reviews\ Dec 2, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Disney's Treasure Planet - PSX - Review

This is among the newest offering licensed by Disney-- as based on a current theatrical release. The movie (and subsequent game) is based on the classic 1881 novel "Treasure Island". Of his masterpiece, author Robert Louis Stevenson once said: "If this don't fetch the kids, why, they have gone rotten since my day". While the book remains exciting and fun, I am sad to report that the Playstation (PSX) game does not live up to that honor. In fact, after a few hours of playing, I wished I could walk the plank. 

The original story is about a boy, Jim, who seeks riches on Treasure Island. Aboard a royal ship, he befriends a one-legged cook-- Long John Silver. There is mutiny, fighting, betrayal and mystery... with a grand climax. I have not, however, seen the new Disney film from which the game is inspired. More information can be gleaned from the Disney movie site, I am sure, but I have heard that the basic story line is the same-- with a futuristic twist. Instead of ocean-sailing vessels, Jim flies through space on a ship and has access to gadgets such as a "Solar Surfer" (glorified flying skateboard with a sail). What would a modern kid's movie/game be without some sort of trendy, modern icon like that?? Jim's quest is to survive, avoid the bad guys and get the loot from the Island. In the case of the movie and game, the bounty rests on a planet-- Treasure Planet. 

That's as exciting as it gets, here. This plays like any other platform game, only worse in many ways. As I notice over and over, the studios are in such a rush to capitalize on the momentum of marketing and a theatrical presence, they don't take time to create interesting and fun games.

The nicest thing about the game is the inclusion of cut scenes from the actual movie. But, they are short and sometimes don't feel like they belong where they're placed. The game starts with these scenes, and progresses (downward) from there.

Jim's mission is to traverse the various worlds, starting with Montressor, and including the Spaceport, the flying ship and on Treasure Planet itself. Along the way, typically, Jim must jump, bounce and shoot his way to objects and through obstacles. Playing Jim, you collect "drubloons" (currency for buying things when able), gems, crystals, diodes (for opening doors) and more of the same. Like any other game of this genre, objects are often hidden in crates and boxes. Smash them with your sword or blast them with a musket or pistol. Use the longer-range musket for blasting boxes that are out of reach in high places. I learned that after much frustration, which was my own fault. By that time, I was bored and did not care too much about getting the bounty-- though you have to. 

There are games within the game, which some may find a plus. There are races with the Solar Surfer (think Jedi racing) in which you can collect objects and beat times to further your progress. Collecting clocks extends your race time. There are other games that present themselves along the way, but not all are mandatory. If you just want to keep playing the main game, you are free to do so. There are bosses to fight, among the usual lethal falls and deadly obstacles to navigate. 

Speaking of navigation, I did not care much for the way Jim moves. He was jumpy and jerky, which was more than a little annoying. His ability to jump is aided by being able to hang on ledges if a jump falls a little short, but that is not reliable at all. He is accompanied by a mutating blob called "Morph". Morph can help with jumps. While in a jump, press the "triangle" button and morph turns into a glider that enables you to get more distance, though at a descent. If you are higher than your target, the glider comes in very handy. Double-tapping the jump button gives Jim a extra lift, and in combination with the Morph glider, can help you get to tricky places. Still, walking close to edges without extreme caution is unwise. His moves are sloppy and errors can occur when there is no danger to force an accident. 

The bosses are interesting, but not too difficult once you learn their predictable patterns. Watch them and be careful, then attack when you get a feel for the weaknesses. That's a lesson for any game, but in this case, they were especially easy to understand. Not very intimidating, though interesting to watch at times. If you become hurt along the way, certain boxes contain power-ups that restore health in various degrees of strength. 

Graphically, the game suffers tremendously. I go back to my comments about rushing games to market. The errors in the graphics are too numerous to list, though I'll try. Constant blending of objects. Jerky interaction when walking next to a solid object. Jim looking like a fuzzy blob half the time. Objects in the background shifting to the foreground, then back again. I'll stop while I am ahead.

The sounds were poor, but the voice-acting from Dr Doppler (voiced by Frasier's David-Hyde Pierce) was very nice. Doppler pops in occasionally to offer tips and advice. Jim, himself, grunts, yells and makes annoying noises as he goes along. I have never seen a character get soooo excited when finding a (save game) checkpoint. CHECKPOINT!!!! There is a mundane Celtic score in the background, which repeats itself over and over to the point that I had to turn off the sound. Environmental sounds were almost null. Just noises when Jim does something-- but no "extras" to help set the mood.

Overall, it was a failure as a challenge, and tribute, to a Disney film. This seems to be a trend, now. The abilities of the PSX are indeed limited, but I have played enough good games (Crash Bandicoot!) like this to know what IS possible when you try. I can't dismiss the experience to "aging technology". It was rushed to market, which is insane considering it takes usually years to complete one of these animated films. Development should begin when the storyboards are solidified.... not when the teaser posters go in theater lobbies. I am afraid that this game deserves to rest in Davey Jones' locker... and that's not a good place to be.  

Gameplay: 6 
The controls were miserably jerky and sensitive at inopportune moments. Jumping to moving objects was more harrowing than it should have been, though use of the Morph-glider came in handy. Otherwise, it was a lot of running around collecting objects by choice or necessity to complete your goal. 

Graphics: 5.5 
At first glance, things looked very nice. There are cut scenes from the actual movie, and gathering certain objects (movie "clappers" just like the game Lilo and Stitch!) allow access to MORE movie scenes and images. However, once you start playing the game, the backgrounds wash out and you are left with average landscapes and jerky objects. Without the smooth animations from the actual film, there isn't much to appreciate in this futuristic world. 

Sound: 6.5
The environmental sounds were weak, as were the action sounds. The background music was tiresome and repetitive. I love Celtic tunes, but hearing the same dirge over and over was a bit too much. Dr Doppler was the sole redeemer of voice acting.  

Difficulty: Easy
The biggest challenge is figuring out how to move Jim around. Once you get used to the terrible leaping and unreliable movements, the game gets easier. The bosses and other challenges were not very difficult-- even for a child. 

Concept: 5 
Just like other platform games, only worse than most. Running along collecting items and avoiding enemies. It's all been done before, but nothing fresh to set it apart from any other game of this genre. I think the movie would be much better, otherwise Stevenson may come back to haunt Disney for this one. 

Overall: 5.5
Disney puts so much effort into their movies, so it is amazing that they can allow something like this to be released with their name on it. It does not have much to offer in originality or gameplay. Without those components, what is there? You're left with an average run-around and jump platform game with not much in the way of satisfaction when goals are achieved. Better raise anchor and move away from this one-- unless some cute cut scenes are enough to satisfy your gaming needs.


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