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Animaniacs

Genre: Platformer Developer: Konami Publisher: Konami Players: 1 Released: 1994

I loved Animaniacs when I was younger, and I’ve always enjoyed Konami-made games. So, naturally, I was excited to get my hands on this title. I expected a pleasant platformer aimed at a younger audience, and for the most part, Animaniacs is exactly that. Konami could have gone the route of most cartoon-based games and done a mediocre release with licensed characters attached to it. Instead, Animaniacs separates itself from the pack by basing its gameplay on an innovative team-based system. What results is an enjoyable game that feels decidedly refreshing, but falls short in many ways.

Konami did a wonderful job of translating the feel of the Animaniacs television show to our favorite 16-bit machine. If you didn’t happen to catch the show during its initial run, then you missed out on one of the most clever cartoons around. Produced by Stephen Spielberg, Animaniacs featured the exploits and adventures of the Warner brothers, Wakko and Yakko, and their sister Dot. The show was known for its wit and pop-culture comedy. Like the show, this game is set in the Warner Brothers Studio. The Warner brothers wish to collect five movie “artifacts” (fancy way of saying “props”), and in order to do so, they must visit five very different movie studios and overcome a number of obstacles. All the while the studio’s security guard, Ralph, is chasing after them. While the story may be simple, the game does a great job of keeping the charm of the show. Each of the five levels is a pop culture reference, and within each level there are multiple nods to the show. If you’re a fan of the cartoon, you’ll definitely appreciate the effort Konami put into this game.

Animaniacs allows you to play as three different characters (Yakko, Wakko, and Dot) but unlike other games, it allows you to control all three characters at once. By pressing the C button, you can switch between all three characters. In fact, the game forces you to switch between characters regularly, as most obstacles can only be overcome by a specific character. Each of the Warners has two actions: jump, and act. Every action within the game controls nicely with the Genny’s 3-button pad. Yakko can attack -using a paddleball- and he can also push and pull boxes. Wakko can strike objects with a mallet, and dot can blow a kiss to manipulate people and animals (greatest video game move ever?). Each level is filled with different ways to use each character, and the game mechanics can on occasion be quite innovative. Anyone familiar with the recently released Sonic Heroes should feel instantly at home here.

Unfortunately, while the idea of team-based platforming is a solid one, its potential isn’t met in Animaniacs. While there are plenty of puzzles and obstacles throughout each level, none are all that clever, and some make absolutely no sense. Most puzzles are all too obvious. For example, you see a box and a platform, you move the box toward the platform, you jump onto the box and then onto the platform. Other puzzles can be ridiculous. How in the world does hitting a fuse with a mallet ignite a bomb? Whatever the case, these issues can be attributed to the game being targeted towards a young audience; it isn’t supposed to be difficult.

Which leads to my next and biggest, complaint: the game is over way too fast. There are five levels in Animaniacs, four of which can be beaten in any order you please. Once the first four levels are completed, a fifth becomes available. Each level can be completed in less than ten minutes once you learn how to solve to each obstacle. Adding a little to the games overall length, a mini-game can be found to change up the pace, and add lives. It’s a little surprising that more mini-games weren’t added, it could’ve been a great way to show the craziness of the cartoon. And like most other games, after each level there is a boss encounter. The boss battles can be fun (fans of the show will absolutely love the final boss) but like the rest of the game, they’re easy once figured out. In case you need more time to figure out a certain puzzle or boss, the game does include a password feature. Because of its short length, the feature doesn’t seem necessary, but it’s welcomed.

While the game’s length may be a disappointment, the sound and graphics certainly are not. The soundtrack is excellent. The theme song is the same as the show’s (sans the lyrics) and each level has its own music. Each piece is enjoyable and will stick in your head. The sound effects are standard for the genre, and there isn’t really anything to complain about. The graphics are also excellent. Everything in the game is bright and colorful, making great use of the Genesis color palette. Each character is well animated and everything looks exactly like it does in the cartoon, and the environments are well detailed. My only complaint would be that there aren’t any “extra” animations during special situations. No “balancing on the edge of a platform” here. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by games of the time, but it would’ve been nice to see these added in.

In the end, Animaniacs is a solid game that does its license justice. It features some nice graphics, sound, and animation all while keeping the feel of the television show. Its team-based gameplay mechanic is an interesting innovation, and has no doubt influenced games on current consoles. Still, more could have been done to flesh the idea out. Animaniacs (the show), though definitely not loved by all, was brilliant in that it could be enjoyed by viewers of all ages. Thusly it’s disappointing that Konami would craft a game targeting mainly younger gamers. A little more challenge and length would’ve gone a long way for this game. If you’re looking for a title you can have a fun afternoon with, Animaniacs is a good fit, and can be found very cheap. It’s definitely worth a look.

SCORE: 7 out of 10

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