reviews\ Dec 25, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Disney's Treasure Planet - GBA - Review

Disney’s Treasure Planet on the Game boy Advance is based on the recently-released animated film of the same name.  Like the movie it features Jim Hawkins, a Solar Surfer, and his mentor Dr. Poppler, both have decided to set off on an adventure that will take them to the etherium in order to claim the “loot of a thousand worlds”.  Jim’s bubbly alien mimic friend Morph will go along for the ride as well.  While there is no doubt that younger fans of the movie will buy and enjoy this game based purely on the name to which it is attached, gamers who are looking for a bit more substance than a movie-to-game title can generally offer should think twice about asking Santa for this one.


You’ll control Jim Hawkins through a variety of semi-isometric, Spyro-esque stages where progress lies in your ability to collect keys, activate switches, jump over spiky obstacles, and push crates, or the equivalent thereof.  There isn’t a whole lot of innovation here.  But while Treasure Planet may not be suited for seasoned gamers who prefer a dash of challenge with their games, the gameplay does seem targeted towards the younger audience who just want to relive the experience of watching the film. 


You’ll start out the game talking to Dr. Poppler as he informs Jim that his jet propelled solar surfer has been confiscated by the police and the parts sold as scrap to different people around the area.  Jim decides that he is going to retrieve the various pieces and Dr. Poppler agrees to help him out.  Telling you about what you can’t do and requiring that you traverse generic platforming stages in order to do what you wanted right from the onset may not be the best way to sell kids on the game.  Nonetheless, you do eventually get to ride on the solar surfer.  Unfortunately, by the time you acquire all the required pieces you feel like it wasn’t worth the effort since Jim never gets to surf around in space (ok, technically he is in space) like in the movie and instead you just float around in basically the same style as he walks around in. 


The actual levels are a mix of various obstacles, platforms, and enemies.  Each room in a level requires you to walk, jump, and punch your way to the next door.  While there is hardly any emphasis on combat, or even platforming per se’, there is emphasis on puzzle solving.  For instance, you’ll come across a room that will only open up if you obtain the green key.  Ok, no problem, so you go in the other direction but there is a boulder blocking the way, in order to get rid of the boulder you need to obtain dynamite.  Fine, so you go in the other direction to get the dynamite, but the dynamite is being protected by a mysterious force-field.  Starting to see the picture?  What we got here is a huge fetch-quest with so many roundabout methods of progression that it gets tedious very quickly.


Jim’s constant companion Morph does offer some diversion from the standard run-and-jump style of play.  He allows you to execute various “Morph Moves”, and while the majority of these moves don’t make a whole lot of sense they do help to keep things feeling fresh.  Morph enables Jim to do stuff like quickly view the layout of the room you are in, boost Jim’s jumping ability so that he can leap across large gaps, and morph into a light so that you can traverse darkened areas, among other things. 


There are different kinds of treasure that Jim can pick up in any given level, and these include such things as gold coins, gemstones, treasure chests, hearts, and golden Jim idols.  By collecting 100 coins you’ll be rewarded with an extra life, gemstones count as five coins and treasure chests often contain large amounts of coins or other beneficial items.  The hearts replenish a unit of Jim’s health, and the golden Jim idols are free lives. 


In terms of graphics Treasure Planet has its highpoints, or rather highpoint.  While the standard action is basically a mix of run-of-the-mill objects, characters, and structures, the between level animations that feature actual clips from the film are pretty impressive, it must have taken up a lot of data space on the tiny gba cartridge to include them.  But the instances in which you’ll actually be “playing” the game are pretty lackluster, the animation is smooth but highly restricted, and the level’s layouts tend to repeat far too often in regards to objects and enemies.  The audio presentation is nothing to write home about, there are occasional digitized voice clips that help to give the game a sense of style that is in line with the film but the music is forgettable and the sound effects boring.


Overall, there are a few things to like about Treasure Planet but for the most part it is simply another rushed-to-shelves movie-to-game title with very little originality or entertainment value.  There is no battery-save feature, so the kids will have to memorize the password in order to start on the same level that they stopped on.  In fairness the passwords are easy to remember, but still.  I’m going to assume that older gamers already know to ignore this one, but for children who may have enjoyed the recent Spyro the Dragon games on the GBA they may get a kick out of Disney’s Treasure Planet.



Gameplay: 6.7
Controlling Jim requires that you move him around in four directions, jump and punch.  When on the solar surfer you can accelerate, jump, and shoot the fire cannon.  It’s all very simple straightforward gameplay that anybody would be comfortable with in a matter of seconds, but then there is zero innovation and very little variety, which makes Treasure Planet easy to learn but boring to play.

Graphics: 6.9
The visuals are nothing special, adequate maybe, but far from impressive.  The sporadic cut-scenes from the movie are pretty cool to watch on the GBA screen since full motion video is rarely seen on a handheld device.

Sound: 6.7
Don’t expect any brilliant orchestrations or an otherwise entertaining aural presentation niceties that would set this game apart from the crowd.  The music is repetitive, though does fit the tedious nature of the game, if there is a way to put that nicely.

Difficulty: Easy
Treasure Planet offers no substantial difficulty whatsoever, the younger audience may be challenged in a few different areas but for the most part you’ll rip right through the game with very little effort.

Concept: 4.2 
It’s usually difficult to rate a movie-to-game title based on “concept”, since the concept is to just ride the gravy train of the film into your videogame system.  But even if this game wasn’t based on a film it would be a cinch to rate because Treasure Planet is all but devoid of any new ideas or unique gameplay implements.  It is completely derivative of every other puzzle-solving platform game. 

Overall: 6.4

Like I said, if you are buying this game intending to give it to your young child then go for it, they’ll love the included movie clips.  But if you are interested in this game thinking it will do justice to the film then don’t bother.   

Above Average

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