- Manufacturer: NEC
- Version: TurboGrafx-16
For years, most people thought that the only video games featuring Disney characters would be created by Capcom for the NES. Now that Nintendo has loosened up the "exclusivity" clauses in their contracts with third-party developers, we can enjoy Mickey Mouse on a Genesis and Baloo the Bear and the Tale Spin gang on a TG-16.
Based on the popular animated TV show, Tale Spin spotlights the exploits of the adventurous pilot Baloo and his navigator Kit Cloudkicker. Together these furry fortune hunters travel all over the country in search of the missing pieces of a map that points the way to a fabulous treasure.
The Tale Spin cast features a lot of appealing characters: Baloo, in particular, has been a favorite of anyone who ever saw Disney's film version of The Jungle Book. Unfortunately, a lot of his charisma is derived from his booming voice, which is the only one of his characteristics that this video game does not reproduce. As a result, his personality shines through only on rare occasions - for example, when he's swept away under a waterfall and waves his arms in desperation as the current pulls him back.
Of course, with the constant attacks Baloo is subjected to in the game, he's more pitiable than likable. There's always an army of bad guys in his face, and there are certain areas that are nearly impossible to fight through without sustaining some kind of damage. But when you're familiar enough with the patterns of your enemies' attacks, the game becomes a simple memory test: you just have to remember when to jump, when to duck and when to throw. The hit-and-miss controls aren't much help - the "jump" button is noticeably unresponsive. Try setting the auto-fire switches on the next highest position - that way, you can be sure that the Turbo will register at least one press of the button.
The background music is not bad at all. It may be slightly repetitive, but it's not irritating - in fact, it's rather subdued. At times the tunes are so quiet that you may find yourself cranking up the volume just to get an earful. Of course, you'll mute it again when the sound effects start to grate on your nerves - the whistling noise of the coconuts Baloo tosses is particularly annoying.
Visually, Tale Spin reaches deep into the TurboGrafx's bag of visual tricks and comes up with a variety of results. Most of the main action features Baloo rambling through scrolling backgrounds; aside from the occasional multi-plane effect, there's nothing here that couldn't have been done on an NES. The crudely illustrated intermissions are also somewhat disappointing, as they don't seem to use a palette of more than 16 colors.
On the other hand, the scenarios that let you control the flight of Baloo's plane are outstanding. In a series of vertically scrolling bonus rounds, Kit "sky surfs" from the Sea Duck's tail and picks up points and power-ups. Later, there's a terrific sequence with a huge side view of the plane as you pilot it through an attacking squadron of old-fashioned pirate fighters.
If the rest of Baloo's adventures were as exciting, as challenging or as well-drawn as this airborne-combat stage, Tale Spin would earn a hearty thumbs-up vote from TG-16 owners everywhere. As is, it's not a failure, but the high points give you an unsettling feeling that the game could have been so much better. It's worth checking out, but definitely an acquired taste.
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