Reviewed: March 10, 2003
Released: February 11, 2003
Being in my mid-20ís Iím not old enough to have seen the Jungle Book movie when it was in theaters and not young enough to be caught dead in the theater seeing the new Jungle Book 2 sequel. But as any experienced game player might expect, when a new Disney movie hits the theaters a licensed game isnít far behind.
What I found more than slightly odd was that Ubisoftís new Jungle Book game is based on the original movie from the 60ís. So while they are trying to capitalize on the steam generated from the new sequel they at least arenít pimping the new movie into a bunch of spin-off gamesÖyet.
Having no prior knowledge of the movie certainly didnít seem to affect my experience with this latest GBA title. At no time did I feel was taking part in a game that couldnít have used characters from a dozen other possible franchises.
Jungle Book is a mixture of puzzles, exploration, and a few boss battles disguised as mini-games, but mainly itís just a lot of puzzles and not very hard ones at that.
You start off with the typical slider puzzle that you might dig out of your box of Lucky Charms. In this variation you rotate groups of four symbols until the entire puzzle matches the key in the top-corner of the screen. A timer adds a bit of a challenge, if you are six years old, but anyone older will whiz through these puzzles in record time; especially considering that each puzzle starts off in its finished form and you watch it get shuffled. If you are good at the ďshell gameĒ you can simply memorize and reverse the order of the shuffle and finish each puzzle in about six seconds. Itís amusing for about ten minutes until you realize that these puzzles constitute most of the gameplay then you will groan and start looking for your receipt. In all fairness, the puzzles do get a bit more difficult later in the game as more shapes are introduced into the mix, but it still smacks of repetition and boring gameplay.
The exploration part of the game has you exploring various environments collecting statues and fruit. The more you get the more bonus screens you unlock in the Gallery. These are still images from the original movie that you could have purchased on VHS if you didnít buy this game. Along the way you will encounter various bosses like a snake and a tiger that you defeat by rapidly hitting the A and B buttons. These are about as stimulating as the old Track and Field button smasher. The only sequence I found remotely challenging was rafting down the river on a giant blue bear ducking branches and avoiding fish.
If all this exploration sounds too tedious you can opt for the Puzzle mode that strips away the adventure elements and has you going through the lengthy sequence of puzzles. Considering these make up most of the game you arenít missing much.
The game features a password save function, but these passwords are so cryptic they are probably decommissioned nuke launch codes. Make sure to have pen and paper handy to write down upper and lowercase letters as well as numbers and funky symbols. To make matters worse you are only given these passwords at very lengthy intervals so you canít always quit when you like or need to unless you are prepared to replay your current level over again from the beginning.
The graphics in Jungle Book are surprisingly good with great detail and plenty of color. The characters all look very good and resemble the movie characters, or at least what Iíve seen in the movie trailers on TV. The animation is pretty good but probably not worthy of a Disney license. The GBA has seen better.
The game also includes still images and very shorts video clips from the original movie. These are decent quality but so short you often wonder why they bothered.
The sound effects are nothing outstanding, just your typical bleeps and whistles you would expect in a puzzle game combined with a few notable sounds during the exploration mode.
The music is cheery and fun with a definite nod towards some jazz roots. Given Disneyís preoccupation with theme music I was surprised there wasnít something of better quality here.
Even the youngest of gamers will walk through this game in a day or two; most will probably finish it in a single session. Consisting mainly of those rotating fruit puzzles, just make sure you know what you are in for before you rent or purchase this title.
Jungle Book isnít a horrible game, but it could be considered extremely misleading. Just reading the back of the box and visiting the website certainly had me thinking I was in store for much more than I got. Instead of some grandiose adventure or platform title I found myself handling more produce than the guy at my local supermarket.
If a simple-minded puzzle game is all you are after then go for it otherwise you have been warned, and I strongly suggest a rental before you invest in a purchase.