Rosie O’ Donnell is a gorilla. And now about the movie…
Every Disney animated movie follows the same mold. There’s always some sidekick tossed about with comedic hi-jinks, and at the end, a life-affirming moral is taught. While I think the movies are artistically stunning in their progression, I can’t help but wish that the Disney plots would go the same route.
I have to admit, though, I did like most of Disney’s newest movie, Tarzan. The depth that they were able to achieve through the combination of computer and cel-based art was incredibly beautiful. But plotwise, there wasn’t anything outside of convention.
Change plot to gameplay, and the same holds true for the Playstation version.
For the most part, Tarzan is a side-scrolling jump-fest hampered by badly
designed attacks, uneven levels, and a lack of originality, resulting in a barely
play Tarzan. You start out the game as a wee tyke, slowly growing into adulthood,
all the while scampering around on all fours. The game follows the movie to
the letter, dividing the major scenes into levels. The levels have a 3D look,
but all (except for two) are purely side-scrolling. Sometimes the paths diverge
to let you minimally explore a small area, but overall the level design is painfully
straightforward. There is some exploration, but not enough. However, it seems
well-suited for a younger crowd.
Gameplay isn’t balanced well. Some areas are incredibly easy to breeze through,
while others are frustrating and difficult. For instance, near the end they decide
to throw in a truly 3-D level. It is similar to Crash
Bandicoot, but is poorly designed and executed. The familiar controls of the
previous 10 levels become completely screwed up, from the awkwardness of the jumping
to the lack of movement control.
On the other hand, those 10 earlier levels feature familiar tried and true side scrolling, with good jumping control. Unfortunately, these stages suffer from several problems: cheap, unavoidable hits, weak bosses, and a lack of good offensive control.
There are way too many mandatory hits, things that are just impossible
to avoid. For instance, when you climb up onto a ledge, a piece of fruit thrown
your way by some baboon will automatically hit you. Argh! Leaving mandatory,
unavoidable hits in an action game is poor design. The entire idea of action
is that you have the ability to dodge what’s coming at you. Even little tiny
frogs and swooping birds will hurt big Tarzan. Guess he could have used something
more protective than a loincloth…
Seriously, Tarzan has
two (only two in the entire game…) of the lousiest bosses in any action game.
The first one is a cheetah. When you fight him, you have to use the spear you’re
given. For some reason, you move three times slower using the spear. If you
get it right, all you have to do is wait for the cheetah to walk toward you,
poke him with the spear, and then jump. Then you turn around and repeat the
whole process. Kill me now.
And the last boss: Clayton the hunter. You run around a tree jumping over unavoidable animals, letting the mandatory hits build up. Then at the top, he shoots invisible bullets at you, and you’re supposed to fight back with fruit. Fruit. Now as an attack, fruit would make sense when you’re playing little Tarzan. But when you’re a grown-up, tossing mushy fruit is probably not the most effective way to injure things.
More disappointing is how the vine swinging is set up. You jump onto a vine
and swing back and forth. If you want to climb higher on the vine (which is
often necessary), you have to stop swinging, climb up, and then start swinging
again. Overall, this area could have learned a lot from Donkey Kong Country…heck,
it could have learned something about vines from Donkey Kong Jr.
The graphics are beautiful. The backgrounds are painted, but the foreground
is done with texture mapping. The mapping is done very well, though the aging
Playstation tends to leave a lot of sharp edges and corners intact. Additionally,
the camera is done really well. It moves with the level to create some very
neat effects. But since everything is set up in the jungle, most of the levels
look the same.
The music is reproduced really badly, with minimal instruments that sound like cheesy MIDI synthesis. Music just doesn’t add the depth that it ought to.
In order to encourage replay, there’s a percentage to complete for each level. Fulfill them all, and the game will reward you with a clip. Then again, if you saw the movie already, you probably saw the clip. Replayability isn’t that strong – it could have been improved further with more complex level designs.
This is the second monkey game I’ve covered recently (check out Ape
Escape), and clearly it is the worse of the two. There isn’t any innovation
here. Strip the Tarzan license away, and you’re not left with much. Unless
you’re an obsessive lunatic nut about the movie, there isn’t a strong reason
to buy this game; as a serious action game, it just isn’t there. Maybe one day
we’ll get a Disney animated movie with a true soul, and then a game to match.
But that day is not today.