Reviewed: October 28, 2005
Released: September 14, 2005
I recently reviewed the GBA game Animaniacs: Lights, Camera, Action! and pretty much ripped it apart. It was an awful little game, and I remain unapologetic. Happily, however, it seems that not all games in a franchise cycle are created equally. Not to say that the new console Animaniacs game Animaniacs: The Great Edgar Hunt is good, exactly: it certainly is not. However, the power of a home console does manage to pick up at least some of the slack that a handheld game simply cannot.
There was a time when Animaniacs: The Great Edgar Hunt might have been considered a vastly innovative game. That time was about nine years ago. This platform title is marred by woefully outdated gameplay, both in terms of level design and controlling the characters. The controls are what we game reviewers call "loose;" that is to say, they are sloppy and inaccurate compared to what we are used to.
The fact that the GameCube has the amazing Super Mario Sunshine, by comparison, just makes Animaniacs' situation all the worse. The levels are designed sprawlingly, and there are plenty of areas whose main purpose seems to be simply extending the distance, which players must run, jump, swim and climb to get to the next task. Often times, a hidden enemy that can strike before you know what is happening is presented as a "challenge." The game's low overall level of difficulty makes up for this in a transitory way, but it is a poor design choice.
There are a relatively large number of moves that every character can perform in the game, most of them stolen from other titles. Triple jumping, ground-pounds and sliding kick attacks are all on the menu, and work just how you remember them from previous, more innovative games. In this respect, the game is flat average, but it only gets worse when you get into specializations.
Yakko, Wakko and Dot each have some sort of tool or special ability they can use that the other two Warners cannot: Yakko throws bombs, Wakko can dig with a spade (huh?), and Dot can limbo underneath low ceilings. This is all, of course, provided that you acquire the item that goes along with each character's ability: Yakko can't throw bombs right from the get-go, for instance.
The problem is in the pacing of the game around these abilities. There was a time early on where I came up against a puzzle that could only be solved by having Wakko selectable, with no direction or hints on where and how to get him. If this was a minor "side path," I could easily forgive it (and there are some instances of these in the game as well), but it was a roadblock to the main game's progression.
Having just wandered through a vast level full of mostly nothing, I had little desire to go back and explore every nook and cranny in search of the famously gassy Warner. It doesn't help that you can't switch characters on the fly. It might extend the game's play time to force players to run back and forth between switch points, but it's not a very good way to do it.
There are also numerous mini-games involving Pinky and The Brain; more specifically, the rodent duo's ever-unlikely plans for world domination. A few of these were mildly entertaining, but by and large they were too easy and one-dimensional to be any fun. Often I found myself working against a generous time limit, with little or nothing in the way of obstacles to avoid. Of course, some of the game's most important items can only be snagged by completing these mini-games, so they aren't so much a diversion as a slightly tedious necessity.
The items in question are the Edgars, silly-looking little golden statues equivalent to the Oscars of our real world. All of the Edgars were stolen from their safe house at the beginning of the game, but due to the dumb mistake of a dumb henchman, they fall out of the getaway helicopter and scatter all across the Warner Bros. movie lots. It isn't much of a premise, but that in and of itself has never hurt a platforming game. Remember Super Mario Brothers?
Rather, the annoying part of all this is the fact that, even though the actors and studio are supposedly frantic for the Animaniacs to get their Edgars back, they have an awful hard time coughing them up when the Warners Three come calling. All of the action takes place on movie sets, as the game would have it. A lot of times, the people on these sets have an Edgar or two in their possession, but for some reason they want the Animaniacs to complete all sorts of objectives in exchange for the return of the precious statues.
I know it might seem nitpicky at first. But think about it - the whole situation just doesn't equate. With the rest of the game so poorly made, I often found myself yelling at my TV screen. "Why should I do that in exchange for an Edgar? Aren't you the guys who want them back so badly? Just turn yours in already!" I shouted irritably on several occasions. If you're going to make a game, no matter how thin the story, at least make the motivations of the characters match up with it. There doesn't have to be much of a reason. Just make it slightly believable, please.
Overall, the easiness of this game makes it suitable for younger children. Unfortunately, it misses its ideal demographic because of this, which is the generation (my generation) who grew up with the original edgy, good-natured show. Those of us who remember coming home from school and flipping on the boob tube for half an hour of double entendres and Monty Python-esque absurdity are the ones who are most likely to be interested in a game based around the show. It's too bad Ignition Entertainment chose to err on the side of kid-safe with their gameplay; a smarter game might have become a cult hit with older gamers as well as an appealing children’s' title.
Yeesh. The graphics in Animaniacs: The Great Edgar Hunt are some of the worst I've yet seen on the GameCube. Whatever small amount of faith I had retained in Nintendo's "Seal of Quality" actually meaning something, besides that the game has been legally licensed, was erased the moment I watched the opening sequence of this game.
The 3D rendering looks like it was done a decade ago on a 386, and is fuzzy and unnatural. The in-game models move convincingly, but even with the excuse that it's supposed to look like a cartoon, the lack of detail in the game worlds is astonishing. Except for the lack of jaggies, this could easily be a direct port of a PlayStation 1 game.
Everything about this game's graphics is lackluster. Special effects are beyond minimal as well. However, if nothing else, it sports a passable draw distance without fogging up, and it's obvious that at least an effort was put out to give the game the appearance of a cartoon. Houses are skewed and NPC’s are exaggerated in both form and movement. It's nothing to write home about, but these things save it from being a total bomb in this department.
It's a huge bonus that the original music from the TV show, as well as the original vocal cast, have been utilized for Animaniacs: The Great Edgar Hunt. In particular, the voice acting is quite nearly the saving grace of the entire game. Thanks to at-least-okay scripting and some occasional send-ups of the Hollywood set, this is the closest thing yet to being able to watch new episodes of the beloved program. If the gameplay weren't such a bore, and the graphics so atrocious, it might be worth playing just for the chance to experience new witticisms and silliness from the Warner trio.
Aside from the licensed stuff, music in this game isn't really very good, but at least it never really gets annoying. Sound effects follow suit, and match up well with the simplistic graphics and gameplay. No, that was not a compliment.
If I had to pick a single category in which Animaniacs: The Great Edgar Hunt falls short... well, it'd be graphics, I guess. But lasting value would be a close second. The market is clogged with also-ran games like this. Nobody needs another one, and nobody will get any lasting value from it in any gaming sense.
The only thing that saves it a little is that there is some value to be found in getting to know the Animaniacs a little bit again. For an adult gamer, the time it should take to wipe the floor with this game rests lightly between five and ten hours. As previously noted, children who are looking for something a bit easier may find the length and difficulty of Animaniacs to be just right.
But in the end, there really isn't any reason to not go with one of the many superior choices to be found on the Cube, ranging from Super Mario Sunshine through a large number of decent Sonic the Hedgehog titles and even a couple of passable Kirby games. All of these are more carefully designed than Animaniacs, more entertaining, and just as accessible to the same audience, if not even more so.
It's hard for me to see a good game ever being made out of a cartoon like Animaniacs. In that light, I give Ignition Entertainment marks for effort, if nothing else. But even if you're working with a franchise that's difficult to translate into a control pad and gigadisc, there isn't any excuse to saddle it with shoddy, uninspired trappings.
From its mediocre gameplay to its downright icky graphics, there wasn't a whole lot that couldn't have been done better in the making of this game. The inspired voice acting is a major plus, and this game isn't the total stink bomb it might have been, which is good, I suppose. But unless you're the most rabid Animaniacs fan on Earth, I'd avoid it.