I’ve always been more of a Warner Bros fan than a Hanna Barbera one: Bugs and co. is, to me, a lot more recognizable than say The Flintstones or Scooby-Do. Or, for that matter, a slightly more obscure anthropomorphic bear with a green hat and a tie: Yogi Bear. I don’t have a history with the character(s) and have barely seen one or two episodes on screen when I was little. When approaching this game, I realize this can be either a very good or a very bad thing, as I won’t be viewing this through the pink-tinted glasses of fluffy warm nostalgia (except that it’s still a Game Boy cart).
Aside from Yogi the character—none of his friends appear in the game except in the ending cinematic—this game is yet another straightforward 2D platformer that has you running from left to right across 6 different stages broken down in three sections each, collecting goodies along the way in the form of picnic baskets, and of course, gold. Yogi controls surprisingly well, and the levels are quite varied too, unlike other more wonky licensed games. This isn’t a watered-down port of a home console game but a genuine attempt at a GB game.
Besides the occasional apple to refill your health, the baskets are only really there to increase your high score (and earn a level up after a certain amount). The real “meat” are the gold pieces though, and they’re hard to find: 25 pieces are located in a hidden safe in each stage. If you fail to find the safe, you’ll get the bad ending, where there won’t be enough money for the national park Yogi lives in to sustain itself. That was an unpleasant surprise: the game doesn’t warn you when you progress to the next level/stage and forgot to collect the gold. Besides the title subtly indicating it’s a Gold Rush, I wasn’t aware I needed to collect those to properly finish the game.
The sprite work of the game is quite good, and Twilight made an effort to give each stage its own unique look. Reaching those safes is a lot of hard work though, some are a bit too well-hidden and require walking through fake walls and executing other secret platforming maneuvers. The biggest thing that sets Yogi Bear apart from other platformers isn’t that you have to kill mushrooms by jumping on them, but that there are hundreds of hidden blocks with a bear icon (see screenshot on the right) that only appear after touching them by randomly jumping in the air. This is often used to reach hidden areas and collect more stuff.
Still, whether or not this is a Yogi Bear game is only made apparent by a few still intro/outro cinematics and the sprite work of the protagonist himself. It could just as well be any bear/animal jumping through the levels collecting books or snakes or balls instead of picnic baskets and cracking open safes. Nothing in this game seems to suggest Yogi exclusiveness, and I’ve never seen Yogi jump on snakes to get rid of them in the TV show.
When you take a good look at the sprite work, and especially when you hear the awfully repetitive soundtrack—a single track that gets on your nerves very quickly—you’re reminded of another Game Boy game called Alfred Chicken. Indeed, Twilight also developed that one—and The Flintsones, and Cool World. The lead graphic designer, Wayne Billingham, would eventually go on and produce art for various more recent Batman games.
A few things prevent me from liking this game. First, as with most other GB platformers, it’s very short: in 45 minutes, you’re done. Except that most likely, you’ll have to do it all over again if you forgot one safe. And that brings us to the next point: you probably don’t want to because you’re sick and tired of hearing that same stupid music again and again. I really don’t get why someone would create a game with multiple stages in unique themes and then forget to compose proper music that accompanies each stage. That very much smells like a rushed job. The same can be said for Alfred Chicken, of course.
It’s not that that one track is bad (composed by Martin Walker who did the sound of Earthworm Jim and music of Mortal Kombat 3), it’s that it’s sorely lacking in variety and completely killing the mood that the graphics are trying to instill. And then there’s the lack of a save feature or password system, meaning if I ever decide to play it again, I’ll be forced to start over from level 1. The platforming elements aren’t that remarkable to make me want to revisit Jellystone Park. I’d rather plug in Wario Land II. Props for at least making the platforming mechanics snappy.
On the one hand, the game wants me to spend more time with it, but on the other, force-feeding the same track and the “haha you didn’t collect all gold!” surprise in the end are the things I’ll most likely remember from Yogi Bear’s Gold Rush.