Game: Animaniacs: Lights, Camera, Action!
System: Nintendo DS
Developer: Ignition Entertainment
Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
Release Date: 10/20/05
I love the Animaniacs. I’ve long pined for their zany antics since they’ve disappeared off the airwaves and the WB scheduling block in favor of such gems as “Mucha Lucha” and “Megaman NT Warrior” (ugh). But luckily, fate seemed to have smiled upon me with the release of a new Animaniacs game for the DS! The fate pointed at me, laughed, and flicked boogers at me for getting my hopes up. Is the game THAT BAD? Read on and find out!
The Animaniacs have cost the Warner Brothers studio a grand total of a zillion dollars in damages. So what does Mr. Plotz, leader of the studio, have in mind for the tenacious trio? Why, put them in a situation where they can do MORE damage! In other words, send them off to make three films in pirate, sci-fi, and horror genres. At least they didn’t let Wakko direct, otherwise there would just be an armpit-rendition of Yankee Doodle Dandy and we’d be out of the game in five minutes. (Come to think of it, that’s not too bad…)
While this is simply the background fodder, you’ll notice that you’re jumping from movie to movie as you go from stage to stage. You don’t just complete each movie in succession, you end up filming scenes in a rotation. Granted each theme allows a different Animaniac to shine, but it becomes a little disorienting as you progress through.
The visuals are pretty crisp and clear for a GBA game. The characters animate well, and the sprites are pretty detailed. The stages are set-up in an isometric 2D perspective, so there is a little confusion sometimes as to where you’re going to land while platform hopping, but there isn’t too much of that. Yep, these are pretty nice for a GBA game…but the problem is that this ISN’T a GBA game. Well, it IS, but its a straight port to the DS with barely any changes made. While nice for a GBA title, its pretty sub par for a DS game.
Now I know what you’re saying: “Alex, there’s a few other DS titles with worse graphics than this!” And you’d be right. (I’m looking at YOU, Polarium) However, you gotta understand that this game was released for BOTH the GBA and DS. The technology in the aforementioned systems are miles apart, but the games are virtually identical looking. This just shows major laziness on the part of the developers, thinking they could pass off one game as two different versions. Heck, there isn’t even any additional content in the DS game, outside of the touch-screen pause feature. Add the fact that I can play BOTH versions on the same unit, and you’ll see why I expected something more.
Oh man, I was SO disappointed when I figured out that there were no true voices for the Animaniacs in this game. I so wanted to hear Yakko display his quick-witted tongue, Wakko announce he had to go to the potty, or Dot saying how cute she was every chance she got. But alas, there were none. Now, far be it from me to rate a game for something it doesn’t have, but the replacement generic grunts and groans for where the voices SHOULD have been are horrendous. They sound nothing like the Animaniacs crew I know. Even Pinky and The Brain squeak. SQUEAK. They don’t squeak! They NARF and POIT! Where the hell are my NARFs, Ignition?!? (ahem) Add to the fact that the other sound effects are just as generic, and you can tell how much I care for this.
The music is pretty decent, I must say, but nothing close to what I remember from the original TV show. It’s not BAD, just not very memorable. I would have preferred SOME orchestra chase music at some point, but that’s just me.
As stated before, each stage you go through is isometric 2D, or tilted at a constant 45-degree angle. This in itself isn’t so bad, but the controls are set up so THEY are tilted as well. Holding Up will maker you run Up/Right, Right makes you go Right/Down, etc. You’ll have to hold a diagonal combination to go Up/Down/Left/Right. I had a very difficult time adjusting to this control scheme, and it was MUCH more of a hindrance than anything. Had the D-Pad been “untilted,” it would have been much more bearable.
The goal is to solve platform-related puzzles and collect food and film reels in the process. The film reels act as your time counter, as you fail when it hits zero. The food is your standard game collectable, much like Mario’s coins and Sonic’s rings. These count to your overall ranking at the end of the level. Collect all the food, and your movie is rated five stars! (How one relates to the other is beyond me.)
Just make sure an enemy doesn’t hit you. You have no life bar to speak of, so when you get hit the director will cry “CUT!” and you’ll have to start from your last checkpoint. This can get really annoying when you have to restart 20 times in a row. Luckily, you’ll occasionally run into a “stunt double” that can protect you for one hit, but these are rather rare to come by.
You start each stage as one of the Animaniacs, with the ability to switch characters at certain points within them to proceed further. In total, there are five playable characters: Yakko, Wakko, Dot, Pinky, and The Brain. Each one has special abilities, or what the game claims them to be. Wakko can throw objects farther than anyone else. (Which really isn’t that useful.) Yakko doesn’t throw anything, but burps. Dot can use her skirt to float down rather than fall. Pinky can take short cuts in mouse holes. And The Brain can activate “I.Q. Levers” (i.e. Levers with light bulbs! SO COMPLEX!), but can’t jump at all. He even gives you back sass if you try. (The sad thing is that he’s the ONLY character that bask sasses anyone.) If you think these abilities are just bad, I agree. Where’s Yakko’s famous “two paddle balls at once” power? Wakko’s Gaggy-Bag? Dot’s cuteness? Anyone want to fill me in on where THESE ended up in the development cycle?
Actually SWITCHING between characters is a pain in the butt, because every time you try, you’re forced to play the “Polka Dottie” mini-game. (One of the few actual Animaniacs TV references, even if it is one of the most obscure.) Various button commands appear on either side of the screen, and you have to hit the right ones once they reach the center. Yet the commands often come in too fast, and you usually won’t be able to hit them all. Doing well nets you some extra film reels, but is it REALLY necessary to have to play this game EVERY TIME you want to switch to a different character?
As stated earlier, there aren’t any real touch-screen features to take advantage of here, outside of pausing the game and using the options menu. Which is a shame, as I’ve played a couple of other GBA ports on the system that at least TRIED to use it creatively.
And that is essentially what you do in this game. The sad thing is that outside of a few minor references to the original show, this game could have had different characters all together, and still feels the same. The Animaniacs have been taken COMPLETELY out of their element. No being chased by the inept bungling guard. No torturing the “villain of the day” with pranks and mischief. No ogling over Hello Nurse. Just them doing as they’re told and running around film sets all day. Maybe I’m just too much of an Animaniacs fan to be so critical…
There are fifteen stages in all, with five stages included for each of the three movies. And there’s plenty of collectibles in each stage for you to find. However, there’s one thing that negates this fact entirely:
THERE’S NO SAVE FEATURE. ONLY PASSWORDS.
That’s right! You can’t save your game anywhere you want! The only method of continuing is to reach the end of the stage and obtain a password. Not only does this NOT place an emphasis on perfecting each stage, but you can’t even go back to previous scenes and collect the remaining items. And nothing is stopping me right now from going onto a reputable “cheats” site and downloading each level password for myself. (Well, except for when the game is officially released…) The game tries to act like a “collect-’em-all” like many others, but without a save feature, there really is no point.
Replay Value: 4/10
Despite the game’ earlier faults, it does seem to have a decent learning curve. The early stages introduce you to the characters and their abilities, and have simple puzzles that only require a combination of two characters to solve. These get steadily harder as the game progresses. However, there are times where you can end up “stuck” at a certain part, not knowing what you need to do next. This can really hurt you with the lack of a save feature, as you can’t just turn the game off and come back to that spot. You HAVE to restart from the beginning every time. Ugh.
I’ve seen the same style of platformer done before, and I’ve seen it done better. Lights, Camera, Action doesn’t present me with much that I’d consider new, outside of Animaniacs cast members throwing apples at palette-swapped enemies. (Or in Wakko’s case, burping on them.) Granted that I don’t see a switching-character aspect in many of these types of platformers, but only one real ability separates each character apart from one another. I’m quite sure that if they made it so ONE person could go through the entire game, they could have.
I tell you, NOTHING is more frustrating then progressing through a level for twenty minutes, hitting a slight snag, and spending the rest of the hour jumping all over the place trying to figure out how to get past it. The “one-hit kill” mode this game runs in is also pretty frustrating, as it can negate a LOT of progress almost instantaneously. I nearly threw down my DS in frustration when I hit a snag in the THIRD level. But luckily, cooler heads prevailed, and I simply set fire to my PSP. (BURN! BUUUURRRRRRRN!)
Considering the combination of no save, hour-long snags, and almost none of the traditional Animaniacs humor I’ve come to expect and respect, I found no real reason to come back to this game. I just didn’t.
I can just see the current crop of young kids today picking up this game in a store and going “What are Animaniacs?” It’s been quite a while since the show’s been on the air, after all, so it’s been out of the public eye for some time. Which is a shame, as this game is mainly geared towards the young crowd.
In fact, the only people who would really remember the characters would be teens and adults like me who watched the show on a daily basis ten years ago. And the game DID appeal to me for that very reason. I thought I was going to have a rompin’ good time with Yakko, Wakko, and Dot after years of neglect. Boy, was I wrong…
Appeal Factor: 3/10
I really tried liking this game for a while, but I just couldn’t enjoy myself after the first few levels. Animaniacs, to me, is a smart kid’s show that’s entertaining for adults as well as children. This game has practically nothing that made the show so special. There’s one of the wit, none of the sharpness, and barely any humor at all. I hardly even got a chuckle out of the game. Its like the developers took the characters, gutted them, and pasted the remains into the game code. And that’s why I’m incredibly disappointed in the offering. It was made to garner a quick buck from people who still recognize the brand name. And that’s the worst kind marketing, even if it is successful.
Replay Value: 4/10
Appeal Factor: 3/10
Final Score: 4.0/10 (BELOW AVERAGE)