The first time I came in contact with Treasure Planet was at this year’s annual Gamers Day event held by Sony to show off the newest and latest games to hit the PS2. TP appeared in a corner of the room next to a machine running Primal, and thus went relatively un-noticed. I suppose that the allure of free booze and geek-ish conversation was more than enough to pull anyone and everyone away from the TP demo machine. To be honest the only reason I noticed it was because earlier in the day, the machine held a placard for My Street and was later replaced with Treasure Planet when no one was looking. My buddy James (from Cinescape Magazine) and I decided to make our favorite Sony employee’s lives a living hell by mentioning the supposedly un-noticed change at every opportunity. Thus we have Treasure Planet, a game that no doubt swept under the radar of the majority of the press and onto the store shelves of our local retailers. I’m kind of thankful that I took the opportunity to play TP that day because it turned out to be one of the best Disney to video game adaptations that I have ever played.
Games based on movies (especially children’s movies) have a tendency to feel cheap and rushed. After all, it’s just a one-time deal it’s not like the companies have to build a franchise. Besides, what does a 4-year-old who happens to be in love with a cartoon really know about video games anyways? So thus it is expected that all future developers will deliver games that fall into this trap. Thankfully the people at Bizarre Creations were wise enough to realize this ahead of time and avoid the pitfalls that lay ahead.
This game succeeds where the other child-themed games have failed, it provides some excellent production values that really make the entire game feel and look like a winner. Just by viewing the opening sequence you’ll realize that this game is more than meets the eye and that any preconceived notions that you had about Disney to videogame adaptations should be thrown out the window. Forget what you learned from Monsters Inc. and Stitch 626, this is one platformer that is ready to play with the big boys and had it not been for the atrocious amounts of Rare-inspired scavenger hunt-style game play, this would be a contender.
There are two types of levels that populate Treasure Planet, ones that are 3D platformers and those that require you to control a hoverboard as you essentially go through the motions of a 3D platformer. The majority of the early levels will require you to gather 10 green power objects as well as 100 (insert random widgets here). It’s nice at first until you realize that the levels only contain 100 widgets and that you’ll spend about 30 minutes backtracking in order to find that elusive one that you missed earlier on. It’s a fad that was started by Rare and apparently their high-sales figures have led other developers to believe that this is a winning combination. Wake up guys, it isn’t nor has it ever been. Nobody wants to go on an Easter Egg hunt that doesn’t conclude with the consumption of chocolate.
It’s really a shame that these levels were bogged down by the scavenger hunt goals because they’re actually really well designed. Each level opens up with a cinematic from the movie and surprisingly, they actually tie-in to the upcoming levels. Then you’ll be treated to an engine rendered cutscene that is actually pretty well done. Then you’ll be throw into the levels with a set of tasks to complete. Their architecture won’t soon rival the big boys of the genre but it’s more than competent of holding its own. I especially enjoyed traversing around the environments to see what lie ahead, they’re very well laid out. They may not be as big as Ratchet & Clank's or as detailed as Sly Cooper’s but they most definitely do the job.
Speaking of doing the jobs, the visuals do an admirable job of pleasing the eyes. From what I’ve seen of the cinematics and movie trailers, the graphics are very faithful to their cinematic counterparts. Each of the environments is finely rendered and feature all the small details that go into making a visually pleasing package. I really enjoyed the character models as they retained a cartoon-ish style to them while managing to appear lifelike. Animations are well done, as you’ll hardly notice any awkward movements or jitters among the characters. Overall I enjoyed what the visuals had to offer and I’m certain that you and your children will as well.
The audio effects fit the bill quite nicely and don’t really stand out too much, which is a good thing. I was very impressed by the voice acting as I checked the back of the manual and my initial thoughts were confirmed, the developers of the game had managed to acquire the cast of the film to reprise their roles in the game. That means that you’ll hear Martin Short and David Hyde Pierce deliver their lines with the same precision that they do on-screen. The rest of the sound effects are just standard fare but that’s not really a knock on the game. When I play a 3D platformer all I’m hoping for is a soundtrack that doesn’t include some particularly annoying noises and it is in this respect that TP succeeds. Support for Dolby Pro Logic II is included although I was not able to test this feature at the time.
There are a few problems with the camera though but that’s often expected from games of this genre. Although the camera can be moved and rotated to the player’s liking I found that I had to babysit it far too often. I eventually learned to steer my character left and right with the right analog stick as opposed to the left analog stick, the camera just couldn’t keep up with what was going on. Oddly enough the camera managed to keep up quite fine in the fast-paced hover-boarding sequences.
In addition to the game itself you’ll be able to check out some nice DVD extras that will no doubt be a nice addition to any collector’s library. Among them is a music video by Johnny Rzeznik (of the Goo Goo Dolls), some behind the scenes footage as well concept art for many of the game’s more interesting objects. Overall I found them to be nice additions that really add more value to the game.
There’s no denying it, Treasure Planet is one of the best children-oriented games that I’ve played in years. So much time and effort was put into the game to assure that it would avoid the trap that has befallen games like Stitch 626 and it shows. The production values are astronomical and the entertainment value is far better than expected. Pick this one up for your kids this holiday season and if you’re not careful, you just might find yourself opening this present a tad bit earlier than the rest.
Much more than expected, Treasure Planet is a pretty worthy pickup for those who are looking for a game that is simple and fun to play.
Rating: 7.8 Above Average
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.
It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.
It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.
When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."
As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.
When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.
Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile