Shiver me timbers, it be cold up here in space!
Ah, pirates. Who doesn't love their villainous, scurvy ways? We even have a ride celebrating a toned down version of their debauchery. In the original Pirates of the Caribbean, the pirates were drunkenly chasing saucy wenches. Nowadays, they can be seen chasing saucy chicken legs those wenches are holding. ARRR, it be a right sad blunder! Since when do pirates have to be Politically Correct?
Despite this, pirates certainly give zombies and ninjas a run for their money in the gaming world. We've got traditional pirates, from the classic Pirates! Gold to the Monkey Island series. The Metroid games gave us the Space Pirates of Zebes. And now we get space pirates of a different sort in Treasure Planet for the PS2, a rudimentary platformer that at least captures the design aesthetics of the movie, but not much else.
Treasure Planet is Disney's space-age reinterpretation of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic Treasure Island. Instead of a parrot, we get Morph, a floating blob with a penchant for repetition. Instead of a single island filled with scads of treasure, we get an entire planet. And now Long John Silver not only has a peg-leg, but he's a half-man, half-machine cyborg.
You play Jim Hawkins, young troublemaker and would-be adventurer, in a mix of platform and hoverboard "Solar Surfing" stages. Beacons must be activated in each of the worlds you visit, and beacon quotas need to be reached in order to reach new stages. Though not in the movie, beacons are the reward for fulfilling game objectives.
Every stage has five objectives, and two of those objectives will always be: 1.) Find all the golden doubloons and 2.) Find all ten of the Green Energy space icons. Many of the other objectives require quotas of items to be found. Ye be doing a right hearty amount of finding, boyo!
Another frequent objective, besides scavenging for items, is braving an obstacle path. Basically, just get from point A to B within the level. Levels are linear with a minimum of branching tangents, so you should be able to run into one objective challenge after the next.
The run and jump platform stages are totally standard. Hawkins has a punch and a kick, but attacking enemies feels stiff and uninteresting. There are also "morph pads" where Morph can transform for a limited amount of time into a useful tool. Some of these transformations include cybernetic arms to bash through doors and pick up heavy objects, and a lever arm to pull switches. Due to the limited amount of time, these upgrades are meant to fulfill problems in the near vicinity and don't add much. There's a lot of hand holding as you are led through the platform stage levels. The objectives wind up feeling more like horrible chores, and the fun is beaten out in the repetition.
The solar surfing is where the game starts to pick up. Controls are relatively simple, with the ability to accelerate, jump, and manipulate the sails. Raised sails are slightly faster, but lowered sails lend more maneuverability. Sadly, the proverbial wind is sucked out of the sails yet again by the repetitive objectives. Besides searching for objects while aboard his solar surfer, Hawkins will have to race through rings. Never seen that one before. Oh wait! I have...in games like Pilotwings and the accursed Superman 64! Can't game designers give us something to do besides jumping through hoops?
When he isn't racing through rings, he's racing through timed gateways. Another solar surfer objective is to complete a certain amount of tricks in a set amount of time. Trick variety is rather slim - a board grab and upside down spinning. Not very interesting stuff, but the last solar surfing level is excellent and visually in line with the movie.
The graphics in general recreate the visual designs and set pieces of the movie, but the quality tends to range between disappointing and average. Despite the jaggies and dim, boring textures, there are a few bright spots like an exploding nebula twisting in the background. Normally, video clips serve as the reward for excelling in the game, but there's an unsatisfactory amount of FMV clips here. They've also been haphazardly edited.
Musically, the game follows the movie with a few different styles, but nothing memorable. The sound effects are typical, with some fair voice acting that has been credited to the same people who did the parts in the actual movie.
I happened to see Treasure Planet and I thought the best thing it had going was Long John Silver. There was a neat fluidity and depth to his animation. In a sense, his "acting" was right on. That doesn't come across in the game. Instead, a badly animated, rather static Silver just stands at certain points in the game dishing out the skinny on game objectives. The game doesn't feel like the movie so much as an endless sea of objective chores that you will utterly drown in.
Treasure Planet follows the traditional, generic map of a 3D platformer, but there's no treasure to be found. For the less discriminating gamers who are simply looking for the Treasure Planet look and label, it's all here, but the pirate spirit is completely gone. Aye, matey - don't be after this plunder. It be cursed!