So you want to be a hero?
"A great game is not measured by the strength of its designing company or film revenues, but by the strength of its uh... stuff?" In the never-ending quest to drive its corporate icons into the minds of the masses (and to take over the world), Disney has released the video game version of its latest marketing machine, Hercules. Not that I have anything against Disney -- I usually think the stuff they do is great. And in this case, they didn't let me down.
Greek/Disney Mythology 101: The Tasks of Hercules -- For some reason I thought the tale of Hercules had him doing something like seven great tasks (slaying the Nemian lion, etc.). Well never mind that; here's the Disney version. Hades, lord of the Underworld, has devised a diabolical plan to overthrow Zeus, god of all gods. He has enlisted the Titans, giant elementals of ice, lava, wind, and rock, to overthrow 'the man' who has been oppressing him and his like for years. Fortunately Hercules is here to save the day. With superhuman strength, incredible speed, killer good looks, and enough corporate sponsorship behind him to raise the Titanic, Hercules is the only one who can foil Hades' plan.
Those of you who have ever played a made-for-video-game Disney movie (the lines are blurring), know that they're all mysteriously similar. To my knowledge, every one of them has been a side-scrolling action game. And in order to preserve tradition, Hercules was made with the same cookie-cutter. With the Playstation's superior hardware there are a lot more bells and whistles than ever before, but the shape of the game hasn't changed. But there's nothing really wrong with that, right?
In order to survive Sony's quality 3D control, the folks at Virgin Interactive decided to add depth to the background; which you could call 3D I guess. Instead of just moving forwards and backwards, you can actually move into the background and foreground! Amazing what technology can do these days huh? Not only that, but they added pseudo-racing levels, kind of like Crash Bandicoot or Sonic the Hedgehog 2, where you control from the rear with a follow-cam. Another thing they added was interaction with things in the foreground and background, which I'll talk about later.
Hercules is nine levels of sword slashing, punching, running action. You have about five different attacks to use on Hades' minions, and you have the opportunity to find three special weapons. In the racing levels, you don't really attack things, so you basically try to avoid bad things while collecting items. On one level you get to ride Pegasus, but it's inherently the same as the side view levels. At the end of most the side view levels you have to defeat some sort of boss in order to progress.
Although the game play isn't original, the graphics make up for it. Every detail of this game screams Disney, and that's good. The animation of all the characters is movie-quality and so are the backgrounds. Many of the background elements are 3 dimensional, so there is a great sense of depth when you travel into the foreground and background. Also, there are a lot of background animations typical of Disney movies. In between levels you are also treated to full-screen cut scenes from the actual movie. This game really plays like an animated film.
The music from Hercules is straight out of the movie also. There's not much to say here except that it's pretty good. As an added bonus, voices from the movie actors have been included and are often heard throughout the game.
What I really enjoyed about Hercules was the interaction you are allowed with background elements. In the first level for example, you have to complete an obstacle course. There are these moving dummies that you have to destroy and they really move into the foreground and background. And when you destroy pillars and rocks, the three-dimensional chunks fly all over the place. There are also enemies far in the background that try to hurl rocks at you or shoot flames at you.
There were few things that bothered me about this game, but here they are anyway. As emphasized before, this game is mostly like all the other Disney games. It's still fun to play, but it can get pretty repetitive. Also, the enemies are cheap-shooters. Hercules is a little slow at the draw so you take a lot of hits that are pretty much unavoidable unless you memorize the locations of all the enemies. Finally, it's difficult to tell when and where you can travel depth-wise. This is especially a problem moving back into the foreground and it causes a lot of unnecessary ducking.
If you're a fan of the movie, then I recommend at least renting this game. If you're not a fan, then I still recommend at least renting this game or playing it at some store display. If you hate Disney but love Hercules, then try the other Hercules game (see review of Herc's Adventures by Colin) or bite the bullet. If you've played any other Disney movie-turned-game, then you won't be seeing anything new and should consider renting. And if you're a game reviewer, give the game a B.