That’s like having one of the features to Sonic 3 being “Pick up rings to not die!”
* “Two different characters to choose from, Skunny or Rosie.” Spoilers: It makes no difference in the slightest.
* “Enter at any Level.” That’s cool, I guess, if you’re into Mega Man.
* “Automatic ‘Smart’ Save.” The quotes around Smart worry me.
* “Keyboard/Joystick/Gravis Gamepad support (Gravis Pad reccomended.)” OK, that’s reasonable, I suppose.
* “Ten levels (registered version)” Pay for more of that Fast! Fast! scrolling? Oh, yes, please.
* “End of level interval (Careful not to laugh too hard)” Their words, not mine.
* “Produce your own screenshots using the built in PCX screen grabber.” Thank you, Copysoft, that’s very thoughtful of you. Now I can take pictures of your assy game using your very own game! WordPress has PCX support, right?
And under that is a constantly scrolling text line that says “Order Back to the Forest today and make your PC scream for mercy.” Well, they got ONE thing right.
I’ll be playing the shareware version of this, because one, I don’t want to put forth the effort pirating this thing just to spite them, too, I don’t even know if anybody actually RUNS this site anymore to take your money and ship the thing to you. I’m not gonna risk it. But enough of that, let’s start the damn thing.
So, the cracked-out squirrel on the right with the… I guess it’s a sports jacket, is Skunny. Rosie is on the left, but I’m honestly pretty sure it’s just Skunny in drag. Don’t know how they’re both on screen at the same time. Maybe it’s a Fight Club thing, I don’t know.
Also, this game has a story! Well, kind of. I’m sure you’re just dying to see it.
All this and we haven’t even started the game yet! …Do we really have to? We do? Ugh, fine. You people are so demanding.
So, this is the HUB world, where the game says you should practice your moves before you begin a level. Well, more accurately, move in the singular form. You can jump, and you can… look up and down? I guess that counts? In this sharewere version, you only get two stages, but at least you get to choose the order you want to do them. Also, I’m playing as “Rosie”, who has absolutely nothing seperating her from Skunny besides a slightly edited sprite. Skunny has some deep, deep issues, seriously.
So here’s how the game works. You start each level with one minute to find the golden acorn, or the “superhealth nut” as those crazy Belgians refer to it. Much like Master Higgins of Adventure Island fame, you must constantly stuff your face with food laying on the ground to extend the timer, or die horribly. Unlike Master Higgins, a single hit won’t kill you, it’ll just take away some time. Except for the toads, which will murder the HELL out of you. The game HATES it when you hit a toad.
The problem with the game is the controls are absolutely, indescribably awful. Imagine, if you will, if you had the speed of Sonic. Only instead of building up into a run, you just hurtle uncontrollably towards whatever direction you press about a second or two after you press it. Now imagine that the entire game is an ice level. I’m sure you can see the problem here. Also, the jump physics, or any physics at all, relaly, are completely out of whack, because changing directions in the middle of a jump have a random cahnce of either stopping your air momentum or hurtling you in the other direction entirely.
Despite this, though, the first two levels are absurdly easy. There’s so much food around at there’s pretty much no way to run out of time unless you’re actively trying, and it’s easy enough to jump over the pitfalls when you have some sort of idea how the controls work. Or how they don’t work, but you get what I mean. In about 30 seconds, you’ll reach the “superhealth nut”, you’ll get a “HALLEJUAH” out of nowhere, and then this happens.
Once you achieve your super form, any semblance of challenge is pretty much eradicated. You move around at about 100 miles an hour, nothing can harm you, and you can fly everywhere. Sure, your timer starts to tick down extra fast, but as long as you’re not stupid and remember where the toad was, it’s not like you’re going to end up dead or anything. Once you dislodge the toad from his cabin, the level ends, and you get that oh-so-hilarious interlude you were promised.
Are you ready for this?
Are you sure?
You don’t have a history of heart problems, do you? You aren’t pregnant or anything? OK, well, here you go…
Level 2 is pretty much exactly the same, except you use spiders as platforms. Somehow. After that, you get this screen:
So, yeah. Back to the Forest is an utterly generic, boring platformer in a sea of DOS games that were much better in any concievable way. As far as I know, this was the first Skunny game. I want to promise you it’ll get better, but I’d be lying. We’ve only just started.