It’s time for An-i-man-i-acs
And we’re zany to the max
So just sit back and relax
You’ll laugh till you collapse
As a young teen, I would watch this show over and over again. Why? Because they tried to break the comic mold for children. They used jokes and stunts that weren’t always for our age group, but were funny. When I heard there was an Animaniacs title coming out for the GBA SP, I was very happy. My editor made me even happier when he handed it to me for review. I couldn’t wait to put the antics of Yakko, Wakko, and Dot to use in finishing up three movies. With that in mind, I followed Thaddeus Plotz’s instructions to complete three movies, so the kids could make back the money that they cost the studio.
Due to the cartoon nature of the show, the visuals for this game are an easy win. Strong colors for the foreground elements against basic backgrounds make the Warner Brothers (and the Warner Sister) stand out well. The enemies and items are also well colored to stand out. The backgrounds suffer in this though, being somewhat on the simple side. Brown,grey, and other dark colors form the basic background, with some elements like doors and windows, or dressing like tracks on the ground to pretty things up.Throughout the time I played this game, I don’t think I heard the Animaniacs theme song once. The music was your comedic calliope cartoon fare and was background noise for the most part. It did grate on my nerves after some time of play and I had to play with the volume turned off. They missed an opportunity here to really put the license to good use with theme music and sounds.
Control was the part of the game I hated the most. It was designed with an analog controller in mind, but the GBA’s d-pad is not analog. The game is also set along isometric angles which made control even worse. I put the game into my GBA Player, and found that the d-pad on the Gamecube controller was much better suited. I improved somewhat by holding the GBA at a 45 degree angle, as this made hitting the angles much better, but it wasn’t comfortable. This still didn’t help the controls in general as I was still missing the beats in the character switch minigame, or repeating jumps and runs because I was a little off. The controls were loose overall, and really cried out for an analog stick rather than the digital controls I was stuck with.
Under the supvervision of The Director, you have to move through rather open levels finding keys to open up access to the next area. You are timed through the use of film reels. They slowly play out, and you fail if you run out. You can find more reels throughout the levels.
Periodically, you encounter items that only other characters from the show can open or defeat, and must switch to that character through the stage door. Switching consists of a brief “Simon Says” game in which you earn more film reels, then you can switch to the characters available at that point in the game. Brain opens IQ Switches, Pinky can squeeze through tight places, Wakko burps, Dot can float when jumping, and Yakko…well…I’m still not sure why I use him.
The levels are pretty straightforward, with you following the instructions of The Director (who’da thunk it?) all the way to the end. The end of the level usually results in a boss fight against a pirate, alien, or zombie creature. The levels are pretty wide open, with your character being able to travel from the start to end at will. It is also hard to get lost, as you generally have arrows directing you towards the next appearance of The Director (Talk about cameo shots!). Repeat until end of game.
None to speak of. Aside from the game itself, there is nothing more to examine on the cartridge.
The true test of a licensed property is how it is used in a game. Aside from any other complaints I have listed above, my main one would be the misuse of the license. This game could just as easily be Pinky and the Brain: Lights, Camera, Action, or any other Warner Brothers property. There is nothing contained within that gels the Animaniacs license with the gameplay. I think I may have laughed at Slappy’s line in the first level, but otherwise sat, stone-faced throughout the remainder of the gameplay.
The development team behind this one really needs to look back at why the Animaniacs were funny, and reconsider their design for this game. It was designed for a younger audience, but considering the age of the license, I doubt many five year old players would even look twice at this title. Even fewer still would enjoy the gameplay within. As it stands there is no reason for me to recommend it for purchase. I’ll close with another quote from the theme song:
The writers flipped, we have no script,
Why bother to rehearse? We’re An-i-man-i-acs!
Why bother indeed.