The Lion King logo AGA Amiga Computing Gold

Grab your toupees, break into a rousing chorus of The Circle of Life and go 'Aah!' at the cute little lions. Yes, it's The Lion King in game form. Tina Hackett catches a strong strain of jungle fever...

INTRODUCTION

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/Disney's last game, Aladdin, was anything to go by then this isn't exactly a bad thing and now the license from their last film, The Lion King has been turned into a game. But is it really the cat's whiskers, the king of the jungle, a roaring success?

STORYLINE

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.


 

FLASHBACK

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-legged one. This all sounds rather obvious but it actually leads to vastly differing styles of gameplay. At first I found it rather hard to control the lion, although it did make a pleasant change once you'd grasped the basics.

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.


 

SOUND

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%

 

GRAPHICS

As you might expect, a Virgin/Disney collaboration results in a visually spectacular game. If you've already seen the Aladdin game then you know what you can expect.

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-like action, are conveyed brilliantly, making the cub as endearing as he was in the film.

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%

 

OPINION81%

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.



The Lion King logo AGA

With a bellowing roar and a few verses of Hakuna Matata, Steve Jarratt pounces on Virgin's Aladdin-alike and wonders how something so cute can be such a pain in the...

The Disney animation studios have at last stepped, Mad Max-like, from their howling desert of their wilderness years. First with The Little Mermaid, then Aladdin and now with the rip-roaring Lion King.

And, sure enough, where 'ere Disney go, Virgin are sure to follow. Like the Amiga version of Aladdin, The Lion King is a platform game. Like Aladdin, The Lion King features stupendous animation. Like Aladdin, The Lion King boasts sprawling, colourful levels. Unlike Aladdin, The Lion King isn't terribly good fun...

Aladdin was a spritely young fellah who could perform leaps and swings with acrobatic aplomb. Little Simba, on the other hand, is a chubby, floppy-pawed lion cub with all the airborne grace of a sodden sponge.

The collision detection is also terribly vague, whether you're trying to pounce a lizard or seek out a platform edge. These factors conspire to make The Lion King a really frustrating little game.

Instead of romping through the levels, reacting instinctively to hazards as they appear, you have to tip-toe along as if every step might be your last, wary of impending doom.

Hyenas, vultures and panthers always seem to attack when you're in an enclosed space, making defensive manoeuvres (like 'jumping out of the way') more difficult than they ought to be. Aladdin did at least have a flashing scimitar with which to despatch his foe; poor Simba has little more than the ability to land on things, plus a weedy roar which does little but scare porcupines upside-down, enabling him to squash them.

A reasonable mode of attack, admittedly, since a 75lb lion cub is more than a match for the soft underbelly of any quilled creature. But if you're a pixel too far either side when making your jump, instead of flattening said up-turned porcupine you end up getting pricked and losing a swatch of energy.

Simba is a floppy-pawed lion cub with all the airborne grace of a sodden sponge.

Rocks and hard places
Later stages (which I've had the good fortune of sampling) are equally tricky and even more frustrating.
Level four - Simba's Exile - sees the young cub traversing a rocky landscape littered with tricky platform jumps. Like in Aladdin, Simba very often only just spans the gap, and is left clinging to the edge, scrambling for a few seconds before clawing his way to safety.

On this level, though, Simba also has to contend with rocks which plummet down the screen. But not at random, oh no. They fall wherever Simba happens to be - and if he's in mid-platform-edge-scramble, then he inevitably receives a rock blow to his furry cranium. And it's not your fault; you just can't interrupt the animation sequence.

I'm not saying the game should be made easier - otherwise you'd finish it in one sitting - but it could have been a damn sight friendlier. Considering the age of those who might want to join Simba on his travels, the play mechanics don't seem to be particularly well judged.

Buy it, if you must, but don't expect too much in the way of Hakuna Matata.


SIMBA STUNTS - THE ANIMATED ANTICS OF A LION CUB

The Lion King
Simba watches the butterflies flutter by with the look of wonderment only the young and innocent can muster. And idiots.

The Lion King
If simba only just manages to make a jump, he clings precariously to the edge for a second and then scrambles his way up.

The Lion King
Like all big, grown-up lions, Simba is well versed in the stealthy hunched-down-ready-to-pounce manoeuvre,

The Lion King
In a temporary gravity-defying move, Simba launches himself skywards. This is known as 'jumping'.

The Lion King
In a numbing recreation of the hars battle for survival, Simba jumps upon a lizard causing it to... er... explode.

The Lion King
Swelling his chest, the mighty Simba lets rip with an ear-splitting call which rumbles across the veldt... 'Miaow' he goes.

The Lion King
Like all young cbs (except those with woggles and first-aid badges) Simba can curl up and tumble along the ground.

The Lion King
By rapidly positioning alternate paws in front of one another, Simba breaks into what is technically described as a 'run'.


THE LION KING: LOST STAGES

Like Aladdin and the forthcoming Jungle Book, Virgin's The Lion King is a conversion of the Mega Drive game. But, sadly, The Lion King has not survived the journey intact. Mega Drive players were treated to nine levels, whereas we get a paltry seven (plus two bonus).

Somewhere along the way levels Can't Wait To Be King and Hakuna Matata have been lost. Which is a shame because they both sound really jolly: Can't Wait features Simba bouncing off rhinos' heads into the trees and riding an ostrich, while in Hakuna Simba traverses a waterfall on logs while dodging some itinerant gorilla's coconuts.

Why the omission? Well, it would appear that Virgin simply ran out of time prior to getting the game out ready for the yletide shopping season. Doh!

SIMBA - THE FLYIN' KING

Simba the elder takes a flying leap on to a unsuspecting hyena (left). In the ensuing scrap, however, the two earn their enemy's grudging respect and end up doing The Twist together (right).

The Lion King The Lion King

The Lion King logo AGA A1200 Speziell

Kaum hat "Aladdin" am Amiga seine Prinzessin erobert, schon ist ihm der nächste Disney-Hüpfer auf den Fersen: Ob Virgins Plattform-Leu den Erfolg aus dem Kino hier wiederholen kann, ist allerdings trotz Mega-Grafik noch nicht ganz raus....

Kas die Präsentation betrifft, steht das aktuelle Disney/Virgin-Spektakel der vorangegangenen Orient-Tour kaum nach, denn auch die Großkatze verdankt ihr schickes AGA-Fell der Mitarbeit zahlloser Zeichner aus den Disney-Studios. Unter Zuhilfenahme sündteurer Grafik-Workstations und einiger echter Löwen entstanden so Bild für Bild äußerst realistische Bewegungsabläufe, die erst zu Papier gebracht und dann zwecks Animation in Bits & Bytes umgewandelt wurden.

Im Ergebnis bietet der Löwenkönig somit einen wahrhaft königlichen Anblick: Rein optisch wurde da einer der erfolgreichsten Zeichentrickfilme aller Zeiten zu einer der schönsten Movie-Konvertierungen aller Zeiten gemacht!

Ja, wenn Klein-Simba behende über die Plattformen turnt, sich ängstlich an einen Felsüberhang klammert oder während einer Spielpause belustigt einem vorbeischwebenden Schmetterling nachguckt, dann sind mimische Unterschiede zwischen der großen Kinoleinwand und dem vermeintlich kleinen Amigascreen kaum noch zu erkennen. Mit Einschränkungen gilt das auch für den sich eng an die Filmhandlung haltenden Spielverlauf.

So wird der junge Löwenprinz auch hier vom intriganten Onkel Scar für den Tod seines Vaters verantwortlich gemacht und in die Savanne verbannt. Dort trifft er auf das Wildschwein Pumbaa und die Meerkatze Timon, schließt Freundschaft und kehrt nach Jahren an seinen Geburtsort zurück, um Anspruch auf den Thron des Steppenkönigs anzumelden. Doch wo sich das Happy-End auf der Leinwand nach rund 90 Minuten quasi von selbst einstellt, müssen Zocker natürlich kräftig nachhelfen...

In den sieben Levels ist der Wiedererkennungseffekt für Filmkenner also recht groß. So wurden etwa die geheimnisvollen Reliquien des Pavian-Täufers zu Rücksetztpunkten umdeklariert, und Simbas Flucht vor heranstürmenden Gnus (zu sehen in einer hübschen 3D-Sequenz) erinnert sofort an das Movie; genau wie der Ausflug der streunenden Hyänen zum Elefantenfriedhof.

Animierte Zwischensequenzen schlagen dabei eine Brücke zwischen den abwechslungsreichen Aufgaben: Es gilt, vor heranrollenden Felsbrocken zu flüchten oder Nashörner als Sprungtuch zu mißbrauchen.

Alles schön und gut, wenn am Amiga bloß nicht ein Großteil dessen fehlen wurde, was die nahezu zeitgleich veröffentlichten Konsolen- und PC-Versionen zum Ausnahmespiel erhoben hat - doch nach Szenen wie dem Hüpfen über Giraffenköpfe, dem Speed-Abschnitt auf dem Rücken eines Vogel Strauß, der Rutschpartie über den Wasserfall der hängenden Gärten, das Höhlen-Labyrinth oder die beiden Bonuslevels wartet man vor der "Freundin" vergebens.

Eine schnöde Enttäuschung also, die uns Amiganern da bereitet wird, denn mit etwas mehr Mühe seitens der Entwickler wäre doch gerade am A1200 sicher die beste aller Umsetzungen möglich gewesen!

Tja, so haben wir im direkten Vergleich halt die schwächste bekommen. Wobei das natürlich relativ zu sehen ist, denn das Vorhandene spielt sich auch hier sehr gut und braucht sich vor der Genre-Konkurrenz gewiß nicht zu verstecken. Sammelextras sind z.B. vorhanden, sie tauchen in Form verschiedenfarbiger Käfer auf und bescheren Simba frische Löwenenergie, Zusatzleben oder Continues - und damit auch dem Plattform-Novizen ein Weiterkommen.

Prinzipiell steht der Held dem Ansturm feindlicher Gorillas, Chamäleons und Wüstenhunde nämlich relativ wehrlos gegenüber: Ob man Gegner kleineren Kalibers nun durch Brunftbrüller vertreibt oder größere durch einen gekonnten Sprung auf den Kopf besiegt, stets entscheiden exaktes Timing und Geschicklichkeit über Sieg oder Niederlage.

Selbst wenn aus dem kleinen Löwenkind im Spielverlauf mal ein stattlicher Leu geworden ist, der sich per Prankenhieb zur Wehr setzen kann, birgt die Wildnis immer noch allerlei Gefahren. Häufig wird Simba da von Felslawinen überrascht oder von wirr umherflatternden Fledermäusen attackiert; kurzum, das Gamedesign kennt durchaus ein paar kleinere Ungereimtheiten.

Ecken und Kanten finden sich zudem beim Handling, denn eine Festplatte wird ebensowenig unterstützt wie Zwei-Button-Pads bzw. -Sticks. Gut, das mag der Spielbarkeit im konkreten Fall nicht allzu abträglich sein, aber von einem modernen Jump & Run kann einfach mehr Komfort erwartet werden. Und egal, ob man nun durch weite Savannen oder hübsch gezeichnete Lavahöhlen trabt, des öfteren verfällt das ansonsten supersoft Parallax-Scrolling in störendes Ruckeln.

Nun, immerhin unterscheidet die Steuerung zwischen zwei Möglichkeiten, Simba zum Hüpfen bzw. Brüllen zu überreden, und der Rest der Präsentation ist fraglos gelungen: Die originalen Musikstücke aus der Feder von Elton John und Hans Zimmer wurden prima umgesetzt und passen ebensogut in das Geschehen wie die Sound-FX: die detailreiche Grafik ist hübsch bunt, und die sagenhafte Animation von Freund und Feind ist ohnehin über jeden Zweifel erhaben.

Trotzdem hätten wir uns von einem speziellen AGA-Game mehr erwartet als bloß eine stark gekürzte Konvertierung vom Mega Drive - und das mit Recht, wie Virgin selbst ja erst kürzlich bei hat "Aladdin" bewiesen hat. Leider besteht diesbezüglich auch keine Hoffnung auf Besserung am CD32, denn eine Schillerversion ist ebensowenig geplant wie die Umsetzung für Standard-Amigas. (rl)



The Lion King logo AGA

The games that score high marks in AMIGA POWER tend to be the ones which either cause huge crowds of us to gather around the office Amiga for days and days shouting uproariously and not doing any work (recent examples of which are Guardian, Shadow Fighter and Roadkill) and those which inspire fanatical devotion on the part of one or two lone employees who sit transfixed in the corner, muttering a lot and doing any work (Sensible World of Soccer, Pinball Illusions, Theme Park and Zeewolf).

Sadly, The Lion King falls into neither of these categories. It's a very dull game - not a patch on the splendid Aladdin (AP44 86%), which it superficially resembles.

Like Aladdin, The Lion King (the game) is a platformer. Like Aladdin, it opens with a tune from the film that includes some pleasant singing. And like Aladdin, the character you control is brilliantly animated using special drawings direct from Disney.

Simba (you lion cub) hops about almost as if he's alive. He pounces from platform to platform, and clings on to ledges by his claws with his legs dangling in the air. If you take your hands off the controls for a while he starts to bat passing insects with his paws. He goes "Eeeek!" if you press up, with the aim of terrifying baddies into submission.

And he even suddenly grows up to an adult lion halfway through the game and then can whack baddies with his pas while going "RROOOOAAAR!". In fact, animation-wise, Simba is even better than Aladdin. All the graphics are pretty good, actually, not just Simba.

There are some nicely-animated vultures, and the scenery is never dull, with plenty of parallax scrolling. The music isn't too bad. You can even choose between using the fire button to jump or roar.


Periods where nothing happens

MANE
But there the Aladdin similarities end. Aladdin is packed with references to the film, bursting with comical characters and humorous moments (even if most of them are crammed into the first couple of levels). The Lion King has a few hyenas, but they just wander about the platforms looking bored, and, apart from having Simba in, it could be any old game.

There's always something going on in Aladdin, whether it's a comedy knife-thrower trying to kill you, an exhilarating slide down a washing line, or a little bonus game of some sort. The Lion King has long periods where nothing happens at all.

Aladdin (the film) is ideal platform-fodder - a madcap chase through the bustling streets of Agrabah. The Lion King is more about rolling savannahs and herds of zebras milling about, and just doesn't feel right as a platform game, even with the novelty of a four-legged hero. Aladdin was blessed with the magical touch of Dave Perry, the near-legendary designer of Cool Spot, but The Lion King isn't.

The slick animation masks a character who's terrible to control. Ranged jumps are handled by having Simba leap forwards for as long as you hold the joystick to the left or right, and then dropping straight downwards as soon as you release it - the same crap and unnatural system as used in Benefactor.

The sound effects sound like sound effects (if you see what I mean) rather than anything connected with the action. The collision detection is shaky - I still keep getting killed on the theoretically straightforward Level 1, and I'm sure it's not my fault. And if you're hoping for a faithful conversion of the console versions, you won't be disappointed... until you try to find the rhinoceros and waterfall levels, which have been missed out because Virgin "ran out of time".

However, the 3D wildebeest stampede level is a real winner. Having Simba running out of the screen with wildebeest charging towards him from behind is a great idea. I was actually getting quite excited (albeit imperceptibly) as three wildebeest bore down on him while he was trying to dodge a dangerous rock.

But that's it, really. Slick manufacturing and good looks aside, The Lion King's heart just isn't in it. It seems to have been designed from the Simba animations upwards, with the inspiration rapidly evaporating as the time came to make it fun to play. Apart from the 3D level, I didn't enjoy any of it.

On level 4 The Lion King starts randomly dropping rocks on your head, is that the action of a game which wants to be played?


LEFT! RIGHT! LOOK OUT! OH NO!

The Lion King
It's the 3D wildebeest stampede level. They run towards Simba, attempting to crush him beneath their hooves.

The Lion King
He must dart from side to side, seeming, to the observer, to sense them behind him without even looking or anything.

The Lion King
Why he doesn't merely run to the side of the gully and hide in a crevice is beyond even our mighty cognitive powers.

The Lion King
Simba leaps into the air to avoid a rock. It does seem to go on a bit long, this section, that's the only thing.




The Lion King logo AGA

Price: £29.99 Publisher: Virgin 081 960 2255

The Lion King hype-mobile is still going strong, and it's just delivered the Amiga game. Rik Skews wants to be King.

The '90s have seen Disney firmly in the big time. It was Aladdin that catapulted Disney to the top and this success has been sustained bya timely re-release of The Jungle Book and most recently The Lion King, which looks set to be one of Disney's most successful films yet, Virgin have recently turned them all into computer games, a similar platform format across the board.

The Amiga Lion King follows on from the generally well received console versions released towards the end of last year.

Unfortunately three of the original levels are missing from the console versions. Surely Virgin could have included another disk? Even so, one of the missing levels, 'Can't wait to be king' was arguably the worst in the console game, so that's no great loss.

The remaining levels stick pretty closely to the film's plot, charting Simba's progress from a cuddly youngster to a fully fledged scary lion. Simba believes he's responsible for his father's death, and enters the wilderness to find inner peace (man).

It was actually Simba's wicked uncle Scar that killed him, but Simba doesn't find that out until later. Along the way he faces a number of challenges, bot from the complex platform environment and the numerous nasties.

Levels include 'The Elephant's Graveyard', where Simba has to make his way through crumbling elephant bones while avoiding punching hyenas and circling buzzards. in 'Simba's Exile' include massive boulders which come crashing down the corridors. 'Stampede', an excellent 3D level, breaks up the platorm action half way through the game and lets the player control Simba as he runs towards the screen in an attempt to avoid the rampaging buffalo and jagged rocks.

Gameplay?
All the usual pick-ups can be collected to help Simba in his quest. The African Red Bugs in particular are rather handy as they increase Simba's health line, essential if he's to survive the final encounter with Scar. There's also a couple of nasty pick-ups like spiders which will lower Simba's health, in the frantic action these are quite easy to accidentally collect so be careful!

Simba can scare off the other animals with his roar, which is charged up with every blue beetle he collects. He can also use the tried and trusted "jump on their heads" method and once he's an adult can use his claws too. His defensive repertoire is topped off by a ducking manoeuvre and a roll, which can also be used to burst through scenery.

All too beautiful
Just like the film, the Lion King is beautiful to look at. Both the backgrounds and the animation in particular are a work of art. I particularly love the way Simba hangs onto a ledge for dear life, with his little legs scrambling around. Sound and music are first rate too. The whole game excels in the audiovisual stakes, but then what do you expect from Disney?

Gameplay is competent - Simba is as easy and fluid to control as Aladdin, but the general game design is uninspired. Younger children may not get as much enjoyment out of it as they should due to its steep difficulty curve.

The stampede section makes a pleasant break from the platform action, but it's a shame the other two bonus rounds have been removed. It may be cheaper than the console versions, and perfectly adequate as a platform game, but The Lion King seems to be a rush job, especially when compared to the joys of Aladdin.