Monday, June 29, 2009

Kendo Rage-SNES-Seta U.S.A.

Part of the fun of writing these reviews is walking into a retro games store and leaving with a few games solely based on how ridiculous their names are. And while Kendo Rage may not be the strangest name I've seen, it does possess its own unique ridiculousness. A quality that shines throughout Seta U.S.A.'s 1993 adventure. But does Kendo Rage possess the violent beauty of the martial arts, or is it merely an enraging experience?

You play as Jo, a girl in love with kendo and the martial arts, who was sent by her parents to Japan for the summer. There she has enrolled in Honest Osaki's Kendo School and Used Car Sales, to be trained by one of the greatest Kendo masters in Japan. Once Jo arrives, Osaki finds her a quiet mountain cabin six hours from school. While rushing to school on the first day, Osaki surprises her and informs her that she can call him Bob, and also that she must crush the rotten evildoers that are along her path to school. He then gives her a talisman from the great wizard Hiundai, which protected the great warrior Farratti as he did battle with the evil General Moto's legions in the battle of Detroit. The charm grants Jo the magical powers she needs to defeat evil and reach school in time (more or less).

I mentioned already that the game is ridiculous, but I failed to mention that the game revels in its goofiness. From the pun heavy story to the beyond groan-worthy level opening and ending quips, the game takes great delight in making the player laugh at just how bad some of the jokes are. This lack of seriousness is a definite plus for the game as it gives Jo, Osaki, and even the bosses a quick shot of character and personality.

Everything about how the game was crafted visually bleeds charm as if the designers had been cut with a knife made of orange tuxedos. Every level is drastically different than the last. Ranging from the predawn mountains to under the sea. Each one maintains a striking distinction from the last that, and more often than not, makes the player wonder if Jo's gotten lost.

Even the enemies are more goofy than they are troubling. From pink ghosts and bears to snowmen ghost and effeminate salary men, the air of ridiculousness pervades almost every design. The bosses are especially odd, being both giant and super deformed, two qualities usually at odds with one another. Even Jo's magical girl outfit is humorous in its gaudiness.

That ridiculousness also makes its way into the gameplay as well, but unfortunately, it's a bit less endearing there. Like in the Prince of Persia, the game's clock is constantly ticking, demanding that Jo complete all seven levels before it is time for school. This keeps the pace of the game fast. However, the controls are just not tight enough for that.

This is due in part to the fact that Jo accelerates slowly. Like Sonic, it takes Jo a moment to get to her normal movement speed, a speed that she can, also like Sonic, surpass when running down a hill. The problem with this is that, unlike Sonic, Jo's not restricted by inertia, but a slight stutter step that she takes every time she starts moving. This creates a slight feeling of lag between when the player moves and the character complies. The slight frustration of this is exacerbated by enemies that simply appear in front of Jo.

Luckily, Jo is no slouch when it comes to combat. Much like in a shooter, her standard attack can be augmented by three elemental powers. The fire element grants a sword with longer reach, while the water element creates a crescent of energy. The wind element, probably the most useful in terms of pure combat abilities, summons a flurry of thrusts.

Each strike can be additionally enhanced by allowing the PSY meter to build, which does so as long as Jo does not attack or get hit. Once the bar is filled at least halfway, the next strike will have an added effect: A beam of flame, a spread shot of ice, or a greater flurry of thrusts. These magical strikes can help swing a battle back in Jo's favor.

Unfortunately, the manner in which Jo selects which element she wants to use is unwieldy at best. Jo must attack a specific enemy that appears at certain points in the level. As the creature flits around the screen, the orb in its possession alternates between four colors. Attacking the enemy while it's holding the red, green, or blue orb will net Jo the effect of that element, but will not power up her attack if she picks the same element as it would in a shooter. The fourth color, yellow, allows Jo to take one extra hit by creating a shield in front of her when an attack comes near.

The elemental system is a nice idea as it grants a slightly deeper element of strategy to the bosses. The first boss is easier when fought with fire, while the second boss is simpler when fought with wind, and so on. The problem is that the orb-carrying enemies appear so suddenly, that the player is likely to attack one as soon as it shows up, which more often than not, results in having the wrong element for a boss fight. This can become extremely frustrating, especially as once that mistake is made, the player has no choice but to use an ineffective element and probably waste a life.

This is the game's greatest flaw, especially near the end when enemies are darting in on all sides. The player grows so used to attacking everything before Jo's sluggish controls become a problem, that the elemental power up carrier seems just like any other enemy. And as the red element becomes too sluggish and narrow focused to really hold up to the onslaught, there becomes a greater possibility of death if the wrong element is selected.

Beyond that, Jo possesses a dash move that causes her to surge forward surrounded by energy, destroying any enemy that gets in her way. However, as this move takes almost a fourth of her health and only has slightly more range and power than her fully charged attacks, it ends up being more costly than effective.

Oddly enough, the game's soundtrack might be the best thing about the game. It's a bumpy and energetic collection of songs, reminiscent of the early Sonic games. It's a good indicator of the effort that Seta U.S.A put into creating the game.

In the end, though, Kendo Rage is just a mediocre action-platformer. It has charm to spare and wonderful music, but that doesn't make up for the frustration caused by how the elemental powers are delivered. If you're looking for a quirky, Japanese game with a goofy localization, Kendo Rage might provide some silly fun. Anyone else should just let this rage pass them by.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


I haven't beaten Bug!, and I probably never will. Even as a kid, sitting around waiting for the next Sonic game, I never really tried. This is probably due to the fact that even though I played it often, I hated it with a passion. Bug! was, to my young mind, Sega's replacement for Sonic. After all, his game was the platformer available near the 1995 launch of the system, while Sonic was nowhere to be seen. But that wasn't the total reason that I hated the game. I genuinely thought that Realtime Associates had created a poor game. However, I never actually thought about why. So, when I recently bought a Saturn from a friend, I was itching to go back and find out if Bug! was as bad a game as I remember, or if I was just bugged that Sonic was nowhere to be seen.

The main character is the titular Bug, a small, green insect whom just prior to the start of the game struck it big in the movie industry with a blockbuster hit. That one film earns him enough money that he's able to rent out an entire tower for a birthday bash that lasts several days. I'm not entirely certain why that was pertinent information, but it was in the opening. Now, his apparently demanding public wants more, and Bug must return to the set to film his next smash hit, an action movie in which he rescues his girlfriend and various family members from the nefarious Black Widow. Whether said family members are the girlfriend's or Bug's, I'm not sure.

Placing the entire game on the sets of a movie was a nice touch of creativity, however, the actually game makes little use of this. There are no hanging lights, no wires to hold the set up, no backdrops. The only things that even possibly hint towards this are the occasional 2D props used to show grass or a rock, the invincibility item that summons in the Stunt Bug, points being money earned by the film, and small cut scenes that play between areas.

Those simple scenes show Bug walking from the just beaten set to the next. And that's it. With so little of the actual game referring to the movie aspect, the bits that are included feel a bit like window dressings, desperately put in place once the developers realized that a hook was needed. And while it seems a bit disingenuous, it succeeds in giving the game a much needed charm and a way to explain some of the poor design decisions.

However, while the setting itself is charming, Bug, the character, is not. In all honesty, I can't think of any other character that matches Bug in the act of being annoying. In that aspect, he reigns supreme.

Oddly enough, that crown has nothing to do with his design. Bug is a fairly standard, cartoony mascot character, and Less offensive in design than his buddy, a brown spider with a pimp hat, gold chain, and humongous lips. Rather, it is Bug's constant stream of stupid one-liners that make make him detestable. These quips range from the mildly annoying "BUG JUICE" that he sings out every time he picks up that particular healing item, to the "What a slobber head" that he screeches out after killing an enemy. Bug drips a forced bad attitude and wise cracking personality that is so far off the mark of what actually makes a good lead that he'd make a better henchman than hero.

Bug is such an awful character that I can actually understand someone forming a negative opinion about the game just from him alone. In fact, I spent most of my first few play sessions begging for him to shut up. Luckily, that was actually a feture included in the options menu, which is a good thing, because Bug is not all that bad of a game.

Graphically, the game has aged fairly well. Rather than using the blocky polygons that often made up the characters of that time, Bug and his baddies were created by circles and rounded curves. This allowed them escape from looking like the standard hodgepodge of boxes and blocks that creates such a dated feel.

Even the levels the, with their unmoving backgrounds and small, blocky pathways that hover over oblivion, have managed to run past dated and into a surrealistic, quirkiness that actually manages to look good thirteen years later. Part of this is due to the simple aesthetics of the level. The game has little ornamentation to adorn the pathways save the occasional two dimensional wallpaper of a rock or grass that is placed on invisible walls.

The gameplay also transitions well. Being one of the earliest 3D platformers on consoles, the developers made a good choice by creating, for all intents and purposes, a 2D platformer in a 3D space. By this, I mean, that Bug! rarely, if ever, requires the use of all three dimensions at once. Bug is only able to walk in four directions, and there are hardly ever any jumping sections that must be preformed either away from or towards the stationary camera. A good choice when dealing with players unaccustomed to the third dimension.

Speaking of jumping, Bug controls well in the air, which is one of the most important aspects of a platformer. Perhaps the only qualm I have with Bug's jumping abilities is that he doesn't jump high enough to effectively fight enemies on a hill. As a result, Bug must either lure them away from their spot or take damage to move past them.

Of course, taking damage will become second nature to anyone that plays this game. It's not a game that wants you to win, nor is it a game that wants you to die. No, Bug! is a game that wants you to suffer. With a suspect hit detection, enemies that simply appear right in front of the player, and traps that lack a clear distinction for when they won't cause damage, making it through the levels becomes a fight for survival, especially during the later levels when traps are placed on jumps or on corners.

Luckily, Bug does have some tricks to help even the odds. Beyond simply impaling enemies on his stinger, Bug is capable of finding several other power-ups. Zap allows him to arc lightning between his antenna, which is able to take down even the toughest of enemies in no time. The other is a spit attack, which allows bug to lob globs of poisonous spittle at his enemies. Unfortunately, these power-ups are few and far between, so more often than not, Bug will have to make do with the power of his rear.

For a platformer that does not focus on the collection of items, Bug is extremely exploration based. Often times, there are several different pathways through a level that will vary drastically in their requirements. Some of them will have challenging jumps, while others will be full of traps like rolling boulders or just an absurd number of enemies. This allows the player to determine how they would like to tackle the levels. There are even hidden pathways that, while dangerous to access, offer greater rewards in lives, health, power-ups or a combination of all three. This helps keep the game feeling fresh and rewards the brave or crazy for trying out different tactics.

Each area is composed of three stages and a boss fight. All of which border on the needlessly long side. Bosses in particular take far too long to fight. This is especially annoying when one adds in the questionable hit detection. The first boss has five phases and after each one, the player must hit it an increasing number of times. As the phases pass, the boss grows faster and faster, requiring that the jumps become more precise. Normally, that's not a bad thing, but when one must hit a boss close to thirty times before it falls, it becomes a rather tedious experience.

The music is ok. It accentuates the action rather well with a jazzy, schizophrenic nature that plays to the strengths of the odd design and quirky setting. However, it never manages to be memorable. The voice acting, on the other hand, is very memorable if only for how horrid it is. Bug's quips serve more to annoy the player than to make them smile. The sound effects never grate, but there's only so many times one can hear a jingle of picking up a gem before they all tend to blur.

In the end,"Bug!" is a game that's as easy to enjoy as it is to despise, and it's better than I remember it being. It's a competent platformer with a lot of charm and good controls. In some ways, it has actually improved with time due to players growing more accustomed to maneuvering in a 3D space. However, it is still plagued by a terrible lead and frustratingly cheap difficulty. If you've got a Saturn and love platformers, give it a go. It will test your skills better than most. But, if you're new to the genre or just looking for a quirky romp in a whimsical land, don't let this be the bug spray that kills your interest.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Getting Stuck: An Adventure Game Saga

Well, folks, I've had a bit of an issue pop up. Some family troubles. And that's going to be monopolizing a good bit of my time for the next few days, but I don't feel right leaving you guys with nothing on Monday. So, while you wait for the next installment of Retro Treasures, I figured I'd take a short moment to discuss a little issue that exists within one of my favorite genres-- getting stuck. No, not the kind of stuck that you experienced in Super Mario Bros when you first reached world 8. What I'm referring to is the all-encompassing, mood-killing brain lock that comes from getting stuck in a graphical adventure.

If you've played an adventure game, you know the feeling. You've taken Guybrush to every island you can. You searched every nook as Larry Laugher. You've shown you want to be a hero so bad you've died in every possible way that the creators had imagined. And yet, you can still not proceed forward.

If you haven't ever played an adventure game, simply conjure up the feeling of having misplaced your keys. And then realize that you're doing this for fun. It's a frustrating experience made all the more so by both the nagging sensation that you've already seen the necessary item and the complete lack of anything new to experience.

So, players does the only thing he or she can do. He or she talks to people over again, look at the same objects again, and try to pick up the same immovable items in the vague hope that he or she simply missed it the first time, and only thought it had already been tried. And occasionally, the player does have a breakthrough and the cursor picks up that unseen path or minute little item. And away you go, off to solve the puzzle.

Those moments are absolutely divine. That simple moment where you know that everything is falling into place and the inane genius you possess will conquer it all. And then the very next puzzle stops you cold. And in an instant all that annoyance comes tumbling back.

In essence, that is the strange cycle of the adventure game. New acts and new areas provide such a simple thrill as all new and easier puzzles fall away and there is still the simple joy of exploration. But the tedium eventually catches up, and all but the most stalwart of players will succumb to the inevitable-- Cheat.

If you say you've never called up a hint line or looked up even a single hint in an FAQ, you're a dirty liar. It's the constant temptation of the adventure game. One made even worse by the Internet and readily available FAQs that are only a few, simple key strokes away.

But once you cheat, once you look for help, the flood gates open. You find yourself thinking less and less. And more and more you're turning to the FAQ for help. Be it for the name of the next item or an in depth explanation for an entire section, the result is always the same: the game feels cheapened.

It's not that the game isn't fun. Even in this new state, it's still an enjoyable experience watching the story unfold. But the actual playing of the game, of using that necessary item, simply feels hollow.

That is the biggest problem for adventure games. It's a precarious balance between too easy and too hard, and no matter where on the spectrum the game falls, someone will get stuck-- stuck between the choices of frustration and cheating. And unfortunately, it's a problem that comes from the very core of how adventure games are created, played, and expected to be. It's a problem without a solution. But would the fans want it any other way?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Stunt Race FX- SNES- Nintendo

The goal of Retro Treasures has always been, and will always be, to seek out those little gems that have been lost to the ages. Whether they are games that were overshadowed at launch by bigger and better ones, games that were ahead of their time, or just games that fill a necessary niche and grant players a new game they missed out on in a beloved genre. Of course, I did leave room for special occasions, I would add my voice to the multitudes and discuss one of the big names. After all, it was finally beating Chrono Trigger after years of attempts that lead me to create this blog. As a result, I never expected to be able to legitimately review a Shigeru Miyamoto game outside of one of those rare occasions. But, I had forgotten that in 1994 Miyamoto and Nintendo EAD released a little racing game using the Super FX, the graphics chip that allowed their carts to produce true 3D images. But does Stunt Race FX live up to the Miyamoto name, or does it buckle under the weight of the SNES' own limitations?

As Stunt Race FX is a racing game, it is completely devoid of plot. Due to that fact, I will move on to discuss the five modes of play: Speed Trax, Stunt Trax, Battle Trax, Test Run, and Free Trax.

Speed Trax is the standard racing circuit, and a mode that will feel familiar to anyone that has played the Mario Kart franchise. In this mode, players pick on of three vehicles (The Coupe, The F-Type, or 4WD Truck), and compete against three other drivers in either the Novice, Expert, or Master class. Each class contains 4 tracks, but what makes the game stand out from Mario Kart are the inclusion of a time limit for each race and a bonus race in the middle of the class, which is played by driving an 18 wheeler around a course through slalom gates for time and extra lives.

Stunt Trax, despite its name, is rather light on stunts. Instead, the player can expect to drive their chosen vehicle through one of four themed obstacle courses as they attempt to collect as many stars as they can out of forty total. An ice level, a water level, an off road course, and a level made of almost nothing but hills are the challenging areas players must navigate. Even finishing one of these courses may take more than a few tries, especially if a player hasn't mastered the nuances of their chosen ride.

Battle Trax is a fairly straightforward verses mode. The player and a friend compete head to head in order to determine which of them is superior in early 3D racing. There isn't much to this mode other than that. There are. however, four courses that are only playable in this mode, and a trick involving waiting at the start of the race to sub in computer drivers.

Test Run is an interesting mode that exists solely for the beginner to learn how to drive. There is only one unnamed course, and after three laps the player is kicked out to the mode select screen. This mode is only available for a short time as once the player beats either of the first two classes in Speed Trax, the training level disappears and is replaced by the final mode.

Free Trax is the time trail of Stunt Race, and can serve the same function as Test Run with the added bonus of actually allowing new players to learn on a course they will be racing on. In Free Trax, a player races alone through the course to test their mastery of a specific track. As an added bonus, there is one extra vehicle available in this mode, the 2WD motorbike. With high speed and high acceleration, the 2WD will test even the best players finesse as the finicky bike threatens to spill at even the slightest miss turn.

As I've already mentioned, there are what amounts to five vehicles in the game, and two of those are only usable at certain times. Each vehicle has specific characteristics that set them apart from the others. The 4WD is the sturdiest, able to take a good bit of damage and possesses high acceleration. It is, however, the slowest of the racers . The coupe is the balanced racer, never excelling at nor lagging in any of the stats. The F-type, though, is all speed, and as a result has slow acceleration and a weak frame. Obviously, as the speed of the vehicles increases, the ease of handling them decreases. This makes the 4WD an ideal choice for the beginning player as it requires little of the finesse that the F-Type demands from its driver.

Driving in Stunt Race is simple. B is gas, Y is boost, and A is break. However, while that's enough to get around the course in the truck, it simply won't cut it when driving the faster cars. For that, the player needs to use the L and R buttons. These cause the car to perform a hard turn in the direction pressed. Maintaining control while holding these turns isn't as easy as performing the slight turns of the cross pad, but it is necessary for making it around some of the sharper curves at high speed.

Which leads me to the subject of crashing, a situation any racing game fan, and quite a few people that aren't, have experienced numerous times. Like F-Zero, the Stunt Race vehicles all have a damage bar, and once it fills up, the race is over. Thankfully, the game has colored blobs that heal or restore boosts. A red blob heals the damage done to the player's car while a blue on refiles the boost meter by about fifty percent.

As good as the game plays, it does have a couple major flaws. One being that it has not aged well. The graphics are so blocky and rudimentary, that they fly past ugly and gain a sense of beauty that only someone who remembers that era fondly could enjoy. As a result, visibility is dreadful. More often than not, even on the perfectly clear and simple maps, turns and signs warning of those turns appear without warning giving one little time to react. The game can, also, never decide what is an adequate draw distance, so occasionally, you'll see one section of a wall before you see a closer one. Or the player might see the path below, before the one he or she is driving on has finished forming. As a result, memorization is even more vital to this game than in later racers, and that comes with the added difficulty of few consistent visual clues to speed the process up.

Because of the graphical problems, the game is extremely difficult to play for long stretches at a time. Anytime I played for more than thirty minutes, I would be left with a nagging headache and tired eyes for the rest of the day. Which is sad when one considers how charming the vehicles are with their big bulbous eyes and bright colors.

Another problem is that the game never really creates the sense that the player is working towards something. No matter the mode being played, time was what the game kept track of. As a result of that, it always felt like playing a time trail. It didn't matter if the player came in first or fourth as long as their time was low. And even should one place first in every event, victory only means a screen showing the times for each race. This left victory feeling pointless and hollow.

Musically, the game is everything one would expect from a Nintendo EAD developed game. The soundtrack is bumping and fun, creating an easy energy that is fun to drive to. The sound effects are also nice. The squeal of the tires and the roar of the engine are noticeable but never overpowering.

Stunt Race FX is something that has to be played to be believed. Just watching it one can't get a sense of just how good it feels to drive in this game. It is a simple, pick-up-and-play racer that sits comfortably on the technical side of the genre and offers plenty to be mastered for the more serious racing game fan. It's unfortunate that the graphics have aged so poorly, but not nearly as unfortunate as the fact that Nintendo has abandoned this series to history. Stunt Race FX is a wonderful racer that's worth at least a test drive to see if you can appreciate the engine below the rusted coat of paint.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Jungle Book-SNES-Virgin Interactive

As I mentioned in the Ranger X review, my childhood was full of Saturday morning trips to Adventure Video for new games to play. I also said that there were no set guidelines that I adhered to at the time. And while true, there were certain things that caught my eye more than others. One of those was a simple name: Disney. If a game had any connection to that company, chances were high that I was going to rent it. I mean why wouldn't I? I grew up with Chip n' Dale's Rescue Rangers and Ducktales being constants in my NES. Disney games were so entrenched as quality titles that even when I came across one I didn't like, such as Beauty and the Beast, I assumed that the game had been made for my sister rather than me. So, it doesn't surprise me that I have fond memories of Virgin Interactive's 1993, Jungle Book. But were my fond memories just bits of Disney drivel or was the Jungle Book actually a swinging good time?

The game's plot is the same as the movie it was based on. There are no deviations and little to no references within actual gameplay. When the game first boots up, the player is greeted with a quick overview of the plot. Mowgli was found by Bagheera, and raised by wolves, living an idyllic life with his jungle family until the return of the tiger, Shere Khan. Shere Khan cannot tolerate a man cub in his jungle and vows to hunt Mowgli. Now, Mowgli must escape the jungle to a human village or be killed by the tiger.

Graphically, the game is a bit of a mixed bag. Sprites are blurry and not pleasing to look at. As a result, even Mowgli can be a bit hard to focus on at times. The backgrounds in the game are busy, and the canopy is nicely detailed, which does a good job of creating the impression that one is actually in the deep jungle. However, this creates clutter. So much so that it can occasionally be difficult to tell what is foreground and what is background. Hanging vines, which are usually just shadowy outlines are especially bad about this. On the other hand, despite being rather unappealing to look at, sprites are actually animated rather beautifully, bringing to them the same feeling of life that exists in the levels.

Like the graphics, gameplay is also very hit or miss. Jungle Book is a platformer much like Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure. And while the game rarely varies from the "Right leads to the goal" mentality, getting there can have you exploring all over the level.

Mowgli's main method of attack is the banana. By tapping Y, Mowgli will toss said fruit rapidly, which flies straight across the screen or straight up. Mowgli can also attack with other fruit that he collects throughout the level, such as apples or coconuts. Or he can, and usually should, jump on the enemy.

The extra fruits are very limited, and players will rarely find more than six of a specific type in a level. And while they aren't more powerful than the banana, they do attack in different ways. The apple is thrown in an arc, allowing Mowgli to hit enemies that are in front of him and slightly above. The coconut on the other hand is rolled like a bowling ball straight out in front of Mowgli, unless, he is standing on a ledge, at which point the coconut will drop straight down. These attacks, when combined with Mowgli's standard banana, grant the player a wide option of how to approach enemies and bosses.

Or rather, it should give you a wide option of how to approach enemies and bosses. The problem is the game rarely gives you time to react. Enemies attack as soon as they come on screen, and usually to exactly the spot the player just entered. Not only that, enemies also take several hits with the banana before they actually fall. A better solution is to simply jump on them before they have time to hit you, but doing that requires prior knowledge of the stage.

In fact, that's the biggest flaw in the game. It feels, in almost all instances, that the game was designed to be played over and over again. That mastery and knowledge of a level were stressed in the creation of the game above fun and skill. This only becomes more obvious as you proceed through the game. An enemy in the waterfall level spits water back at you, which all but invisible against the background. Monkeys toss fruit the second they see you. And Mowgli falls so quickly, that the player is left with no time to react if their is a danger under his feet.

Even the vines that Mowgli has to use to cross the level feel like they were tailored for this. The hanging ones look like bits of the scenery, and it is really easy to lose sight of the swinging vines in the background, which can, and usually does, lead to a lot of tiresome and unnecessary deaths. This is only exacerbated by the finicky way Mowgli grabs the vines. Mowgli doesn't just latch on when he jumps toward them. No, he will only grab it if up is pressed and if he is at the appropriate spot. Which isn't too annoying, but when combined with the fact that the player must not be pressing up to jump off a vine, it becomes slightly more so.

The problems with actually playing Jungle Book are disheartening because there is good in the game. The level design is very well laid out, and once the player actually know where to go, a lot of fun can be had just moving through the levels.

Another thing the game has a lot of is charm. From the voice clip of the monkeys to the general feel of the game, one can tell the creators put a lot of thought and love into it. So much so that I can almost forgive them the difficulties of actually playing the game.

The boss battles are the reason I can't. Though Few and far between, they are needlessly difficult, especially the first, The battle with Kaa. It is extremely frustrating. Mostly because by that point, Players will have probably not earned any continues, so defeat here means redoing the first couple levels. And that is highly likely. Mainly because Kaa's primary attack is a homing wave that zips across the screen quickly, and even if the player dodges it, it will simply perform a U-turn turn and be back again. The only way to avoid the it is to force it to fly off the side of the level. Forcing it to go below the level doesn't work. It will still come back and smack Mowgli.

Another problem is that Kaa attacks from various points on the screen. That wouldn't normally be a problem except that it exposes two more of the games weaknesses. The first being that Kaa can hit you before he's even appeared on screen. If Mowgli is standing in the wrong spot, he will take damage before the player even knows to react. The big issue though, is that there is very little temporary invulnerability after getting hit. If Mowgli ends up on the wrong side of Kaa, he may lose two or three hearts before he can get away.

The music is the game is superb. Tommy Tallarico does an awesome job of turning the songs from the movie into catchy midi renditions and of creating new songs that mesh well with both the feel and setting of the game. Sound effects are also nice. The bananas have a sort of fun squishy sound when thrown, and the simple jungle ambiance mixes well with the music.

The Jungle Book is a difficult game. It's a game that feels like a labor of love, but I'd be lying if I said I had a great time with it. It's frustrating, it's confusing, and the boss battles are needlessly difficult. Unless you're a fan of the Jungle Book or an avid platformer fan in need of something, anything, new, I cannot recommend it. It's a decent game, but time has not been kind to it.