Once more unto the breach… these intros are starting to get a bit pretentious, aren’t they? Nevertheless, we are back once more to explore the 3D platformer genre in ways that only rich 90s kids will have ever done before. Let’s begin, shall we?
Disney’s Aladdin in Nasira’s Revenge
I must confess myself as surprised by this one. I thought I knew about pretty much every Disney game that was available on the PlayStation One, but clearly I was wrong as this game completely blindsided me.
The story of the game concerns Aladdin being made a criminal (again) by the new ruler of Agrabah, an evil woman named Nasira who is Jafar’s sister. Nasira wants to resurrect her brother, and so it’s up to Aladdin, Genie, Abu, and Jasmine to save the day and stop her evil plan.
The game has a few interesting points that stand out as soon as you start playing. The first is how similar the game is to the MegaDrive Aladdin game from 1993. It has the same bonus level unlocks, the same Genie wish machine mechanic, and even the jumping animations seem pretty similar. The second thing you notice is that, unfortunately, Robin Williams is not voicing the Genie, the part is instead performed by Dan Castellaneta who voiced the character in the second of the three Disney Aladdin movies.
The graphics of the game or mediocre at best, the game came out in 2001 but doesn’t look as good as things like Crash Bandicoot did. The characters’ models look lazily produced and the textures seem very slapdash, but at least the music is okay. Most of the audio from the game is taken from the films or is at least a very close approximation of the film soundtrack.
Controls work fine in the actual levels, although I did find myself going through the platforms a lot during the bonus stages. It’s possible that there is just bad physics detection on those stages, but it still doesn’t excuse the issue. You have a few attacks that once again relate to the older MegaDrive game. You can swing your sword, block with it, or put it away and throw apples instead, all of which are mechanics that work fine in practice, even if the enemy AI has a tendency to get up in your face making the apples mostly useless.
There are a couple of sections where you play as Abu or Jasmine, but they’re pretty dull. With Abu you gain the ability to climb some walls and roll along the ground, and for Jasmine’s level you’re stuck in a pot, so you can just hide and jump. These different styles of gameplay do break up the monotony a little, but they’re nothing stunning and you’ll probably form an intense hatred for Jasmine by the end.
It is possible that if I had played this game as a child I would have some sort of nostalgic connection to it, but unfortunately I don’t and this game doesn’t endear itself to me beyond its connection to a film I still quite like. The action is bland, the graphics are unappealing, and the game just feels repetitive to play.
Overall: A repetitive, lazily put together game that seems like it was made to exploit a license’s popularity. If you’re a huge fan of Aladdin, you may enjoy it, failing that only the 3D platformer obsessed need apply.
Donald Duck: Goin’ Quackers
Goin’ Quackers (also known as Quack Attack in good ol’ Europe) follows the story of Donald Duck off on a mission to save his girlfriend Daisy, who has managed to get herself kidnapped by the evil wizard Murlock. That’s the basics of it anyway, there’s some ancillary stuff going on with your cousin trying to steal your girlfriend by beating you through all of the levels, but it’s only there to give justification for the time attack challenge.
The gameplay is pretty solid, you have good control of Donald both on the ground and in the air, and you can make your way through the levels pretty quickly. You have a single attack in the form of random punches, but you can jump on enemies’ heads to damage them or use other power-ups to become crazy and invincible for a short period of time.
As I said earlier, this game is very, very similar to Crash Bandicoot. It has the same level design, the same bonus levels where you run away from things, the same animations, the same load/save features, and even the same level hubs. If this game was trying to be Crash Bandicoot any harder, the bad guy would be an evil villain with poorly explained motivations…oh wait.
The graphics look quite appealing, and I couldn’t put my finger on any characters that looked strange or stood out as odd, and none of the objects seemed to have strange edges or cut offs. There seems to have been quite a lot of effort put into this game considering that it’s a Crash Bandicoot rip off that is aimed at children.
The music and sound effects are pretty good for the most part, in fact the music is a point that I think the devs should be really proud of. Of everything the different level themes ended up being the thing that I most wanted to experience with each new area. The only gripe I did have with sound was the water sound effects that were annoyingly loud at times.
Easily the biggest sin of the game is how short and easy it is. The game is clearly aimed at a very young audience as it spoon feeds you everything and has practically no challenge to it. You can blitz a quarter of the game in about 20 minutes, meaning that the overall time to 100% complete the game, including the time attacks, is around 2 hours maximum.
Overall: A game worth trying if you liked Crash Bandicoot but found it too hard for you, or if you’re a fan of the duck. Not a bad title, all things told, and you can certainly do worse for the PSOne.
Donkey Kong 64
Donkey Kong 64 is the story of Donkey Kong (go figure) who wakes up one day to find his golden bananas gone and his friends kidnapped, and so he must go on a mission to save his friends, retrieve his bananas, and stop K. Rool from blowing up his home.
The graphics of the game are pretty good, very bright and colourful, and I would say at least as good the graphics on Super Mario 64. The world is nicely designed too, half of the world being the bright greens, browns, and yellows of a jungle environment, and the other half being the colours of the cold, grey mechanical environments. It gives the world a nice duality, the Kong world feeling green and alive, and the K. Rool world feeling cold and mechanical.
The gameplay is pretty smooth, running, jumping and attacking all feeling nice with Donkey. As you go on, you unlock different new characters and abilities, starting with Donkey and his coconut bazooka. You also play as Diddy Kong who has twin blasters and a jetpack, Tiny Kong who can shrink in size and glide using her hair, Lanky Kong who has ridiculously long arms which he can use to do handstands and also inflate himself, and finally Chunky Kong, a super strong monkey who can grow in size to become even stronger.
The amount of characters give the game a nice amount of variety, and each character has his/her own personality, meaning you’re likely to have your own favourite by the end (before you ask: Lanky Kong. Obviously). It also means that the final boss fight is epic, as you have to use every Kong you’ve freed to beat K. Rool using their unique abilities. The rest of the boss fights in the game are also pretty decent but nothing compared to the final fight, it’s a hell of a note to go out on.
The music in the game is stunning, being one of the most memorable parts of the entire experience. If you’ve never heard the DK rap from the beginning of the game, then you have never lived, you will be both utterly entertained as well as irritated by the time you’re done with it, and you will likely be trying to forget the tune for years to come.
The only real complaint I feel that I can make against this game is that it does get confusing at times. Many times I have had to give up on the game and start again because I had no idea where I was supposed to be going next, which is a pretty big issue really. The world of the game is huge and you’re likely to get yourself lost if you don’t know your way around it well enough.
Overall: One of the best games to have come out of Rare’s glory days, and featuring the most annoying, most catchy song that you will ever hear. Worth playing if you’ve never tried it, just do yourself a favour and play with someone who knows the game world well.