Last year we were somewhat spoilt with the superb Disney films that hit the cinema, namely Aladdin and The Lion King. And Disney is big business and that ultimately means big bucks. Not content to rake it in at the Box Office, we are then bombarded with all the other merchandise that goes with it. Tee shirts, cuddly toys, the soundtrack, and now the most modern of marketing ideas, the computer game license.
But if Virgin/
I went to see The Lion King (for research purposes only, you understand) so I can now relate the story for you. Simba the lion cub is forced into the wilderness by his evil uncle Scar. Y'see Scar is after the throne and by killing off Simba's Father in a nasty 'stampeding Wildebeest' accident and by convincing Simba it was all his fault (thus forcing him to disappear with his tail between his legs), he can then be king.
Simba is alone in the jungle until he comes across Timon the meerkat and Pumbaa the warthog. A few songs and a couple of comical escapades later, he sees his first love who he left with the rest of the pride. She tells him how nasty Scar is, how he's wreaked havoc with the food supply and all the other evil things that evil characters tend to do.
By this time Simba has grown into a lion and is ready to go back, defeat Scar and save the say. And surprise, surprise, he does and they all live happily ever after. Cue: soppy music, roll credits.
Being a Disney/Virgin game it is obviously going to be compared to their other recent release, Aladdin. Both have particularly stunning graphics and both have their merits. Where they differ is with the main sprite - in Aladdin you control the more usual two-legged character whereas now it's a four-
From a more personal opinion, I preferred the Aladdin film with its cheeky wit rather than the sentimentality of The Lion King, and these elements come across in the game. While this, in itself, is not a criticism, it will have an effect on the audience who play the game.
There has been quite a fuss made over the soundtrack to The Lion King, what with Elton John's "The Circle of Life" reaching the charts and The Lion King album also meeting with similar success.
So it's hardly surprising when you see that the actual musical score from the film is used in the game. This works well and fits in with the scenes and style of gameplay, reinforcing the rich atmosphere.
Other sound effects are the usual yelps when a character is hurt, or the stamping of hooves, and a rather cute mewing when Simba tries to roar.74%
As you might expect, a Virgin/
The animation is very slick and is up to the same quality as the film. The character of Simba has been captured beautifully from when he was the cute, vulnerable cub to the point where he reaches adulthood and becomes the majestic king of the jungle. His mannerisms, such as his facial expressions and kitten-
The other characters, such as the manic hyenas, also come across well through the smooth animation and immense attention to detail.
Backdrops are also impressive, evoking the wonder of the African Jungle. There is even a scene from the film where Simba is being chased through a canyon by a herd of stampeding wildebeest which could easily be swapped with its celluloid counterpart without anyone raising an eyebrow.80%
Virgin has done a most admirable job of recreating the film in game form. The magnificent graphics portray the scenes from the film brilliantly, and you are instantly whisked back to some of the very memorable parts of the film. The elephant graveyard, for example, has the same atmospheric song, the evil hyena characters, and the fantastic graphics.
The animation of the characters is also exceptional and Simba moves as fluidly as in the cartoon. As with Aladdin, their character traits come across well. For instance, Simba is shown as a young, mischievous cub, playing with the butterflies and curling up to roll down the banks. It is also a nice touch that you can play Timon and Pumbaa in the bonus games.
A criticism of Aladdin was that it was perhaps too easy. The Lion King, on the other hand, isn't, and at first it did seem rather tricky to control the sprite. Because of the design of the sprite, you also have quite a limited choice of attack. Some of the enemies can be growled at to eliminate them, or some can be pounced on - but a weapon you could throw would have helped considerably.
The character is given a beautiful range of moves though, such as the graceful leaping across the rocks or climbing up on ledges - they look realistic and move like you'd expect a lion too.
It is a fantastic looking game by anyone's standards. The gameplay is the usual platformer action and although there is nothing wrong with this in itself, it won't appeal to everyone. But for platformer fans this is an excellent offering.