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The Lion King (Genesis) artwork

The Lion King (Genesis) review

"Itís not every day we see a movie-licensed game thatís actually any good. Traditionally, theyíre manifests of cash-in mediocrity when developers are contracted to (quickly) produce a title on every console available and hope it will sell. Generally they often do. Brand recognition prevails over genuine quality as these games chart highly, yet do well to even achieve a 6/10 score. The situation has improved somewhat through the ages, but the likes of Goldeneye and certain Star Wars ..."

Itís not every day we see a movie-licensed game thatís actually any good. Traditionally, theyíre manifests of cash-in mediocrity when developers are contracted to (quickly) produce a title on every console available and hope it will sell. Generally they often do. Brand recognition prevails over genuine quality as these games chart highly, yet do well to even achieve a 6/10 score. The situation has improved somewhat through the ages, but the likes of Goldeneye and certain Star Wars licenses are still an exception to the rule.

Disney is often a guilty culprit to this sin. Their games are often average kids-affairs but Little Johnnyís persuasive tantrums help these sell by the bucket-load. But in time long past they were actually decent, The Lion King being one. Alongside the likes of Aladdin, Toy Story, and various Mickey Mouse games in such an era, this is a well-made side-scrolling platformer faithfully emulating Disneyís magic-touch within it.

The 1994 animation of The Lion King is loosely based on Shakespeareís Hamlet, controversially too closely on Osamu Tezuka's Kimba the White Lion, and set in the Seregenti kingdomís Pride Lands where the lion is the ruler. The birth of Simba puts him next in-line to the throne of King Mufasa, much to the annoyance of his brother Scar, who he had superseded. As a cub he is very excited at the prospect of becoming king and has a great taste for adventure. But mixed with his naivety, it leads to disastrous visit to the elephant graveyard despite warnings to the contrary but encouraged by Scar. Scars hyena buddies ambush him, who later set up a ďsurpriseĒ stampede for Simba that ultimately kills Mufasa in an effort to rescue him. When the cub escapes to a distant jungle meeting Tuna and Pumba, his friend Nala finds a now-grown Simba who persuades him to return to the Pride Lands after believing that he himself was responsible for his fathers death. But on their return they find the lands now in the doldrums from Scars control. A fierce ending battle sees Scar thrown down a cliff, and finished off by a mob of discontented hyenas.

With each stage of the film being represented in its level sequence, this tie-in emulates the movies storyline rather soundly. The highly jovial ďI canít wait to be kingĒ sequence has been wonderfully translated into a level bursting with hopping along stacks of animals. Giraffe beaks point upwards quickly after being jumped upon and swinging on hippo tails will propel Simba upwards. By roaring at certain monkeys to change direction, a sequence is put together to swing Simba to the next point of the level. But as Scarís persuasion leads Simba into the sinister elephant graveyard level, itís a nasty trek through falling skull parts and jumping hyenas out to get the cub.

As a respite to the side-scrolling action, the wildebeest chase is faithfully recreated as Simba must dodge them and ground obstacles in a pseudo-3D stage. The difference is this time Mufasa wonít come jumping in to save Simbaís ass. Nonetheless itís still a heart-thumping level and the trickiest in the game, one trip and you have to start all over as you wish it would end sooner. After Scar and the hyenas effectively exile the cub from the kingdom, Simba wakes in the jungle. Itís the games most fun level as he slides down waterfalls and has to dispose of a rock-hurling gorilla. Once he reaches adulthood, hopping on small bugs makes way for face-to-face battles instead. Before the final confrontation with Scar however, thereís plenty more hyenaís that need quashing.

Inevitably, not every character plays a major role. Rafiki only makes a token appearance, Zazu is non-existant whilst Timon and Puumba only appear as playable characters in the bug-catching bonus level. But accurate or not, The Lion King is a pretty stonking platform game. The biggest feature to note is Simbaís ability to roar, and rather than just being an A-button gimmick itís vital for certain functions. Enemies can be repelled or flipped upside-down, roars make rocks fall to reach the next part of the level and of course monkeys can be flipped around. The strength of a roar is crucial, and can be improved by collecting bugs. But roar too much and you will have to wait for Simbaís lungs to refill. As for the rest, the right boxes are checked. Platform-hopping is taxing due to the slightly larger span of a lion or even a cub, and thereís plenty of edge-catching where one mistake can result in a deadly fall. With enough bugs, hyenas and rolling boulders that need sharp reflexes to dodge, Iím afraid itís not Hakuna Matata all the way through.

In fact itís far from it. Although this is a tie-in for a kids movie, the easiest difficulty is a grind for any age (my eighteen years is surely a long way out of its target demographic). Boulders can fire away left, right and centre whilst hyenas often never tire of respawning. When Simba is fully grown the button-mashing never tires and the constant combat does drain his health. Unfortunately, the difficulty does compliment rather repetitive action. The button-mashing never tires towards the end, becoming something of a bore as you wish the last level would hurry up sooner. When Simba returns from exile youíre scouting through cave after cave of hyena battles, and trying to go through the right series of passages adds to what can be a laborious experience at the best of times. Although the repetition doesnít ruin the experience, the game does run out of steam on the journey back to the Pride Rock..

Nonetheless, The Lion King is a great reproduction of Disney animation into a cartridge. The films essence is captured marvellously throughout. The character sprites are fantastic; animations and levels designs are superb and have no difficulty capturing the bright and bold colours of its film. Naturally Elton John and Tim Riceís master-score music isnít in its full-orchestrated bloom, but it has been transposed faithfully in MIDI for some decent background music that conducts the atmosphere pretty well. Even a few voice clips are included to deepen the authenticity. Fortunately the Lion King also plays as well as it looks and this is a solid game. Itís not easy, and may get monotonous near the end but itís a commendable title that ticks the right predicaments. Mazy jumps galore, plenty of roaring and some decent combat, youíre never too old to play The Lion King. You may have exceeded the kids stage in the circle of life, but not in your taste of games.


bigcj34's avatar
Community review by bigcj34 (June 14, 2009)

Cormac Murray is a freelance contributor for HG and is a fanboy of Sega and older Sony consoles. For modern games though he pledges allegiance to the PC Master Race, by virtue of a MacBook running Windows.

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zippdementia posted June 17, 2009:

Hey BigMan. It's good to see you improving in your writing abilities. I think this may be one of your best reviews to date. It's clear, it's got an interesting intro, a great concluding line, and you've worked out the kinks in all but a few places, so small they aren't even worth mentioning.

One thing that I did want to point out is that while The Lion King may seem to take its inspiration from Hamlet (and may very well do so), the majority of its inspiration is taken from a Hayao Miyazaki (creator of Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Howl's Moving Castle, etc etc etc) animated show called "Kimba the White Lion" about a lion cub who is deposed and has to try and return to his ruling right.
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joseph_valencia posted June 17, 2009:

Kimba was actually Osamu Tezuka, not Miyazaki. Aw snap, dat's right, I'm the bigger nerd! O>0
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zippdementia posted June 17, 2009:

You're right. Miyazaki worked on it, though.
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bigcj34 posted June 18, 2009:

Well, I'll look into that zippy :) You can count ont that one. All I can say i, damn you Wikipedia! Comme toujours, zippy, thanks for the feedback.
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JANUS2 posted June 18, 2009:

Also, it's TIMON and Pumbaa! Good review, though.
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bigcj34 posted June 18, 2009:

OK, factual inaccuracies ironed out I hope. Cheers Janus and zippy!
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zippdementia posted June 18, 2009:

non probleme

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