Originally released for the PlayStation, Croc 2 is the sequel to a generally forgettable 3D platform game from 1997. As could be expected, the developers at Argonaut have improved virtually every aspect of the original Croc for the sequel: The levels are larger, many new subgames have been included, and the visuals are more complex and colorful. Unfortunately, as was the case when the original Croc was released, similar games such as Spyro the Dragon 2 and Rayman 2 have already set the current standard for excellence in the genre. And in comparison with those games, Croc 2 is a competently executed but uninspired also-ran.
Croc 2 adheres to the 3D platform structure introduced by Super Mario 64. You guide a cute character through a series of connected hub worlds, each containing a number of areas and tasks that must be completed to advance to the next world. Each level contains optional items that can be collected to unlock secret areas and power-ups. To accomplish these goals, Croc can jump, butt-stomp, swim, climb, and ride various vehicles such as the old genre standby, the mine cart, and six others, including a giant snowball.
In the absence of any great innovation, Croc 2 needs to get by on its production values. The graphics and sound are good but not especially memorable. Croc 2 is 3D accelerated and supports all the latest visual gewgaws such as transparencies and lighting effects. Aside from some glaringly misaligned textures, there's really nothing to complain about. The design is adequate to convey an air of generic cartoon whimsy yet never really makes the game come to life in any kind of satisfying or surprising way. From the lava world to the ice world, you've seen all of Croc 2's sights many times before in other games.
Thanks to awkward controls, traversing Croc 2's unimaginatively eccentric environments is more trouble than it should be. Two different control schemes are available, but neither one is particularly successful. The first method lets you move Croc forward and backward and rotate him left and right by pressing the respective direction on the keyboard or joystick. Unless you tap quickly, the right and left turns end in a step forward, which can be disastrous in a tight situation or while attempting to line up a precise jump. The second method simply lets you turn and move Croc toward whatever direction you press. In this mode, there's no backpedaling. You have to press a separate key to do a 180-degree turn. Both control schemes are overly sensitive and take a long and often frustrating amount of time to master. Some of the early levels have timed tasks, and trying to learn the controls under the pressure of a time limit is often more maddening than fun.
Croc 2's developer, Argonaut Software, hasn't solved the camera problems that plague this type of game. The camera is often set too close to the main character and isn't always pointed at an angle suited to moving Croc from one place to another. At some points in the game, generally whenever you're forced to make precise jumps in a tight corridor, it's almost impossible to complete the maneuvers without missing. The camera also lags behind you when you turn, which makes it overly difficult to quickly perform a sequence of jumps at right angles to each other. The game supports a free-look in the form of a pair of binoculars. Oddly, while it overlays a binocular cutout on the screen, nothing is actually magnified. Instead, there's simply less visible area, and you can only focus in a 180-degree arc around Croc. A more standard free-look would have been a better idea.
Croc 2 does include one unique option called omniplay, which lets you split the controls between two joysticks. For instance, one person can control the camera and jumping while another controls everything else. It's a good way to share the game experience with kids.
By the halfway point of Croc 2, you'll have learned to tolerate the controls, circumvent the camera, and make Croc do your bidding, more or less. The entire package is blandly professional enough and provides enough consistent gameplay to avoid outright dismissal, but it clearly lacks the imaginative spark necessary to make playing it a memorable experience.