This is quite strange. When I got the game based on Gold and Glory: The Road to El Dorado for my lovely Game Boy Colour, I had at that point not seen the movie, but liked the concept of a bard and a rogue going on a quest for gold! I cannot exactly remember how I came across this, as it was either a gift from relatives or found in a bargain bin. Honestly, since getting games for the handheld meant I would get something different from the console-versions, it was always exciting whenever it happened. Either the developers would try to make something great within the Game Boy’s limitations, or just make a platformer. Not always gold necessarily, but it is in the title here, so is this a sign of things to come or just lies once again?
Why is there even a story here?
I was going back and forth whether it was even worth talking about the retelling of the story, as it is so shallowly implemented, that it felt like it was only there to connect events between the stages. In the end, I realised it could not even do that right, so I had to comment on this. The game makes up its own version of the story, where Miguel and Tulio arrange fake-duels in order to earn money. Then they for reasons unexplained, find a piece of the map to El Dorado and goes in search of the remaining ones in order to locate the for the golden city.
This is it, and there is no part of this game that even tries to tell a coherent story, with only character-portraits being added for some visuals. It all boils down to literary “suddenly you are challenged” or “we found El Dorado!”, which are just terrible ways of creating transitions between new stages or to a bossfight. I did not expect a one-to-one retelling of the original source-material, but I at least expected something. This is not even the bare minimum.
Story Score: 1/10
Sturdy, but not gold
Turning The Road to El Dorado into a linear platformer was not a bad idea, as it is an easier genre to make for the handheld compared to replicating the PC/PS1 iteration. Unless the game states otherwise, you can choose between Miguel and Tulio before the stage starts, but both play the same, so it is just a matter of visual taste. Both can jump, climb up ledges, swing their sword horizontal and duck. While they also have moves like throwing money bags, crawl and sliding down slopes, I never found any of them useful, and I had no idea they existed before doing research.
To compliment one thing that Gold and Glory for the GBC does well, it gives these linear stages multiple pathways to take for hidden goodies. Items to find ranges between coins and money bags for points, and extra lives and health-drinks for staying alive, and while they might not be necessary, scavenging around to collect points is satisfying and engaging. Some stages also incorporate new ideas, like moving platforms or vines to climb on, but the game stays safe and never evolves with its concepts.
It can still be fun to traverse through the stages, but because nothing evolves, it lacks progressive creativity and any form of difficulty curve. None of the stages becomes challenging with enemies being dead in one hit, and have no interesting patterns or concepts. All are easy to deal with, and despite that it is nice that they are not damage-sucking fiends, the stages do nothing to make the adventure intense or exciting. Yes, they neglect annoyances like bottomless pits, but adds nothing to make the stages distinct from one another. Just solid, at best.
For a game that can last about an hour, it can definitely be dreary or even dull by the end-portion. This sadly also makes the aspect of multiple pathways less exciting, as nothing is necessary for finishing the game and getting extra lives is just as uneventful as getting health-items on full health. There are a couple of auto-scrolling stages that tries to vary up the gameplay, but these are too simple to be enjoyable, as you will just jump or duck under obstacles that are easy to react to. The few bosses the game has, are a total joke as they can be stun-locked and dead by quickly exploiting their technical issues.
There is a password-system, but I only found myself using them because I got bored from the game. It is far from a terrible game, as exploring the stages is fun and the solid platforming is alright. Unfortunately, when nothing evolves to keep you interested and with glaring technical shortcomings, it is easy to forget that this title even existed. It seemed like they had great level-design for the first couple of stages and figured they should use these as bases, and just change minor aspects. At best, Gold and Glory is perfectly average, and at worst, boring.
Gameplay Score: 4/10
Colourful for the most part
I am happy to see that Planet Interactive Development did a good job at representing the visuals from the movie. Miguel and Tulio are animated smoothly with great design, and the areas are familiar set pieces. It is a shame that the stages can be inconsistent in look, from beautiful caves and forests with tons of strong colours, to a generic boat with no interesting details, or a decent marketplace in Spain, where the NPCs look straight out from an early NES-game.
In fact, this touches on something else: the quality of the game’s enemies and their design are inconsistent. While I do expect our protagonists to get most detail and quality in terms of animations and design, the enemies do not mix well as they have either over the top proportions, are poorly detailed, or straight up wrong in size. It could have been a nice way to make events from the movie grander, like the escape from the bull which is now as big as a house, but when even normal humans are three times the size of your height and width, it feels off.
This is a shame, as it could add to the cartoony nature of the game, but unfortunately, this is not the case here. Even the idle-animations are not entertaining, just implemented for there to be one. I also have a couple of nitpicks, like Miguel wearing a blue shirt on occasions, or the enemies’ death-animations being them just falling upside down, but they are not huge issues. What is an issue, are the still-images on white backgrounds that are lazy inputs for visual story-telling. Again though, the game is colourful, and it can look good, making the events fun to play through, even with the inconsistency.
Sound effects are decent, with huge earthquakes and explosions being neat, and sword swinging is quite well implemented. The music is also nice. Every stage starts with the same tune, but goes off to different tone to represent the environments. The towns in Spain are more upbeat and jolly, the thick forest comes with dark notes, and so on. All songs do a good job adding variety to their tones and are pleasant. However, because of the amount of notes that mixes with each other, the songs do not contain clear highlighted notes to be memorable, similar to a general background-music you would hear in a movie. Why not include the Elton John songs in 8-bit?
Presentation Score: 5/10
Raise your hands if you know what an Ubi-Key was!
Yes, this game features Ubi-Key, which was included in many Ubisoft games for linking between Game Boy Colours through the infrared port. For Gold and Glory, it unlocked a bonus stage, but I cannot say I cared for it at all as it was no different from the rest of the stages. However, going through the stages and try to rack up a high score, is actually fun because of the plentiful of secrets! I just wish you could do so with a time-attack or a stage-select. It could at the very least save the high score.
Extra Score: 4/10
It is hard to be angry at this game, as there are some decent attempts at making a fun project, but it is at best a run-of-the-mill platformer. I can see fans of the movie enjoying this, as long as they ignore the story-telling, and do not mind the idea of going for points. The rest will be better off searching the bargain bin for better games. Which there are definitely plenty of for the Game Boy.