Reviewed: June 17, 2002
Reviewed by: Mat Houghton
Apparently Disney decided that it hadnít quite made enough money off Tarzan, and the software they created for the film. In Tarzan Untamed Ubisoft has made a passable attempt at a platform game utilizing Disneyís 3-D painting software, and the extreme sports feel of Tarzan the movie.
As Tarzan, you swing through the trees minding your own business taking Jane on a knuckle drag for a quick banana when suddenly the jungle idyll is shattered. It seems humans have come back to the jungle looking for apes. Specifically, gorillas to study, and the scientist at the head of all this - well, lets just say his methods are less than savory (in an appropriately Disney vagueness). Your job jungle king? Save the baby gorillas, duh! And do some shredding along the way.
I wonít go so far as to say that the gameplay is terrible, but it comes close. There are four different styles of control to the game; the jungle search, surfing, water-skiing, and bungee challenge. Each is slightly unique, but certainly nothing really new to the genre.
Jungle search is the typical platform game. You run, jump, fight a little, collect film reels, save baby gorillas, yadda, yadda, yadda. The thing that stands out is that through out these levels there are tree limbs and hollow logs to grind through and do tricks during for points. The points get you a free life at 5,000 point intervals, but the counter resets every time you die. Initially I thought it was a great idea, however, you only have three tricks in your trick book, and one of them you can only do when jumping off vines. Also, the response on the trick commands are a little slow on the uptake, so you donít always get them off.
The surfing and water-ski stages are very similar. In one youíre being towed behind a bird, and the other you shoot down rapids. You dodge left and right and jump, and can speed up or slow down to avoid obstacles, but thatís about it. The tricks are again limited to three and there are grinds, but good luck using them effectively because time is short and everything is moving fast.
Finally the bungee challenge. You dive off a cliff and have to avoid hitting anything in order to get a film reel at the bottom. Nothing too fancy here, but if you do succeed (which at three tries a continue and unlimited continues how can you not?) You unlock the ability to have gorillas positioned in the jungle search levels to help you out.
While all this doesnít sound bad the end result is for a few reasons. The first is that there are very few checkpoints in the jungle search levels and none in the surfing and water-skiing ones. You end up repeating a lot of these very frustrating sequences. The game is good at taking away your health, but itís nearly impossible to get any back, especially during the ride levels.
Basically all this is just a long way of saying that the game is merely "OK", but nothing to write home about unless you like doing things over and over again.
The backgrounds in this game are stunning, richly textured and detailed environments abound for you to explore, in as much as you can. The 3-D jungle levels are well rendered, as are the character images. The movement in the game is also excellent. Tarzan lopes along with the best of apes, swings fluidly, and even finds some space for a few good moves. However, the cinematics look just this side of baloony which takes away some of the edginess that made the film so good.
The jungle is dark too and you may find yourself jumping too soon or missing the approaching alligator due to low lighting under that thick canopy not to mention three small words: NO CAMERA CONTROL. Plus this game is very linear with narrowly defined paths and no way to deviate form them.
Whatís that? Canít you hear the drums? Itís the natives, man! Run or theyíll take your head! While nothing that insistent pervades this game, there are pleasant African rhythms in the background. Itís fairly forgettable though.
The voice acting is as good as youíd expect from Disney, and they have someone doing a passable imitation of Rosie Oí Donnel for her character in the film - no Minnie Driver though.
If youíre like me then about two hours and youíll have had enough. Thereís fifteen levels, but very little changes once youíve seen all the different modes. Most of the game play comes from repetition anyway, so depending on your skill youíve got about 4-6 hours of play to get through the story mode, and after that itís just how pigheaded you are about completing the game.
While there are several options for replay in the game with trying to collect all the film reels and rescue all the gorilla babies, Ubisoft threw in another game mode in the form of point and time challenges that you can attempt after you beat each level in story mode. The unfortunate thing is that the levels havenít really changed, youíre just going through them again to try to either gather as many trick points as you can or as fast as you can.
The dubious prize for accomplishing these tasks is unlocking other playable characters, but only in the water-skiing and surfing levels. Since most of the time you would have no desire to revisit a level after itís been beaten, it seems more of a headache than itís worth.
While it looks good, Tarzan Untamed isnít really worth the time unless youíve got nothing else to do with $30 and like ramming your head against a brick wall. It falls just short of fun and lands smack in the center of annoying.