The Genesis version of The Lion King will delight your eyes and ears with exceptional graphics and sound. But if you're thinking of running out and buying it for your youngest brothers and sisters (you know, Disney and all), think again. Except at the very beginning, Lion King's game play isn't geared for beginners.
As Simba, junior king of the jungle, you snarl and cavort through ten levels of action/adventure play, with a few puzzles thrown in for good measure. The story line identically follows the film: Simba has been exiled by evil Uncle Scar, and players guide the cub to adulthood and help him regain his lost kingdom, Pride Rock.
ProTip: In this version of Lion King, you can skip across the animal stack the easy way. At the left-hand edge of the stack, leap and grab the blue hippo's face. Climb up and across and avoid all that tail-swingin' stuff.
Each level mirrors a scene from the movie, including the race through the Elephant Graveyard, Simba's exile away from home, and the final battle with Scar. The gorgeous scenery reflects the movie's animations, and each level is fraught with perilous and very creative obstacles -- such as the animal stack in Can't Wait to Be King and the bone-breaking Elephant Graveyard.
In addition to Uncle Scar, Simba battles the hyena crew from the movie, as well as buzzards, assorted reptiles and bugs, cheetahs, and other jungle flora and fauna. Simba defends himself with an authentic repertoire of moves, including pounces, rolls, and snarls as a cub, and clawing, mauling, and a gigantic roar as an adult. The moves are fairly easy to pull off with the three-button Genesis control pad, though occasional glitches and imprecise jumps will make you snarl.
Simba must monitor both his Life Bar and his Roar Meter since, in a very clever touch; Simba uses his roar to scare off other critters. Once he's used it, though, he must wait for it to replenish. Fortunately, bug-shaped power-ups are everywhere, and the feisty feline can use them to up his Life and Roar strength. Munching blue bugs enables Simba to go to special bug bonus rounds that star Timon and Pumba, and I-ups and continues are abundant as well.
- The ostrich ride's double jumps are tricky. You must double jump whenever you run into an obstacle with a hippo and nests. Jump the hippo, then immediately jump again.
- In Simba's Exile, the biggest danger you encounter is falling rocks.
- When you touch a small blue bug in the Pridelands, it'll explode. After you touch it, leap clear to avoid damage.
- Take the far-right cave in the first cave room in Simba's Return. Otherwise you'll wind around endlessly.
- Move quickly when you reach the cliff with the rising green water in the Elephant Graveyard. The easiest path is leaping to the right, then grabbing the left ledge, which gives you a head start for your climb.
- A blue bonus bug sits atop a tree in the upper-left comer of the Pridelands. Grab it, and you can visit Timon and Pumba at the end of the level.
- During the Wildebeest Stampede, jump from side to side across the screen. Sometimes, if you jump as a beast is bearing down on you, you'll avoid damage.
The Beautiful Circle of Life
Lion King looks pretty enough to make you roar. In addition to the spectacular scenery and backgrounds, the sprites, especially Simba, have incredible animations. Disney created original cels just for this game, and its animation expertise shows throughout.
The adult Simba in particular looks just like a real lion as he fights his way through the game's later levels.
It's always better when developers can use the real tunes from the movie, and they've used'em all here. With "Just Can't Wait to Be King" and "Circle of Life," you won't turn off this soundtrack. Nice details, like the sound of drums pounding and some digitized voices (which aren't as good as their SNES counterparts), finesse the entire effect.
Not the King of the Beasts
Despite all the good looks and sounds, something s missing from Lion King. Once you master an area, playing through it again isn't very much fun because everything s exactly the same. The game's too hard for beginners, and it doesn't really have enough variety and challenge for intermediate players. Overall, it's worth saving Pride Rock once for the graphics and sound alone, but it's not a quest you're likely to tackle again.
- To break through piles of bones, just roll through'em.
- A Ladybug's perched on a tiny ledge about halfway through the Pridelands level. Grab her to increase your Life Bar. Climb up and above her, and then get rid of the porcupine to your left. Jump off the ledge and down to a series of ledges that leads right to the Ladybug.