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Animaniacs (SNES) artwork

Animaniacs (SNES) review

"Animaniacs looks and sounds just like the show, but the similarities end there. This is clearly just another attempt by executives to cash in on the fansí loyalties."

The animated series, Animaniacs, has finally arrived on DVD, and to celebrate I thought that a review of the Animaniacs video game was in order. Production of the show ended in 1998, but eight years later it still has a tremendous cult-following. Normally, when something hits cult-status, every scrap of memorabilia gets thrown onto online auctions for exorbitant prices. This is not the case with the Animaniacs video game, and now I know why.

As the story goes, the protagonists of Animaniacs, Yakko Warner, Wakko Warner, and their sister Dot, were some of the original toons of the 1930s. Uncontrollably psychotic, it didnít take long before these menaces to sane society were locked away inside the Warner Bros. water tower by studio executives. Itís been six decades, and for better or worse, the trio has escaped to wreak their own brand of lunatic terror upon the studio. Elsewhere, the genetically engineered mice, Pinky and the Brain, have hatched a plot to take over the world. To fund their plan, the tiny villains steal a script with the intention of getting rich through the movie business. Now, for whatever reason, it is up to the Warner siblings to track down the 24 different sections of the script. Donít people make copies of their work anymore?

As a platformer, Animaniacs is all about running and jumping your way through 5 levels in an effort to retrieve the script scenes. The levels are movie sets, broken into different themes, like the Adventure, Sci-fi, and Aquatic sets. Itís a nice break from the clichť fire and ice levels that so many other platformers rely upon, with nods to famous movies like Alien, Star Wars, and The Neverending Story. Refreshing, but at the same time, the levels lack any real distinction and just blend into one another. In just one level, you will find yourself dodging obstacles on a flying broom, swinging on vines over alligators, and then fighting against living poker cards. This schizophrenic setup fits the mood of Animaniacs, but I like being able to look back fondly upon certain levels, not wonder which one I was playing.

Instead of using the traditional horizontal view, Animaniacs uses a slight top-down angle, as seen in beat-em-ups like Final Fight and Battletoads. This allows the Warner kids to run up and down as well as side to side, but the game lacks the visual qualities needed for a three dimensional movement. There are almost no shadows to judge your landings for jumps and everything is the same size regardless of its distance in the background. Even after you get a better handle on where things are placed, you still canít always tell where itís safe to travel. Animaniacs is filled with holes that look like floors and blind drops that may or may not be safe. Suffice to say that death is common.

That last sentence is a little misleading, since you never actually die in Animaniacs. You begin the game with all three of the Warner kids, but falling or getting knocked out of a set by enemies lands you in the hands of studio security, who locks that character back in the water tower. You then continue on with the remaining characters. Once the last one falls, itís game over. You can use up a Continue, but instead of beginning the level with all three characters, youíre left with just the one. No life bars. No second chances. Just one character and possibly more continues. Coins are scattered throughout each level that engage a slot machine. If youíre lucky, all that work of collecting coins might pay off in the form of extra continues, or perhaps youíll end up with nothing.

As if having no extra lives wasnít bad enough, Animaniacs is frustratingly, agonizingly, controller-breakingly difficult. Animaniacs is one of those rare games that I wonít hesitate to call ďcheap.Ē Enemies donít simply attack. They whip across the screen at you. Nearly everything is faster than you, and they run in from off-screen so fast that all you can do is maniacally jump around and hope for the best. On top of that, every set has at least one chase sequence. You will run from a monstrous dump truck, a gigantic rolling gear, and across a collapsing bridge, and even they are faster than you.

Animaniacs looks and sounds just like the show, but the similarities end there. This is clearly just another attempt by executives to cash in on the fansí loyalties. If you are a fan, buy the DVDs, buy the toys, but please, let the Warners remain locked in the water tower.

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Staff review by Brian Rowe (August 18, 2006)

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