|Review by||:||Ken Gagne|
It is rare that a movie is translated into a video game so quickly that the two make almost simultaneous releases. So it is with a bit of surprise that game shelves already carry Disney's Hercules, a Sony PlayStation game from Virgin Interactive — not to be confused with Herc's Adventures, a separate and unrelated title.
Players will guide the Earth-bound demigod in his quest to prove himself a true hero. The only thing in Herc's way is Hades, the dark lord of the Underworld, who has set his sights on Mount Olympus, home of the gods. The ten levels include some seen in the movie, like the Centaur's Forest and Hydra's Canyon, and other ones only given a brief mention in the film, like the Medusa's Lair.
Most stages are standard side-scrolling action, something rarely seen in today's plethora of Mario 64-like games. There is some 3D interaction with backgrounds and foregrounds, ala Sega's game Bug, as Herc moves into and out of different levels of an area. This presents an unnecessary amount of confusion as to which relative level Herc is in, with foreground elements block the view, and when enemies come swooping in to attack from all 360 degrees. Other stages are of an over-the-shoulder running nature, similar to Crash Bandicoot. These involve dexterity of the feet and properly-timed jumps in lieu of offensive moves.
The graphics are colorful and fluid. Some foes, such as the Hydra, appear as though they were lifted directly from Disney's animation boards. Whether or not a foe appeared in the movie, all retain a Disney-like cartoonish look. Some scenes are introduced with footage from the film, which is unusual to find in a game. These scenes don't have their source's fluidity, but still suffice for setting the stage.
The music is bouncy, and somewhat childish. There's the occasional hint of the movie score, but nothing too exciting. The sound effects are well complimented by the voice acting of James Wood, Danny Devito, and other stars from the cinematic production. Some clips are from the film and squeezed into where they'd be most appropriate, while others are new just for the game.
As great as Hercules looks, and as almost as good as it sounds, this adventure fails in many critical areas. The password system depends on finding four items in every stage, and if they aren't found, that stage will be repeated during the next play. The passwords themselves are represented by symbols almost impossible to transcribe and hard to input. The challenge level is too high for what many would assume to be a child's game; enemies often attack suddenly and without warning, depleting energy quickly and without chance for avoidance. For a character with a god's parentage, Hercules doesn't have much over a mortal man. Most of the various items are without significant beneficial effects.
Disney's Hercules is a good concept but is dragged down with flawed execution. Those with the Herculean willpower to overcome these flaws will find themselves enjoying a real animated treat. Otherwise, if the movie took Herc from "zero to hero," then the game brings him right back to square one.
This article is copyright (c) 1997, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.
Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 21-Jul-97