Sometimes I wonder what real cavemen would think of the way the media tends to portray them. Would they like being seen as grunting, club-brandishing mopes? Would they like being seen as slack-jawed clods with an affinity for loincloths? And, most importantly, would they like being seen as oafs fond of beating dinosaurs to death with their ample guts?
These are the questions raised by CORE Design’s 1992 Super NES side-scroller Chuck Rock.
Chuck Rock doesn’t appear to have any sort of plot whatsoever. It’s a lot like Shadow of the Colossus in that regard, though to Chuck‘s credit, Shadow features significantly fewer boxing dinosaurs wearing boxing shorts. And yes, you really do beat things with your gut in Chuck Rock. Your gut is actually your main weapon, though you can also kick things in the face.
Another thing you can do in this game, appropriately, is chuck rocks. Many puzzles in this game are solved by doing precisely that, a fact that escaped me for an inexcusably long time. I actually had to enlist the aid of two fellow ‘Cola staffies to figure this one out. Yes, it took three GameCola writers—the entire Board of Directors, no less—to figure out that the main character in a game called Chuck Rock sometimes has to chuck rocks. Our college tuition at work, I suppose.
Chuck Rock features the trifecta of obnoxious, groan-inducing side-scrolling levels: cave, water, and ice. It’s almost as though the developers did this intentionally, in an effort to show that these sorts of levels don’t necessarily have to be awful. They succeeded. The levels are tolerable, though by no means amazing, meaning that CORE is probably the greatest video game developer this world has ever seen.
(For those keeping score at home, there’s also a jungle level, and a graveyard/dinosaur’s innards level [complete with what appear to be sperm monsters] that seems totally stripped from Joe and Mac.)
Chuck Rock gets what so many side-scrollers don’t understand: that life bars are good, and insta-deaths are bad. There isn’t a single insta-death in the entire game, not even if Chuck takes a nose-dive into a pit of acid.
Curiously though, eating food does nothing to replenish Chuck’s life whenever he does take a hit. All it does is add points to your total score, which doesn’t actually serve any purpose. (It doesn’t even give you extra lives, for Pete’s sake! And continues? Ha-ha, nope! The four lives you start with are all you get.) Instead, you must devour hearts to recover health. Not the hearts of your fallen foes, unfortunately; just hearts that are lying around for no real reason.
You’re pummeled constantly from every direction in Chuck Rock. There are ample hearts scattered throughout the levels, and you’ll need to devour every last one if you ever want to accomplish whatever it is Chuck is trying to accomplish. The game’s only got a handful of levels, but don’t let that fool you—the lack of lives makes Chuck Rock fairly challenging, and it might actually take you a few weeks to complete the game.
I feel as though I could give this game a 10 out of 10 for its weaponry alone; Chuck Rock features quite possibly the greatest primary weapon in video game history. But beyond just the main character’s stomach, Chuck Rock is a cool game. Its levels are short and vaguely innovative, and it’s the sort of game you’ll want to come back to and see how quickly you can beat it, or how many different ways you can beat it.
I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to purchase Chuck Rock, but if you find it at a yard sale or a used game shop or whatever, it would be a worthwhile addition to your videogame collection.