Review: Animaniacs: The Great Edgar Hunt (Nintendo Gamecube)

Review: Animaniacs: The Great Edgar Hunt (GC)
Developer: Warthog
Distributor: Ignition Entertainment
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 9/18/05

It’s time for Animaniacs
And we’re zany to the max
So just sit back and relax
You’ll laugh ’til you collapse
We’re Animaniacs!

Well, here we go again… I was disappointed with Warthog and Ignition Entertainment’s first foray into the world of the Animaniacs when I reviewed Lights, Camera, Action! for the GBA. And Alex Williams was equally appalled by the DS version. So it was with some trepidation that I agreed to take a look at their newest offering for the GameCube.

Which begs the question; did they do any better, or is this game just another train wreck?


1. STORY

It’s almost award show time in the world of the Animaniacs, and the biggest show of the year is the annual Edgar Awards. Unfortunately for the studio, a thief has snuck into the building and stolen all 45 Edgars that were to be given out that year. To ensure their safe return, the Warner Bros. studio has to promise to allow the thief to make ten films with unlimited budgets, or else he will melt down the Edgars.

However, unfortunately for the thief, his escape via zeppelin was less than perfect. It seems that one of his accomplices accidentally pushed the wrong button and sent the blimp careening into the Warner Bros. water tower, spilling the Edgars all over the studio and letting loose the Warner Brothers (and sister), Yakko, Wakko, and Dot in the process.

As you start off the game, you take control of Yakko. Wakko and Dot have disappeared, so it’s up to you to find them. At the same time, you need to collect the missing Edgars to help ensure that the pending awards show will go off without a hitch.

Everything from here on out is pretty straightforward, with the main story just giving you a reason to go out and collect things. It’s nothing special, and there aren’t any big plot twists, but it works well within the context of the game and the world of Animaniacs in general.

Story Score: 5/10


2. GRAPHICS

Wow. These are some pretty amazing graphics… if you were playing this game on the Nintendo 64 anyway. I thought this game was developed for the GameCube?

Right for the get go you’ll notice that all of the characters, buildings, items, and backgrounds are incredibly blocky with very low polygon counts. Movement isn’t fluid at all, and most of the characters seem to stutter as they wander around.

On the bright side the game is certainly colorful. Similar to the cartoon, colors are bright and vibrant and objects are easily distinguished from their backgrounds. Character and object textures aren’t very detailed, but they mimic the series’ style fairly well.

The overall graphics are certainly no where near what the GameCube is capable of, but the developers did a decent enough job of giving everything a cartoon feel. With a bit more work and some larger poly counts, this game could have looked ten times better. But as it is, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see it on last generation’s consoles.

Graphics Score: 3/10


3. SOUND

The graphics may be quite disappointing, but the quality of the sound is a pleasant surprise. Perhaps the best thing is that the entire cast for the series is back to lend their talents to the voice work for the game. It just wouldn’t feel right to hear different voices coming out of the mouths of the main trio, but fortunately we don’t need to worry about that.

The remainder of the games sound is pretty good. Sadly we never really hear the main theme, although there is a slightly modified version of it that plays on the main menu screen. The rest of the music in the game sounds like what you would hear in a cartoon and adds to the overall feel of the game. Each area has several different pieces of music that play depending on where in the level you are, so there isn’t a whole lot of repetition.

Sound effects are about what you would expect for a cartoon as well. There are plenty of thumps and clangs as you wander around hitting enemies and other objects. In addition, when you move slow and start to sneak, a little music note plays for each step which is very reminiscent of the cartoons.

While the sound certainly isn’t top of the line, it is perfectly suitable for the game and does well at paying homage to the original Animaniacs series. And you just have to love the fact that the original voice cast came back for this.

Sound Score: 7/10


4. CONTROL AND GAMEPLAY

The Great Edgar Hunt is pretty much aimed at younger audiences, so the controls are pretty straightforward. The A button allows you to jump (up to three times at once) while the B button can be used for an attack. The X button acts as an all purpose interactive button which allows you to open doors or talk to people, and the R button allows you to both slide while running, or perform a slam attack while you are in the air.

Unfortunately even though the controls are pretty simple, the gameplay is less than stellar. For starters, this game is filled with camera issues. The camera tends to stay behind your character, but can very easily get swung around in odd ways, especially in tight areas. You can change the camera with the C stick, but you don’t have a full 360 degrees of movement. Instead you are forced to keep the camera within a roughly 180 degree arc behind the character. This wouldn’t be too bad except for the aforementioned tight areas. If your character is standing too close to a wall and you need to make a tricky jump, you won’t be able to see where you want to go because the camera refuses to move up against the wall. Granted you can hit the left button on the control pad to see a first person perspective, but you can’t move while in this mode, so as soon as you return to the original camera perspective, you’re back to trying to figure out how to make your jump without dropping into a pit.

Once you start encountering your first round of enemies, you’ll run into my second complaint. For all intents and purposes, every enemy you encounter is invulnerable. At least until it’s started to attack you and then dazed itself. Only after an enemy has become dazed can you hit it. This can be incredibly frustrating since you basically have to put yourself in the line of fire and get hit a time or two before you can fight back. At least you can take more than a few hits, unlike Lights, Camera, Action!.

Your life bar is made up of a trio of apples. Every time you get hit a bite or two is taken out of one of the apples, until eventually the apple goes away. This translates into you roughly being able to take eight or nine hits before you are knocked out. There are plenty of apples and such for you to find around the various levels though, so you should be able to replenish your life pretty easily.

Additionally, there are various collectibles in each level that need to be picked up in order to get all the Edgars. Each level has 300 collectibles that go with that levels theme (movie reels for the Warner lot, gold nuggets for the Western world, etc.), and after 125 you will be able to collect an Edgar. After you get the full 300, another Edgar will become available. These are in addition to the Edgars you can earn by completing various tasks in each level, such as defeating a mini boss or performing a tribal rain dance.

Once you’ve found your brother and sister, you can freely change between them at randomly placed Checkpoint doors. Thankfully you don’t need to complete a mini game this time (see Lights, Camera, Action! again). Checkpoint doors also act as… well, checkpoints. If you lose all your apples, you will restart at the last checkpoint you visited. Fortunately you don’t need to actually enter the door and switch characters, just walk close to it. There are also teleport doors in various areas that will allow you to bounce around within levels fairly quickly once you have found them, and this helps out a ton later in the game when you will be forced to backtrack a lot.

Unfortunately the game does not give you any good reason to switch between characters. Sure, each one looks different, but they basically have the exact same sets of moves with very little variation between them. Each one has a basic attack, be it with a hammer or a frying pan, and each one can do the standard triple jump. You start off the game with Yakko, and if you really wanted to, you could complete almost the entire game with just Yakko. Character swapping is more of a nicety than a necessity here.

Another annoying factor with the gameplay is the lack of any direction. Basically you are told to go find the Edgars and find your siblings, and then left to your own devices to accomplish this task. Now, normally I’d have no problem with this… but for a game aimed at kids, it doesn’t even try to nudge you in the right direction. Long time gamers won’t have too much trouble figuring things out, but smaller children could easily get frustrated as they try to find what they are missing and where they need to go next. Part of the reason for this is that the levels aren’t linear. For instance, you start off in the Western world, but can only do so much before you have to visit other locations and then go back to complete tasks that you were given but did not have the tools for. Again, not too much trouble for the seasoned gamer, but could be problematic for the younger crowd.

The gameplay also tends to get pretty repetitive after a while. Run around, complete a task, get an Edgar, and collect stuff. Fortunately each area has its own unique look and feel and sets of challenges, so even though you are basically doing the same things over and over again, they feel slightly different each time. Although it’s still not quite enough to eliminate all of the repetition.

In the end, the game is just okay. It’s easy enough to play, but the lack of direction, inherent repetitiveness, and odd enemy system tend to hurt it. And the camera is absolutely atrocious most of the time.

Control and Gameplay Score: 4/10


5. REPLAYABILITY

In a word, none. Sure, you can beat the game without collecting all of the Edgars, but it’s not too difficult to get a 100% completion on your first play through. And after that, I’m not sure why you would want to come back and play the game again, unless you really enjoyed it that much.

Replayability Score: 1/10


6. BALANCE

As I’ve mentioned, this is basically a game geared at children, so it’s never overly difficult. Enemies can be annoying since you must allow them to become dazed before to can attack, but one hit will knock them out for good. And boss fights are pretty straight forward as well, normally involving a combination of fighting and platforming.

The only real difficulty with The Great Edgar Hunt involves the terrible camera and occasionally frustrating lack of direction. At least the lack of direction can be chalked up to a challenge (thought I doubt it was intentional), but the poor camera is unforgivable.

In the end, the game tends towards to be a little too easy, but that is perfectly acceptable considering its target audience.

Balance Score: 5/10


7. ORIGINALITY

The elements contained within the game have all been seen elsewhere before, and for the most part they’ve been done better. There are literally hundreds of games that involve collecting items in order to progress, or needing to backtrack through previous levels to accomplish tasks that you were unable to before. And platforming is certainly nothing new.

However, the game does do a nice job of feeling like an extended episode of the television series, and there is quite a bit of humor and enjoyment to be found within for those willing to stick it out. Animaniacs is a sadly underused property, and it’s nice to see it getting some attention lately. I just wish that the games were a little better.

Originality Score: 4/10


8. ADDICTIVENESS

The Great Edgar Hunt is okay, but certainly not something that you’ll sit down and play for hours at a time. Between the camera and the lack of direction, chances are you’ll find yourself becoming frustrated and choosing to turn the game off rather than continue on.

There is some addictiveness to be found within, however. Along the way you’ll run into a number of Pinky and the Brian mini games which are both entertaining and amusing. Combine these with the main game’s inherent humor, and fans of the original series will probably find themselves curious as to what sight gag or reference will show up next.

Again, it won’t keep you glued to your television, but there is enough here to keep you interested for small stretches of time.

Addictiveness Score: 3/10


9. APPEAL FACTOR

As was mentioned before in the Lights, Camera, Action! reviews, the Animaniacs were an early 90s invention, which means that most of you who watched the series are probably in your late teens or early twenties (or older) now. At any rate, hardly children, which is the group that this game is being marketed for.

On the bright side, parents who do remember Animaniacs probably won’t hesitate to buy this game for their kids, at least not based on the property itself. And the game is pretty kid friendly, not to mention only $20 brand new. That alone will probably appeal to a decent number of people. And as for enjoying the game itself? Well, smaller children probably will enjoy the game quite a bit, and parents may even view it as a guilty pleasure.

Sure, it’s not Halo or Zelda or any other game with a huge built in fan base, but Animaniacs does have a pretty decent following so this is sure to appeal to some.

Appeal Factor Score: 4/10


10. MISCELLANEOUS

On the bright side, The Great Edgar Hunt is definitely better than Lights, Camera, Action!. But that’s not really saying much.

Still, I can’t help but feel that this game is about ten years too late. Both in terms of the target audience and in terms of the graphics and general gameplay. If this has been released on the original PlayStation or Nintendo 64, it would easily have scored a 5, or maybe even a 6. But compared to today’s crop of games, this just feels like another sub standard offering.

Still, I can’t help but enjoy the game to a certain extent. Maybe it’s just my fondness for the characters, or the pleasure I get out of seeing a reference to the series and hearing the original voice cast. Or it could be that for all the game’s flaws, it still manages to bring out the kid in me.

No, I can’t recommend this as a purchase, even at only $20. And I can’t recommend it as a rental either, unless you are all ready familiar with the Animaniacs world and remember it as fondly as I do. And yet I still find myself enjoying this game, probably more than I should. Go figure.

Miscellaneous Score: 6/10


THE SCORES

Story: 5
Graphics: 3
Sound: 7
Gameplay/Control: 4
Replayability: 1
Balance: 5
Originality: 4
Addictiveness: 3
Appeal Factor: 4
Miscellaneous: 6
Overall: 42
Final Score: 4.0 (Poor)