"Despite being an initially promising platformer, its charm is spoiled by pointless motion control, absent collision detection and unforgiving enemy encounters."
Friend to you, me, and to generations of children worldwide - George of the Jungle wails his way to Nintendo's family friendly console. Based on the Nick Toon's envisioning of the Jay Ward and Bill Scott franchise, this is a simplistic adventure in the mold of 2.5D platformers such as Pandemonium, with sidescrolling action amongst a wallpaper of polygon surroundings. Almost entirely derivative of adventures from the 16-bit era, George swings across vines and grabs collectables on his mission to recover pages from a magical healing book. Despite its bland presentation (and nominee for most annoying Wii menu introduction) the game has a bold visual style that is both charming and representative of the TV series, and aside from some horrid voice acting (such as George's cat in a blender wailing) it features some effective, bouncy music to match. First impressions, until playing the game proper, are decent enough.
The gameplay is unsurprisingly straightforward; make your way through the stage to the exit, collecting coins, bashing enemies and navigating the foils of the jungle on the way. Simple exploration is broken up by instances of escaping fallen cages and columns by shaking the control setup, or wailing at certain points to create a path onward. Controlling George is slow and sluggish, with some lag time recovering from a jump or merely turning, but is easily looked over considering the slow pace of action. Motion controls are uncomfortably used and are hit and miss, such as spinning the Wii Remote to dash. Not registering most of the time, it leaves you both breathless and embarrassed, and is completely shoehorned into the game. Although controls are introduced slowly over the first few stages, one instance of being dropped into a pit requires rolling out to escape is not explained. Only by accidentally twisting the Nunchuk did George manage to see the light of day, and is something younger gamers might be perplexed at. The controls could have been easily mapped onto buttons or just to the Wii Remote (akin to Super Paper Mario) but instead are uncomfortably wrapped across two chunks of flailing plastic.
The platforming aspects are very cookie cutter, and make little effort to create anything innovative in its design, and would have made an acceptable adventure if it wasn't for some frustrating obstacles and enemy placement. One common encounter with spinning logs requires pixel perfect positioning before rolling underneath it; too close and you bounce away losing health, and too early finds you trapped inside a spinning vortex of lumber with a certain death awaiting. Such obstacles are one in a long list of collision detection errors, notably enemy encounters. Appearing almost without warning, they charge and begin hacking away. If you manage to get the initiative you can survive unscathed, but most of the time it is a case of exchanging punches in the right places until you either die or come away with a fraction of health remaining.
Considering there are constant encounters with enemies, you literally fear for your life each time - it becomes tiresome, frustrating and is moreover unacceptable. Sparse checkpoints and a lack of healing bananas only make matters worse. Bosses are similar in their stagnant onslaught, but projectiles that injure from yards away along with the addition of standard foes make them a chore. Lose all your lives here, and you are forced to go through the entire stage again, running the gauntlet of Russian roulette enemy encounters in the name of 'fun'. After a few customary 'game over' screens, you will want to put this game to rest. Despite being an initially promising platformer, its charm is spoiled by pointless motion control, absent collision detection and unforgiving enemy encounters. Shame.
Freelance review by Matthew Reynolds (June 12, 2008)
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