The life of a young child gamer can be quite difficult.
Being a child, you have very limited or even no funds for yourself aside from the occasional pity pocket money from your parents. Therefore, you most likely only ever got a new video game for your birthday or Christmas. Due to the price of new releases, you could probably expect maybe one game for the occasion unless you had some very giving aunts and uncles. The choice had to count – it was going to be the new game to try and satisfy your infant mind for the next few months. If you were a child who just couldn’t decide what you wanted, however, the adults would just take over and guess what you may or may not have wanted. For a Disney obsessed youngster, this meant that a strange library of obscure Disney games accumulated. Some were good, some were mediocre, and some were just…not what was advertised at all. Each one was its own little experience that may have seemed passable for a child. Reflecting back, it is hard to even consider why they were enjoyable for what they were.
The first of which was the aptly titled Winnie the Pooh. Every Disney lover would of course be familiar with the hungry teddy bear with a taste for honey and his crew of other stuffed animals. The books, cartoons and even the various movies had an aura of innocence that was perfect for the toddler crowd, though it was pretty easy to grow out of. What kind of game could therefore be created about a tame children’s series for the Gameboy? Well, what was received was essentially Monopoly in cartridge form with a Winnie the Pooh aesthetic. You could play as any of the colourful cast of characters to make your way around a board, determined by the roll of the dice. Depending on where you landed you would then play a mini game that would also give you an excerpt from one of Pooh’s many tales. One included directing Piglet through the flooded water after that very rainy afternoon, dodging debris and making sure he doesn’t fall over the waterfall. Another included stopping Tigger from bouncing on Rabbit’s vegetable patch and destroying his crops. Winning or losing these games did not really affect your state on the board but was more like a little nudge to remind you that this game is related to Winnie the Pooh. Depending on the mood of the CPU characters, a game could finish within ten minutes or could drag out to half an hour. Nothing really happens upon completing the game; if you win, then you receive congratulations and can read the story excerpts you unlocked in your mini games. Probably the only redeeming factor of the game was its take on the classic theme tune of the cartoon series, but it certainly struggles to call itself a game in its own right. It’s just a one player board game on a handheld console.
The next entry would be a game that doesn’t even follow the story of the original tale. In fact, it’s so obscure that it was a video game about a Disney sequel that wasn’t even animated. 102 Dalmations: Puppies to the Rescue was a bizarre mix of platforming and puzzle solving. The basic premise (which is not remotely connected to the film) is that the dastardly Cruella de Ville has dognapped all of the Dalmation dogs, including Pongo and Perdy. She plans to use the dogs to power her toy factory by forcing them to run on treadmills for the rest of their canine lives. Therefore, it is up to the newest pups on the block, Oddball and Domino, to break out their parents and siblings in order to dash Cruella’s plan. Both puppies are just colour swaps of each other, so deciding on which one to play is just down to your overall preference in design. Of course, puppy dogs aren’t exactly the most tactile of fighters or heroes, so their arsenal is pretty limited. The pups can bark at crazed toys in order to stun them, but that is about it. They aren’t capable of really stopping any enemies for very long and will need to rely on running away or jumping over any obstacles in their path. Each level has a number of cages housing their imprisoned siblings; therefore they must collect keys spread out through the level. Releasing all the pups in a level will allow the player to progress to the next stage. Within the game are also some boss fights that play slightly differently from the standard levels. Fighting against the goons Boris and Jasper in a freezer means that the jumps need to be precise to avoid sliding right into them and being captured. The last boss is de Ville herself, though she is laughably easier than her henchman. All it takes is a well time jump over her black and white head to reach a huge microphone. Bark in it three times, and that is apparently enough to defeat her. While the game may have provided a bit of a challenge for younger audiences, it doesn’t really match up to Mario in terms of platforming fun. It is certainly one of the more obscure Disney titles to adapt into a game, though not as much as the final installment of this forgettable collection.
The Lion King: Simba’s Mighty Adventure was a side scrolling platformer as opposed to the various other Lion King games that focused on being educational or puzzle games. This title stuck closer to the original plot of the film and was the only game in the series to adapt the film’s sequel, Simba’s Pride. The player controls Simba, starting off in his cub life and eventually growing to his full adult lion self. Simba can claw enemy animals at close range, or he can stomp on them from above after a jump, which is pretty standard for a simple platformer. Collecting paw print tokens will boost the player’s score at the end of the stage, but the main goal is just to reach the end. At various points, there will be small boss battles to test your reflexes, including an encounter with a wild cheetah, defeating the evil Scar and even going on to fight against the villain of the second film, Zira. Looking at the style of the game, it is fairly obvious that many of the assets and designs were either based on or taken from the previous Lion King games, which does give it an uncanny feeling. Music is also a little bit lacking in this title, since only one music track will play in each level and sound effects do clash with whatever is playing in the background. Out of the three examples, though, this game at least had some element of challenge when it came to its boss battles. Challenging for a young child with small thumbs, it was something different from the usual platform jumping. There was also something satisfying about defeating such dastardly characters like Scar and Zira.
These were not the only examples of Disney’s attempts to team up with the little Gameboy, though common knowledge of these games seems to be thinly spread. The more memorable titles may have made their home on other consoles; however, these three quirky examples at least made an impression on this gamer in particular.