Review by Retro
"No school, no bossy parents, no bedtimes.....what more could a boy want??"
Mowgli is a boy who has had a life different from that of most of us. He was orphaned while only a newborn, and he ended up being raised in the jungle by a pack of wolves that somehow managed to change those dirty diapers, provide him with almost a gallon of milk a day, and do everything else for him that needed to be done. But not all creatures that reside in the temperate bounds of the jungle are crazy about ''man cubs''.
An extremely strong, but wacky orangutan named King Louie seems to want a human for a pet, and Mowgli is the only homo sapien in sight. Even worse, Shere Khan the tiger is a carnivorous monster, to say the least. In The Jungle Book, Mowgli will have to do battle with both of these fierce bosses along with other familiar faces from the Disney movie, such as Kaa the snake and a pack of mischievous monkeys that just won't leave you alone.
But first, you have to get to them. As you would suspect from the title, all of the game's 2-D platforming levels take place within tropical jungles that are hot year round. Before each level, the detailed pages of a book will tell you which stage you're about to take on, and it'll also show the story in words and pictures that look like they came straight from the movie. Then it's on to one of ten humongous stages that come packed with nice variety. The main thing that Mowgli (you) must do in each level is to collect a certain number of red gems, and then find his friend, Bagheera the panther. Upon walking up to Bagheera with enough gems in hand, you'll be warped to the next level. But these red gems aren't always easy to find. They are more scattered around through the vast surroundings than thunderstorms on a hot summer day in Florida. Finding a compass that points in the direction of the nearest hidden gem would do much more good than harm.
They say that tropical rain forests hold more species of animal than any other type of environment. There are more than a few here in The Jungle Book that want to make Mowgli's journey a short one. There are enough monkeys here to crowd the whole continent of Asia, and they have a knack for hanging from trees or standing in place throwing fruits at your head as if the fruits were a baseball and Mowgli's head was the catcher's mitt. Warthogs run back and forth at ground level like they're blind and confused, and frustrating serpents appear out of nowhere hanging from a tree or just sitting on their scaly asses spitting hockers at you.
Things can become tainted when you do the same thing over and over and over again. That can relate to almost anything, including video games. The Jungle Book doesn't suffer from this problem one bit. Yeah, the first level seems rather clichéd for a platformer. You'll just be using Mowgli to jump from platform to platform as you bounce off enemies' heads or shoot them with your weapons to make them vanish from the screen. Climbing and swinging across vines, and using your friend, the little elephant, to mark the place you'll continue from if you happen to die by running out of energy or by falling into a pit makes this first level seem fun, but a little too much like all the other platformers you've already played.
But first impressions aren't always right. When you experience the other nine levels of the game, you'll see a fairly nice variety of challenges. In one area, you must brave the heights and travel from tree to tree by aid of huts that magically transport you in all directions across the lands. There's no need to expect the gems to be out in the great wide open for everybody to see. You have to walk or jump into holes in trees to explore their insides, even though you can't see what's in there. That's where most of the treasures are hidden.
Friends are supposed to stick up for each other, right? Well, they do in The Jungle Book. Dogs are man's best friend, but if you're looking for canines in this game, you'll be looking forever. The true friends are the ones who never let you down. Packs of elephants offer a ride across the screen as they shake the ground with their every step; sleeping snakes lie around in a curled up position, allowing you to propel off of them like a trampoline to reach higher places; Baloo the bear makes a cameo by floating in the water, giving Mowgli the chance to climb onboard his huge gut for a free ride across the stream. Beyond adding a nice little touch of variety, these animal friends also add to the charming atmosphere of the game, especially for players who have seen the movie before.
The stage that King Louie is waiting at the end of is memorable as well. All you do for about 75% of the level is jump from square platform to square platform, but several of them break apart just seconds after you put your weight on them. Almost as dangerous are the platforms that have spikes that come out of them every few seconds, encouraging you to use your best concentration and timing skills.
Yep, when a platformer has at least a decent variety of gameplay characteristics, that makes me like it even more. The Jungle Book has just about everything else going for it too, though. If he falls down far enough without landing on something solid, Mowgli's only piece of clothing, his loin cloth, will open up and act as a parachute. I've never wanted to see his butt, but that's a neat survival tactic. Much better is the array of weapons that the man cub can find, collect, and use in each of the levels. You have an unlimited supply of single bananas that can be thrown all the way across the screen in a few directions, but it's also your weakest weapon. When you confront Kaa, Shere Khan, and the other bosses, you'll need more than your everyday banana. Double bananas, loyal boomerangs, hard coconuts, and even invincibility masks are waiting to be collected and used for a better cause.
You can simply do what you're supposed to do and just collect enough of the shiny red gems until a sign pops up telling you to find Bagheera in order to complete the current level, or you can collect all fifteen gems and then find your friendly panther pal to get the chance to play a bonus stage. Unlike the actual levels, the bonus stages are all pretty much the same. Each one consists of fruits that are scattered about in a rocky cavern. Gather up as much fruit as you can, but also use the snoozing snakes to try and locate the precious hidden 1-up before time runs out.
Beautiful graphics and catchy sounds are all over the place when you live in the jungle. Just look at those extremely detailed textures of the trees and vegetation, whether up close or in the far off distance of the backgrounds. Other things, such as pits of fire, the falling apart environment of King Louie's living grounds, and even the night stage, are overflowing with excellent treats for your eyes. The animations are the same way; they really make the game come to life. You'll see what I mean when Shere Khan runs around in circles with a flame tied to his tail, when you watch Mowgli's lifelike movements, and when King Louie stands on his hands and squirts bananas at you with his feet.
As good as the graphics are, the sounds are up there on the same level. When oranges or other fruits splash on the ground, it sounds realistic, yet cartoonish. I especially like the sounds that certain enemies make when you hit them once and they don't die. You can't help but laugh when you shoot a monkey and he screams ''AHH'' and then runs back and forth as if confused. The gulping sound that a snake makes when you literally shoot a banana at him and he swallows it whole has the same charming humor. One thing the old Disney movies are known for is their music. One of the best songs from The Jungle Book film was called ''Bare Necessities''. ''I mean the bare necessities, that's why a bear can rest at ease.....forget about your worries and your strife.'' Yeah, you remember that one. No words of it will be sung in this video game, but the musical tune of it is here, and it sounds as catchy as ever. Of course, ''Bare Necessities'' is the most memorable of them all, but I don't recall any of the tunes as being bad.
Nothing about The Jungle Book is bad at all, really. It's a fun one-player game with great graphics, sounds, controls, a balanced difficulty (you can toggle it under Options), and it never seems to get old. When I hook up my Sega Genesis from time to time, I never unhook the system and put it back in its drawer without giving The Jungle Book a play or two from start to finish. It captures the laid-back, cheerful spirit of the movie really well, and it's just like most of the other Disney platformers: very fun. Unfortunately, even with its nice length and near-perfection in almost every area, it doesn't have any innovative characteristics that make it stand out from the crowd as being one of the best platformers of all time. It's an easy 8 out of 10.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 07/16/01, Updated 05/27/03
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