Animaniacs: Lights, Camera, Action!

Review

posted 9/15/2005 by Sean Colleli
other articles by Sean Colleli
Platforms: DS
When a development house approaches the concept of the Nintendo DS, you’d think that they’d want to utilize the portable’s unique and innovative abilities. You know, the touch screen, microphone, etcetera. Warthog, the game’s developer, has chosen the totally opposite route with their new licensed title, Animaniacs: Lights, Camera, Action. Considering the franchise they have to work with, and the creative possibilities allowed by the DS, it’s amazing that they let this game fall so short. I mean really, REALLY short. Instead they ported a mediocre GBA version and added nothing to make the DS release special.

Growing up, I recall the Animaniacs TV show to be some of the only funny programming to be found amid the sea of cartoon monotony. Spielberg’s comedic touch was apparent on the series, as it was with his many other animated efforts like Freakazoid and Pinky and the Brain. These shows had just the right level of insanity to be amusing as well as satirical, at least for a program targeted at the ten-and-under crowd.

This is where Warthog drops the ball first. The humor is almost completely absent, primarily because there is no voice acting in the game. I’d expect them to hire the original talent or at least find some convincing sound-alikes, but the game is dominated by tedious text bubbles. The DS cartridges can hold some serious sound data, and it is inexcusable that Warthog ignored this fact. Strike one.

The gameplay is similarly dry and devoid of the trademark amusing slapstick that made the show stand out. It’s a sprite-based, isometric affair that hangs onto a loose plot about making three cheap movies. The story is sloppily pasted onto a motley assortment of levels that resemble cheesy movie sets; a pirate movie, a sci-fi movie, and a monster movie.

Each movie is divided up into five levels, and you switch between the five playable characters to complete a laundry list of tedious objectives. And that, my friends, is where the plot ends. True, you have a director shouting at you (with speech bubbles) and you must obtain film canisters to keep the game’s clock from timing out, but other than that it’s a vanilla platformer with no resemblance to filming a motion picture.

The main idea is to find a key, unlock a door, lather, rinse, repeat. Coupled with the merely satisfactory graphics, this repetitive gameplay concept wears thin very quickly.

Animaniacs might have stacked up to some older platform-jumping games, but the controls make that impossible. The default scheme is unplayable, and even after switching over to “direct” control, you’ll be tearing your hair out trying to make the characters move the right way. Attacking enemies, pushing crates and other standard platformer tasks become mind-numbing challenges because you must be situated perfectly to pull anything off.

The DS’s 3D abilities aren’t used at all, and while 3D doesn’t necessarily make a good game, the three-quarters perspective they’ve chosen here would’ve benefited from the use of polygonal environments at least. Strike two.

Up until now I’ve dismissed this game as another licensed churn-out, but what really pissed me off was the save system. I booted up my DS to give the game another go, selected “resume” from the menu (by the way, the menu is the ONLY place you’ll use the touch screen) and was greeted by a password screen. Yes, a bloody PASSWORD SCREEN. This was okay back in 1986, with Metroid and all, but today in the magical land of flash memory and cartridge saves, a password system is an insult. It’s the last on a long list of irritations, but we are in the year two-thousand-freaking-five here. And this is a PORTABLE game. I’m not carrying a pencil and pad around with my DS to scribble down level passcodes.

To top it all off, closing your DS to put it into sleep mode really screws up the game. It’ll start stuttering, and one time it told me that I’d removed the cartridge.

This game, in all honesty, is a waste of your time. Its total offering is an antiquated platformer-adventure that’ll last you all of three hours and a four-player multi throw-in. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of the show. Buy something else.
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