Anyone who played Milton Bradley's Don't Break the Ice game while they were growing up should be able to grasp the object of Splash Lake fairly quickly. In that classic board game, players took turns tapping a hammer on a grid of white plastic blocks to try to knock them out of place without bringing on the collapse of the entire battlefield.
This is Splash Lake, TTI's crazy CD-ROM title. As Ozzie the ostrich, you must peck at the blocks that float upon the lake and try to cause the collapse of the playfield - or at least the parts that you aren't currently standing on. Pursued by all sorts of loony enemies, threatened by a strict time limit and armed with nothing more than a sharp beak and the ability to jump over creatures, Ozzie certainly has his work cut out for him. If you own a TurboTap and a spare controller, you can get help from another ostrich in a two-player cooperative contest.
After every ten levels, there's a new episode in a series of brief animated intermissions called "Ostrich Theater." Many of the game's options - from the color of the ostriches to the pattern on the blocks - can be changed and the built-in battery backup of the TurboGrafx-CD saves your game automatically each time you play.
Splash Lake's colorful graphics are definitely deceiving. Certain levels are so simply designed that it's hard to believe they'd give you any trouble - yet, somewhere around Stages 3-10, things start to get really challenging. There aren't any real puzzles in the game, but the patterns of the different enemies constantly force you to come up with new strategies at the drop of a hat.
Much more than anything else, I really am surprised that the vast storage capacity of the CD-ROM was not used to supply the game with more than 60 levels. Boy, with all of that space, you'd think that the designers would have dreamed up a few hundred screen designs - or at least included a "construction set" that would allow the player to design and play his or her own levels. To put it more bluntly, Splash Lake looks and plays like a HuCard. Was the full CD-ROM treatment really necessary?
To put all of these confusing issues aside, let's just say that the virtually percussion-free Danny Elfman-inspired CD background music is a nice "extra" that makes Splash Lake a hair better than it would have been on a HuCard. If nothing else, it's important to note that being released as a CD-ROM seems to have had little or no adverse effect on the game's suggested retail price.
If Defunct Games handed out awards for the best one-screen-at-a-time-cute-puzzle-game-with-goggle-eyed-characters
-running-around-on-blocks-surrounded-by-water ... well, that'd be Irem's Kickle Cubicle, the underrated NES game that has also appeared on the PC Engine. But Splash Lake would definitely rate a close second, and its engaging game play and innocent charm makes it a winner in my book.