Plok does not like fleas.
Plok has the amazing ability to fire all his body parts at will.
Plok can really throw a punch.
Plok is the King of the beautiful island called Akrillic, part of the archipelago Poly-Esta."
Sorry. The above editor lost his hands halfway through typing. Don't worry, they came back.
Plok is a Super Nintendo Entertainment System game developed by Software Creations in 1993. It's a platformer starring Plok, an animated pile of clothes, who wakes up one day to find out that the flag on his house (a family heirloom) has been stolen. After retrieving it from nearby Cotton Island, he returns to his island of Akrillic and finds out that it's been taken over by fleas! He travels through his colorful, surreal island, vanquishing fleas along the way and eventually entering the Flea Pit to battle the Flea Queen.
Plok's special power lies in how he can launch any of his limbs at will to damage enemies. Once the damage has been done, they return to Plok until he decides to attack again. Another integral use of this ability is using it to solve puzzles that involve having to "sacrifice" one of Plok's limbs to activate switches. Once a limb hits a switch, it is placed on a hanger that may be right next to the switch or several screens away. If he loses all his limbs, he becomes a defenseless bouncing ball-thing. With an amulet found halfway through the game, he can collect shells and use their power to transform into a buzzsaw when he jumps.
The game's most notable feature is its prog-rock-inspired soundtrack, which was composed by Tim Follin and pushed the SNES to its limits.
Unfortunately, Plok was released right when colorful platformers were facing a massive backlash, and it quickly fell into obscurity.
There's a fan website for it. Some very cool pictures and insights on the game are over here on the website of John and Ste Pickford, the creators of the game. In August 2013, almost exactly twenty years after the game was first released, the Pickfords started work on a weekly comic called "Plok The Exploding Man", the first page of which can be found right here.
There have been two attempts at fan sequels: a higher-res 2D game developed from 2006-2009, and a 3D game started in 2012, which even got as far as a playable alpha demo, but was quietly abandoned several years later.
A digital re-release of the game looks unlikely, as the Pickford Bros. are unsure who currently owns the rights, but they have dropped occasional hints over the years of possibly making a sequel. (Most people who've looked into it believe that the rights have reverted back to the Pickford Bros.) However, Plok himself did show up in another game — as a miniboss in the Atari Lynx game Zaku.
This game contains examples of:
- Alliterative Name: The Shprouts come in several forms: the Shcuba Shprouts, the Shcuba Shield Shprouts, the Shky Shcuba Shield Shprouts...
- Authority in Name Only: The manual and other background fluff makes clear that Plok is the self-proclaimed King of Akrillic, and apart from the flags he insists on planting all over the island, he does little to exercise his title. Every other entity we meet in the game is hostile to Plok, and it's not clear whether his remaining "subjects" merely tolerate his rule or simply ignore it.
- "Bang!" Flag Gun: The cowboy suit has this as a weapon, and it does pretty much nothing.
- Bee-Bee Gun: Plok can find hornets' nests and sic the hornets on fleas.
- Berserk Button: Plok is quite protective of his grandpappy's flag, going to great lengths to get it back. He also really doesn’t like fleas, going to even greater lengths to stamp them out of Akrillic.
- Bonus Stage: Hitting certain HP-restoring fruit when they're at their maximum size will take you to bonus stages (instead of just destroying them), which allow you to collect tons of shells or warp 2-3 levels ahead. There's no indication of which fruits contain these bonuses, you have to successfully complete a bonus stage to earn the warps, and destroying the fruits which contain neither type of bonus stage just robs you of a health-up.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Text in the game comes in three colours: red indicates narration (and Cotton Island levels), yellow is Plok's dialogue (and Akrillic levels), and blue is enemy dialogue (and Fleapit levels).
- Deliberately Monochrome: The Legacy Island levels, where the player plays as Plok's grandpappy rather than Plok himself, are made to resemble old black-and-white films.
- Detachment Combat: Plok can fire out both his arms and legs at the enemy.
- Disproportionate Retribution: The fleas took Plok's flag, so his response is that he's Gotta Kill 'Em All to teach them a lesson.
- Easy-Mode Mockery: Playing the "Child's Play" mode leaves you unable to enter the Fleapit, Legacy Island, or several of the game's other stages (largely boss fights). Even worse, the boss fights become unskipped once you bypass them should your Plokontinues take you back to before their location on the map, as the game only lets you skip them once.
- Ennio Morricone Pastiche: The music associated with the cowboy powerup.
- Evil Laugh: During the start of a Boss Battle or somewhere in the middle, someone is heard laughing, presumably the Flea Queen herself.
- Extremely Short Timespan: The game takes place over three days. On the first day, Plok sojourns to Cotton Island to retrieve his square flag. On the second day, he liberates Akrillic from the fleas. On the third day, he goes into the Fleapit and defeats the Flea Queen.
- Fake Difficulty: The Fleapit in its entirety. Every stage involves a new and different vehicle, most of which have touchy controls and hard-to-use weapons. The final boss is no exception to this, though at least the weapon is pretty well-suited to the job.
- Floating Limbs: Plok’s defining feature is the ability to detach and shoot his limbs.
- Four-Fingered Hands: Plok has four fingers per hand.
- Goofy Print Underwear: Plok finds polka-dot boxers instead of his flag at the end of the first level.
- The Goomba: Gershwins are the first enemies, and simply walking chestnut-like things that die in one hit. Some move faster than others, however.
- Gotta Kill 'Em All: Your goal throughout Akrillic is to hunt down and kill every last flea present throughout the stages, and the UI will both tell you how many are left and sometimes point you in the general direction of the nearest remaining one. Once you've cleared them out, only then will the level-ending flag spawn and begin traveling from the last flea's place of death toward the level exit. Mind you, this doesn't mean that the other enemies or level hazards go away...
- Identical Grandson: The only thing that differs Plok from his grandpappy is a mustache.
- Kung Fu-Proof Mook: Shprouts, which need to be hit a second time immediately after the first hit to defeat them; taking too long resets their vulnerability. They become even more kung-fu proof in later stages, where they carry shields that render them invincible unless they are hit in the back.
- Leap of Faith: Two of them at the end of "Plok's House". A bridge appears from under you if you jump off a certain spot.
- Long Song, Short Scene: The bonus stage theme loops for one minute, which doesn't seem too long... except that the bonus stages only last 40 seconds at the very most. Since players can't pause during bonus stages, it is impossible to hear the full song in game.
- Meaningful Name: The boss Rockyfella is a monster made of rock.
- Mercy Invincibility: Not only does Plok get a few seconds free after taking a hit, but so do his enemies.
- Monochrome Past: The flashback levels are in black-and-white in addition to using silent film-style title cards and piano music.
- Nintendo Hard: Many people actually never get to complete the game without the help of an emulator. Everything starts off tough but doable for the first world, but after you clear the first boss, all bets are off and sheer sadistic insanity lies around every corner ready to kill you for the slightest mistake. The developers actually apologized for making it so hard, even.
- Non-Lethal Bottomless Pits: Instead of a hole without end, Akrillic and its surrounding islands are filled with water. Everywhere. Falling into water causes Plok or his grandpappy to miraculously jump up to a height to allow him to (potentially) reach a previous/future ledge (or back from whence he came), taking quite a bit of damage in the process.
- Noob Cave: The Cotton Island levels are much shorter and simpler than the Akrillic levels since the goal is just to find the flag. Subverted with the Legacy Island levels, which are similarly short 'go to the goal' levels but are considerably less simple.
- Optional Boss: All the bosses that aren't the Bobbins Brothers become sort-of optional in Child's Play, since while you normally just skip their stages, you only get to do so once — they can still show up if you get a Plokontinue just before the point at which you'd normally fight the bosses and end up being sent back before their location afterwards. The Penkinos were obviously designed to work like this, however, since the previous level practically gives the player one, and later levels get increasingly less generous with the continue tokens (this said, you're fighting them on Normal regardless).
- Power-Up Letdown:
- The cowboy outfit: It makes Plok shoot a fake gun (with a "BANG" flag coming out), which does absolutely nothing to the enemies. This said, it will at least give you back your missing limbs if you're out any.
- The Secret Super-Vehicle hinted at in the manual and shown only in silhouette. It's a football helmet, spring shoes, and a can of Flea Spray, and is very unwieldy. This said, the constant bouncing is at least consistently-timed, and the Flea Spray does have a nice spread to it...
- There is a giant miniboss flower called the Budd, which spits out mini versions of itself called Budd Lites.
- Rockyfella is most likely a pun on billionaire John D. Rockefeller.
- Retraux Flashback: The Grandpappy Plok dream sequence is entirely in black-and-white, plays an old-timey soundtrack throughout, and even has title cards styles like old silent films. The boss track stays the same as before, but given that you're fighting three Bobbins Brothers, you'll be a little too busy to worry about the dissonance.
- Rocket Punch: What happens when you shoot your arms out. One of the powerups gives Plok an even better version, able to destroy logs as well.
- Save Point:
- If you die and run out of continues (or "Plokontinues" as they're called), you have to start over from a point likely very distant from the area you were. Heck, there's only really 4 permanent save points in the game (The starts of Akrillic, Legacy Island, and the Fleapit, and post-Legacy Island Plok's House), and they're lost when you shut the game off. Since this game is so long and difficult and there is a very, VERY high chance you'll be going back to those points quite often, few people actually manage to finish it.
- Plokontinues are actually single-use save points that are tied to the level you got them it. Think of them as save states that get deleted as soon as you load them. It is possible for you to go backwards through the game, forcing you to replay levels you've already beaten, as Plokontinues get used up without obtaining more.
- Oh, and to get those Plokontinues in the first place, you have to complete levels without dying — which only gets you a quarter of the Plokontinue, by the way — or pick up special items that might not even exist in a given stage and ALSO only give you a quarter of a Plokontinue. Either way, it's a bit of a kick in the shorts to anyone who's already having trouble just getting through the levels AT ALL.
- There is also a lack of a save system or password feature, due to a low budget not allowing for save batteries as well as the Pickford Bros. wanting people to play fair instead of cheating their way to the final levels. Unless you're using an emulator
or Virtual Console, it must be done in one go.
- Short-Range Shotgun: One of the powerups gives Plok a short-range blunderbuss that fires out a spread of 5 bullets that travel a rather short distance. Much more useful than you'd think, because it overrides the enemies' Mercy Invincibility.
- Spelling Bonus: Beating a level without dying earns you one of four P-L-O-K letters. Getting all four earns you a Plokontinue. You can also collect a red checkmark token in a level (should they be present in the level) to instantly get a letter.
- Sphere Eyes: The main character has spherical eyes that touch each another.
- Stalked by the Bell: A very downplayed, but nonetheless present example. Throughout Akrillic, the fleas you need to kill start inside of harmless eggs that need to be sufficiently disturbed to begin hatching into the fleas. If you take too long to finish the level, all of the remaining eggs will hatch on their own, giving the remaining fleas a chance to catch you off-guard.
- Theme Naming: The islands in the archipelago — as well as the archipelago itself — are named for fabrics: Poly-Esta, Akrillic, and Cotton Island. The exception is Legacy Island, which Plok himself never visits (the Legacy Island section of the game being a flashback to his Grandpappy's exploits).
- Turns Red: Almost all the bosses.
- The Penkinos are four flying, penguin-like things that drop damaging stars down on Plok. When low on health, they will drop those stars in rapid succession and move WAY faster. You can at least contain the problem by trying to focus on one of them at a time.
- Womack Spider shoots many more green glob projectiles once his health gets low.
- Rockyfella the rock monster summons more hands for his rock throwing attack as his health gets lower, and he does it faster.
- Unexpected Gameplay Change: The Fleapit, where each level puts Plok behind the wheel of a different vehicle that arguably cripples Plok (in exchange for letting him fly or jump wide gaps or whatever the stage calls for). The final boss is no exception to this.
- Warp Zone: Due to any save system (even passwords) being absent, the developers placed a number of warps throughout the game, allowing players to skip through levels as fast as possible... You know, if you can correctly GUESS which of the very useful health-up fruits you have to destroy to enter those warp stages, AND you can actually beat the warp stages, which make you EARN those warps.
- Wearing a Flag on Your Head: Two of Plok's vehicles come equipped with helmets decorated to resemble a flag. Amusingly, neither is his flag, perhaps because even Plok isn't gauche enough to wear an image of himself.
- The jetpack helmet depicts the Stars and Stripes, obviously a reference to the American space program (Plok is essentially riding a rocket, after all).
- Plok's super secret vehicle comes equipped with a Union Jack helmet, presumably because the British Pickford Bros. couldn't let Plok get away with only wearing an American flag helmet.
- A Winner Is You: The ending is basically just another bit of post-stage banter by Plok, and the credits.
- Wolfpack Boss:
The Plok The Exploding Man comic contains examples of:
- Alien Invasion: Turns out the Fleas were aliens — and there's more where they came from.
- Cowboy Cop: Zob, who has no qualms about stepping over others' jurisdictions in pursuit of the Flea Queen. Turns out he's a more advanced Flea trying to apprehend Plok for accidentally summoning the Queen.
- Defeat Means Friendship: Rockyfella — the last boss Plok fought before entering the Flea Pit — is a nice guy now, though this may be more a case of him mellowing out in the two decades since their previous encounter.
- Forgot I Could Fly: Apparently the Pickfords forgot Plok could turn into a buzzsaw.Rockyfella: Woah! I forgot he could do that!
Editor's Note: So had we!
- Get Out!: The "maximum sentence" Plok receives from the Zobians is effectively being told to get out of System Z, which is what he and Rockyfella were trying to do in the first place.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Plok can apparently explode now. This "ability" (though it's more of a hindrance, really) was never mentioned in the original game.
- Press X to Not Die: Parodied with Zob handcuffing Plok and a message appearing telling the "player" to press the A and B buttons. Actually pressing them on your keyboard takes you to the Pickford Bros.' Patreon page.
- Rip Van Winkle: Remember when Plok took a well-deserved power nap at the end of the game? Well, he just woke up from it. Twenty years later. (This is because nobody woke him up for the Sega Genesis or Game Boy ports or sequel that never came back in The '90s.)
- Suspicious Videogame Generosity: Parodied in page 71 with an autosave notice and a pile of assorted powerups from other games right before a large ominous door.
- Take That!:
- Plok and Rockyfella are more than happy to engage in some Bubsy bashing, right up to Plok being floored to learn that the game which "killed" platformers still managed to get three more sequels than he did.
- "XBone" was also introduced as a character, pretty much solely for the Kinect voice and image recognition gags.
- There's also several towards mobile gaming and microtransactions.
- The (non-indicative) character from the cover art of one of the Pickfords' previous games, Zub, is referenced in one comic only to be vaporized by the Zobian court's Security Death Wasps.
- Underwear Flag: The first world has the title character trying to hoist a flag onto the pole at the end of each level, only to find that the flag's been replaced by something else: in the very first level, he hoists up a pair of boxer shorts.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Plok thinks he's still in a video game. He's actually in a comic strip.