George of the Jungle Wii, PS2
The great thing about the Wii is that, in comparison to other current generation consoles, it is a doddle to develop for. This is somewhat of a mixed blessing though, because although it allows smaller developers to produce games we would have missed out on otherwise. It also allows the bigger software houses to push out an almost limitless stream of substandard games. As the latter are usually hiding under a TV/movie licence things don’t look too good for George of the Jungle, but things aren’t always as they seem.
George of the Jungle, for the most part, is part of a genre we don’t often see on home consoles, a 2D platformer, usually this sort of game is kept to handheld platforms. To some this might seem like a step backward, but it does have a certain retro charm to it. The gameplay is a very much standard fare for the genre, you get all the elements you’d expect from a 2D platformer; moving platforms, levers opening doors, collapsing platforms, double jumps, wall jumping, end of level bosses, it’s all been done before well over a decade ago. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing as a game doesn’t have to be original to be fun, and it’s a well established formula that works well. The game even pays homage to its obvious roots, throughout the game you’ll see references to the genre’s ancestors; Mario’s warp pipes, Donkey Kong’s red girders with white ladders, and it’s a nice touch.
The jungle backdrop is reminiscent of Donkey Kong’s territory, but it is presented in a very different style, everything is very nicely cell shaded, to fit with the game’s cartoon licence. Not only that, but although the gameplay is strictly 2D, the graphical style gives a three dimensional appearance, 2.5D if you like, but there also other gameplay elements here. After every couple of levels of platforming action you’ll get to ride George’s pet elephant, Shep, that thinks it’s a dog. These are presented in proper 3D, but are very basic. All you do is steer to collect pick ups and jump over the odd chasm or drop, there’s no real challenge here, but it’s a nice respite from the platforming action, which can be a little frustrating at times. Unfortunately although the game does follow a well worn path it makes some mistakes that it’s predecessors didn’t.
One of the main frustrations with the game is that once all your lives are gone there is no continue option, this is especially frustrating when they run out near the end of a level and you have to start all over again. It doesn’t help that you get the odd bit of poor level design eating up your lives. Sometimes there are places where it’s all too easy to fall to your death through no fault of your own. Unskippable cut scenes are a bit of an annoyance too, they aren’t overly long, but when you have to keep restarting a level due to the odd bit of poor level design it would be better if you could get straight in to the gameplay. Another problem with the game is the game’s motion controls on the Wii can be a bit hit and miss sometimes. For the most part they are good, but occasionally you need to do a certain move and you’ll roll in the wrong direction, or stop short on a charge attack. It’s a shame really, if it wasn’t for these little faults this would have been a pretty good game.
As it is it’s not bad though, it’s your standard 2D platformer, the usual kind of storyline, collect objects. In this case pages from a medicine book, to save your friends, even if it from something as inconsequential as the common cold. For the most part the level design is pretty good, using the major staples of the genre to create some reasonable puzzles. The boss battles are nice and old school, taking a little working out how to take them down, and it’s nice and satisfying when you do. Controls are nice and simple, with the nunchuck stick moving George around, the ‘A’ button making him jump, the ‘B’ trigger gives you an attack move and the ‘Z’ button letting you interact with objects, pulling switches, dragging blocks, that sort of thing. Motion controls give you some extra moves, pulling the nunchuck left or right will roll George in that direction. Swinging the Wiimote down when double jumping gives you a ground stomp move, and giving the Wiimote a spinning motion will give you a charge attack. It’s a nice little platformer that has been marred by some minor niggles.
So, if you like your platform games old school this is definitely worth a look, although obviously aimed at a young audience it does provide a fair challenge. It would probably best for you to shop around and find it as cheap as possible though, as the game isn’t immensely long, and there is very little reply value. It is a bit of a waste of the Wii’s capabilities though, and if you have a DS it may be worth picking up that version as it seems much more suited to a handheld.