Animaniacs: A Gigantic Adventure is an enjoyable game that just about any player should enjoy. As long as you like side-scrolling games such as Sonic and the old NES Super Mario Brothers, you'll have fun even if you've never watched the cartoon on which it's based. The game play is challenging enough and the levels have plenty of depth to them.
The premise is simple: the Animaniacs -- Yakko, Wakko, and Dot -- are searching the Warner Brothers lot for the movie reels, posters, and awards which the evil Thaddeus J. Plotz has had his security guard Ralph hide from them. Plotz's plot is to grab the three characters and take them to a sanitarium. Why hide their memorabilia when you just want to catch them and take them away anyway? Who knows, but then this is based on a cartoon, so anything goes. There has to be some kind of goal, right?
Once the back story -- which is very nicely rendered using 3D art for the backgrounds and 2D art for the characters -- is established, the player must guide the characters through eleven levels, using a different Animaniac in each one. It would have been nice to be able to choose which one the player takes in each level but, then again, they're all the same in terms of abilities and stamina. The only difference is that Dot throws anvils while her brothers pound with a baseball bat and a mallet. The anvil throwing can actually make it difficult to kill the bad guys since the player must stand away from them and toss the anvils; I much preferred the mallet and the bat. Any of the characters can also simply jump on the rats and other creatures that get in their way, which is useful in close quarters.
The levels get lengthier as the game progresses and, unlike the side-scrollers I mentioned earlier, you can go backward as well as forward. In fact, you'll find yourself spending a lot of time going up and down as well. There are a few puzzles here and there, such as trying to figure out how to get that movie canister on the other side of that pipe, but it's mostly physical dexterity which is important and Animaniacs is quite a challenge in that area. You'll find yourself having to run and then jump to reach some platforms, and some areas, especially the ones where fire shoots at you, are almost impossible to make it through unscathed, even on the easiest difficulty setting.
The graphics are nice and feel very much like a cartoon. Keep your eyes open and you'll notice little surprises such as a cameo appearance by Pinky and The Brain. My only gripe in this area is that in some levels the foreground graphics actually obscure your character in crucial spots. While having these graphics gives each scene a field of depth that immerses you in the game, screening the player with them can add an unnecessary level of frustration.
One important bit of ambiance that is really lacking is the sound. There's no music playing as you navigate each level and the effects you hear when you pick something up or kill a rat are almost reminiscent of the sound of NES effects. I expected more cartoonlike sounds and an accompanying score.
Overall, the game really captures the irreverence of the show, from the punny titles of the missing film reels to the orchestra players going overboard in the ship level (I assumed this was a reference to Titanic and the group who played as the ship sank). You get points for each item you pick up -- there is a lot of food such as hot dogs, hamburgers, popcorn, and other movie theater goodies -- but I was unable to understand why the game kept track of a score. You don't earn an extra player every so many points. There is a high score board on which you can put your name, so I guess there's a bit of "Hey, look at me!" there, which is always good for kids.
My own personal tester, who's seven years old, enjoyed the game a lot. Kids should have a blast with it. They probably won't care that the sound effects aren't as good as they could have been or that there seems to be no point in keeping score. They'll just have fun playing with some of their favorite cartoon characters and the bottom line is that that's good enough to make this a must-have for any kid.
Graphics: Nice but marred by obscuring foreground graphics.
Sound: Adequate, but the soundtrack could have been better.
Enjoyment: A fun game to play, and the basic setup is challenging enough that kids will have fun.
Replay Value: You can save your games, which is important since the levels are lengthy. My only quibble is that you have to remember to save your game every so often or you will wind up starting the level over if you run out of characters.
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