In 1993 Steven Spielberg created the Animaniacs; three Warner siblings named Yakko, Wakko, and Dot who were too zany to be of any use to the Warner Brothersâ€™ studio. They were subsequently locked up in the studioâ€™s water tower to keep them from creating any undue commotion, but soon enough they found a way to leave their prison tower to wreak havoc at Warner Brothersâ€™ studios. In 1998 the series saw its last aired episode, so it came as a surprise when Ignition Entertainment announced in March this year that they were working on a new Animaniacs game for all three current generation consoles. Animaniacs: The Great Edgar Hunt was released across Europe in Mayâ€”but hasnâ€™t appeared in the US until now.
Animaniacs: The Great Edgar Hunt (TGEH) starts off with a television broadcast that announces the upcoming Edgar Awards. After the day fades into night, the player is treated to a cut scene that shows an unknown individual stealing the actual Edgar awards from the ceremony building. After this, we see a zeppelin fly off, in which the thief is having a digital conversation with the organizer of the Edgar Awards. He threatens to melt down all the Edgars if he is denied a movie contract in a big picture. However, a minion of the thieving fiend accidentally pushes a wrong button, accidentally sending the zeppelin diving, after which it strikes the Warner Brothersâ€™ water towerâ€”where the Animaniacs are being held captive. Naturally the siblings escape the tower. When the player takes control of Yakko, it seems he has lost his brother and sister and is determined to find them. Yakko is then informed that the Edgars have been taken and is sent on a mission to retrieve the stolen awards. Acknowledging this, Yakko sets out on the Great Edgar Hunt.
The control scheme in TGEH is fairly easy. The â€˜Aâ€™ button lets the current Warner character jump up to three times in succession, whereas with the â€˜Bâ€™ button, players can smash objects and enemies. The â€˜Râ€™ button is used to slide or duck and, while in the air, it makes the selected character perform a ground stomp. The â€˜Xâ€™ button is used to open doors, talk to people, and float in the air with a homemade parachute. â€˜Lâ€™, â€˜Zâ€™ and the â€˜C-stickâ€™ are used to control the camera movement.
Yakko starts out his adventure in the main Warner Brothersâ€™ studio, which is the general area in the game. From here on out, players can move to various movie sets that each have their own theme such as Wild West or Ghost Town. On each of these movie sets, Edgars are hidden and it is up to the player to find them all. These movie sets are quite expansive and while it is sometimes unclear on where to head next, they are put together well and offer solid level design.
Throughout the main studio, and on the movie sets, Pinky and The Brain cages are hidden. Once the player finds these, they are treated to a classic Pinky and The Brain sequence, which involves a mini-game to â€œâ€¦try to take over the world!â€ After successfully finishing these mini-games, players receive an Edgar award.
The main critical concern with the game is that the developers havenâ€™t utilized the three available Animaniac characters to their fullest. Players can just choose their favorite Animaniac and play through 90% of the game with them aloneâ€”not really needing to change throughout. Each of the three siblings has their own weapon and minor differences in sliding/rolling but theyâ€™re more or less the same character at heart. Each one has their own â€˜special skillâ€™, like Yakkoâ€™s bomb planting, Wakkoâ€™s shovel, or Dotâ€™s grass skirt, but apart from the few times players have to make use of these special skills, the game doesnâ€™t really require a switch of character all that much.
Another unattractive gameplay aspect of TGEH exists in the need to wait for enemies to â€˜confuseâ€™ themselves before youâ€™re able to hit them. More often than not this leads to you taking a hit firstâ€”because youâ€™ll need to get close enough to the enemy for them to start attacking. Once the enemy is duly confused, a green halo appears above their heads indicating that they can be eliminated (in a single blow). This could have been improved by giving enemies more health and allowing players to hit them whenever they want.
After you have unlocked Dot, and later Wakko, you can change characters at certain Checkpoint doors. These doors are strategically placed so a long journey is not needed when TGEH requires a character switch. Another available door is the Teleport door, where you can quickly go to other locations that have a Teleport door in place. This is a nice addition by the developers, since it spares gamers from having to make the same long trip over and over again to go from one place to another.
The game is mainly aimed towards a younger audience, but sometimes it can get pretty unclear on what to do next or where to go. Adults will likely have to help along their little munchkins to alleviate the frustrations of being stuck in the same area. A little hint system would have been a welcome addition because even adults may be prone to the occasional bout of aimless wandering before finally figuring out how to progress. Being aimed at a younger audience also has the disadvantage that it will be too easy to play for some older gamers, while the majority of gamers that have watched the show should be well over 15 by nowâ€”surely a slightly ramped difficulty wouldnâ€™t have hurt.
The music in TGEH suits the Animaniacs theme well. The soundtrack is cartoon in style and changes throughout the game when visiting the different themed movie sets. The developers have used the original voice cast from the show for the voice acting, which is always a nice addition to a videogameâ€™s authenticity. The sound effects are what you would expect from a cartoon videogame, with your average â€˜clunkâ€™ and â€˜slamâ€™ sounds upon hitting enemies and objects. A great detail is the sound you get from walking very slowly by leaning the control stick just the slightest bit in any direction. The character will adopt a sneak mode position, moving on his/her toes very gently. This is paired with a Pink Panther-inspired sound effect indicating every step through a musical note. Another musical sound effect like this arises when your chosen character totters dangerously at the edge of a platform.
Graphically, TGEH isnâ€™t perhaps the best GameCube title around. The models in the cut scenes are pretty basic, but do add to the cartoon look of the game. The in-game buildings and models are colorful but, again, not modeled with any defined detail. The graphics will certainly satisfy the younger gaming demographic, but visually as a whole itâ€™s not what youâ€™d expect from a modern GameCube title.
While Animaniacs: The Great Edgar Hunt might not be the best-looking game on todayâ€™s market, the thought behind it is certainly well appreciated. Playing with Yakko, Wakko, Dot, Pinky and The Brain will bring back happy memories to older gamers and will certainly amuse younger gamers with its humor and cartoon feel.