Back in 1994, when Lion King mania was running wild and every self-respecting kid wanted to be Simba, Disney Interactive sought to make a few extra bucks through the release of various Lion King-related digital titles. In a practice that would become common in subsequent years and movies, the PC and the most popular platforms of the time received a wealth of interactive titles centered around everyone’s favourite characters du jour. Apart from the games themselves (often dubbed “Action Games”) there were print studios, educational tools, and mini-game collections.
Now, on the PC, all of this worked fine. Back then, computers were still seen as a semi-educational tool, and print studios and spelling titles for the kiddies were perfectly acceptable. Plus, the mouse support made for a smoother, friendlier interface. But the consoles? They were out-and-out gaming equipment. They had d-pads and buttons! They couldn’t possibly harbour this type of title.
…Or could they?
That’s what THQ and Disney Interactive set out to find in 1997, with Timon and Pumbaa’s Jungle Games. Released to capitalize on the Lion King game which became, itself, a huge hit, this title got a puzzling SNES release along with the expected and logical PC release. And I say puzzling because this is one of those titles that just screams “computer.”
T&P’s JG is made up of four mini-games (five on the PC), all accessible from a very interactive main menu (try pressing any button on any part of the screen to see what happens). The fifth game, Bug Drop, was lost in the translation from PC to console. There are also the usual difficulty and sound options, as well as a scoreboard. However, the games are the heart of it all. And while some of them may be fun for a while, none of them justifies a full-blown investment in this cart.
The games available are Jungle Pinball, Hippo Hop, Burper and Sling Shooter. They are all very simple, but their success levels vary quite a bit. They all do, however, boast very nice graphics, with smooth animations and great background detail. Nothing you wouldn’t expect on an SNES, true, but T&P’s JG succeeds in making you feel like you’re actually inside a Saturday-morning Timon and Pumbaa cartoon. Stuff pops up everywhere – particularly in the Sling Shooter game – and our heroes boast slick movements. All in all, pretty neat, and probably the high point of this game.
Unfortunately, the other sections are not as distinguished. But since each mini-game has its own qualities and problems, I will break the remainder of this review into sections describing each portion of Timon and Pumbaa’s Jungle Games. Then I’ll sum it up and do an overall appreciation of the game as a whole. Ready? You better be, ’cause here we goooooooooooooooooooooooooo…!
Okay, the first game available is Burper, and it is also arguably the best. It’s a sort of Space Invaders clone, except you’re Pumbaa and stuff falls from the sky to bonk you on the head. In order to avoid this, you spit loogies at the falling things – no, really, loogies! You can also whack ground-crawling bugs with your tail, or you can unleash the mightiest weapon of all – the almighty burp, which is represented by a cloud of toxic green gas. When you burp, all the incoming things are destroyed. But be careful – there’s a limited amount of burping power, so don’t waste it all in vain!
To be honest, this is a pretty fun game, and a good figurehead for this cart. You use the B button to shoot loogies at falling pieces of fruit, bugs, or even stranger things, like a wooden sink (!) or a gorilla with a shower cap on its head. A lets you slap your tail against the floor, effectively squashing any pestering bugs that happen to be passing nearby, while X and Y unleash Burpeus Supremus. All the while, appropriately Timon and Pumbaa-ish music is playing in the background. Sounds pretty neat, doesn’t it? Well, it is…almost.
The thing is, the controls can get pretty chaotic, particularly in later levels. It gets to the point where stuff is falling on your head faster than you can shoot it, and bugs are biting your ass because you can’t whack ’em fast enough because you’re too busy trying to keep that damn sink from hitting you on the…aw, fuck, I died. See what I mean? This deters from what is essentially a really fun, if short-lived, game, that easily rates as the best of the bunch.
Next up on the screen (but not the pecking order) is Jungle Pinball. The title doesn’t leave much room for imagination – it’s pinball. With a Timon and Pumbaa theme. Who’d’a thunk!? Anyway, this game had potential – after all, pinball is always a bucketload of fun. Well, make that almost always. Once again, programming ruins what could have been a great mini-gaming experience. The flippers are set to L and R, which makes sense on the SNES pad, but can become cumbersome if, like me, you set the keys next to each other.
However, that’s not the main point. The point is the screen is so littered with obstacles and bumpers that the ball inevitably ends up falling through the pit…without giving you any points. Yup. This is not like other pinball games, where the mere act of launching the ball gives you a gazillion score. Here, if you get 1.000 points after three balls, you’re one lucky bastard. Now, I understand this game is for kids, but even little kids – hell, especially little kids – like to get high-scores. Unfortunately, in my book, Jungle Pinball gets a low score.
Moving on throughout the screen, we come to Sling Shooter, number two in this game’s hierarchy of sections. For once, controls are good – you use the d-pad to aim the crosshair at stuff and then use A to shoot it. The targets are pretty hilarious, too – from papier-mâché masks of Timon or the hyenas to a skateboarding Pumbaa caught in the middle of a game of musical statues. However, the best target of all is the one hiding in the waterfall – it’s nearly impossible to actually hit the waterfall, but once you manage to….dear God, it’s too good to ruin by telling.
My main beef here, then, is with the music. Rather than the tinkly jungle tunes of the other three games, here we get a sort of jazzy lounge-bar music, more likely to please the kids’ parents than the actual kids. It’s relaxing, sure, but incongruous – you’re standing there shooting those cutesy targets while the backing score to Bugsy Malone plays in the background. However, that is not enough to stop Sling Shooter from lining up alongside Burper in the Timon and Pumbaa’s Jungle Games parade.
Bringing up the rear is the sorry-ass, unlicensed rip-off float nobody ever notices. Its name? Hippo Hop. At first glance, it’s kind of all right. “Hey look! It’s Frogger with Timon instead of that frog!” However, once you try crossing the stream, something weird happens. “WTF!? Wasn’t I supposed to have passed the level now!?” Then you start wondering. “Maybe I have to cross the stream back again”. So you do that – still no result. It is at that moment that you get it – this one’s going to be L-A-M-E.
Basically, your goal is to collect the bugs that ride atop the hippos, logs, stones and back-stroking turtles (!!) populating the river. On the PC, Timon supposedly yells out what kind of bug he wants, giving you a clue. On the SNES…no such luck. You’re left to hop and skip about aimlessly, until the slippery controls make you fall into the water and die. Repeatedly. I mean, I consider myself an accomplished gamer, and I never even made it past level one. This just sucks.
But the main problem with all four mini-games is just that – they’re mini-games. Their longevity is as reduced as their goal is simplistic. Even in the best two games, I got up to level six, and then got bored and switched to something more exciting. On the PC, the format worked fine – the game represented a decent way for a kid to waste the ten minutes between finishing their homework and being called by their mums for dinner.
But on the SNES, it falls flat. This is NOT a good way to spend a lazy holiday afternoon. I mean, you can’t even share it with your friends – there’s no two-player mode. Therefore, the title is doomed to a ten-minute lifespan on the console or emulator before kids switch over to the Disney Channel for the latest episode of Hakuna Matata with Timon and Pumbaa; one that is sure to be much more fun than this tepid game.
Nice graphics. Unobtrusive music. Burper and Sling Shooter.
Hippo Hop. Controls. Really just a slapped-together collection of mediocre mini-games, with the shortest of lifespans.