10 Things That Aren’t Sonic: Disney Games

Hello, my name is Matt and I’m a Sega Addict. Welcome to my new weekly column ’10 Things That Aren’t Sonic.’ Remember that this is by no means a “top” 10 list. Just a few games that I’d like to bring to your attention. This week’s subject is Disney games. Being an animation historian (fancy way of saying I know way too much about cartoons) I thought this would be an obvious choice for my first entry.

Long before these guys showed up wearing more belts and zippers than anyone with one pelvis should be allowed, games based off animated properties were an institution. Much like in the animated world one company stood out above them all: Disney.

10. Ariel the Little Mermaid

First I think I’ll talk about The Little Mer- WAIT COME BACK! I swear I have a reason.

Like I said, this is by no means a top 10 list. I wanted to include Little Mermaid as sort of a symbolic entry. See, The Little Mermaid is a very, very important film for Disney because it was the first movie in the Disney Renaissance. In the 90’s spanning from The Little Mermaid (1989) to Tarzan (1999) Disney flourished as a company artistically more than any other period in their history. Every branch of their company including the park, TV and films were putting out instant classic after classic. This also included video games.

Also huge in the 90’s? Sega. Sega consoles, especially the Genesis, had a ton of these games on them.

Oh I guess I should talk about the actual game too. It’s a piece of shit. It’s like Ecco the Dolphin but… gayer. And has worse controls. You can play as King Triton though and that’s kind of cool.

9. Talespin

I won’t lie. This game is atrocious. It’s ugly, slow and has completely uninspired level design. But who doesn’t love Talespin? It’s one of the most high concept American cartoons ever created.

“What if we took the characters from The Jungle Book… and made them cargo pilots in post-WWI pre-WWII Brazil?”

8. Mickey’s Ultimate Challenge

Not much to say about this one. This is an interesting game in that it’s a platformer but puzzle based rather than combat. It’s also more for the kiddies. The first puzzle has your sorting books alphabetically (by “using your ABCs”). I still wanted to include it in the list because I love educational games and think the world needs more of them.

7. Quackshot

There are two things I go absolutely nuts over: Indiana Jones and anything involving Scrooge McDuck.

I have a book full of sketches that I get from famous artists, all of them of Indiana Jones. And I would wring the life out of someone with my bare hands for a video game based on The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck. So, of course a game based on the Duck universe (or Duckiverse) with a ton of Indiana Jones references thrown in is right up my alley.

Other than the supercool setting and references the game is kind of just alright. It’s a pretty slow platformer but the plunger gun is kind of cool.

Ok, that’s enough of the bias and symbolic entries. Let’s get to some really good games.

6. Gargoyles

Go up to anyone under the age of 25 and ask them what was the most badass cartoon of the 90’s. Did they say Gargoyles? If they’re metal they did. I bet you didn’t even know Disney made the show. They did and it was brutal. Now quit bitching about them buying Marvel. Disney also owns Miramax who distributed most of Kevin Smith’s movies and Kill Bill. So shut up.

I turned this game on and 5 seconds in I grabbed a dude, threw him against a wall and killed him. I didn’t even know the controls yet. I continued to storm a castle full of Vikings and clawing them to death and throwing them off pillars. One threw an axe at me and I jumped 20 feet in the air by flapping my enormous wings then brought my entire body crashing down on him and smashed through the stone floor into ANOTHER viking. God of War ain’t got NOTHING on this game.

5. Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow

Man, what is it with these games having beautiful character designs and movement but ridiculously broken controls. You get used to it.

This is a game about a duck named Maui Mallard, played by Donald Duck, that’s a “medium-boiled” detective who’s visiting a tropical island resort when the mysterious Shabuhm Shabuhm idol goes missing. Shabuhm Shabuhm is considered the island’s native guardian spirit, and unless the idol is recovered, the whole island will explode. After he survives being tossed into a volcano by the island’s natives, they train him to be a badass ninja.

The setting is a lot like if the opening to Temple of Doom were a whole movie. It’s got that kinda 30s pulpy Detective feel with some awesome ninja stuff thrown in. This could be a fantastic animated series in the vain of DuckTales or its own comic book series but alas Maui Mallard has never shown up again in any media since. Though at the end the game teases the player by telling us to look forward to his next adventure. And Michael Giacchino did the music. Yeah, the guy who scored The Incredibles, Star Trek and Up. He also did Mickey Mania, the Gargoyles game and a bunch of other games.

4. Aladdin

This is a game that I simultaneously think is a classic that I absolutely love and it can go fuck itself. You’ve probably heard about the difficulty level of this game and whoever told you that wasn’t exaggerating. It’s still incredibly playable, though.

Developed by Virgin Interactive with character animations drawn by animators who worked on the actual film and 16 bit versions of classic tunes from the movie like One Jump and Prince Ali, Aladdin instantly ignites your brain with nostalgia for an awesome action-platformer and one of the flagship tales in the Disney Renaissance. Some of the people who worked on the game would later go on to create Shiny Entertainment. You can really tell because the controls feel more than a little like the first Earthworm Jim game.

You can hear the Sega Addicts crew talk about it on episode 10.

Also Aladdin wears a fez. Fezzes are cool.

3. The Lion King

The Lion King is another game based on a Disney film developed by Virgin Interactive. However unlike Aladdin, Virgin made every version of this game for each console, as Capcom’s contract with Disney had run out after Aladdin was released.

Most of what I said about Aladdin can be said again for The Lion King. The two are almost companion pieces. While it certainly isn’t as pretty as Aladdin, some of the colors are pretty muddy and sometimes hard to even look at, the platforming is MUCH better and more accessible. In Aladdin you can never be sure if you’ll land where you want or skid into a pit. Lion King’s controls on the other hand are very tight, much more responsive and Simba moves a lot faster than Aladdin. Disney animators also did the character animations and backgrounds, like Aladdin. Lion King is also one of the few Sega Genesis games that had actual audio dialogue. While it was mostly just Simba saying things like ‘cool’, ‘ouch!’ and his famous catchphrase ‘You ain’t “lion”!’ (I made that one up), it was still pretty impressive. Though the SNES version’s music sometimes has vocals while the Genesis version only has the tune.

2. Mickey Mania

Like I said earlier, I’m an animation geek. I love learning random trivia about cartoons almost as much as I love watching them. Mickey Mania is a game that not only lets you play through levels based on some classic Disney shorts like Steamboat Willie (1928) (the first Disney feature with synchronized sound), The Mad Doctor (1933) (a short that many theaters refused to show considering it too scary for children) and The Band Concert (1935) (the first Mickey Mouse cartoon in Technicolor) but it tells you when they came out. That’s not deep trivia but to little me it was super rad. Also, some trivia about the game itself, Mickey Mania is the first game David Jaffe worked on.

The game is simply gorgeous. It perfectly recreates the look and feel of the classic Disney shorts in glorious 16 bit sprite graphics. The platforming is tight and the game does some interesting things with the environment. Like, the first ‘enemy’ is a goat that is singing and the musical notes coming out of its mouth can hurt you. Mickey stops him by jumping onto a champagne bottle and firing the cork into his throat. Mickey doesn’t have much by the way of attacks, though and you get your ass beat. A lot. I’m pretty sure there is NO health in this game. At all. What’s with Disney games and being hard as balls?

Also I like to imagine that this game is just an alternate universe where Mickey is The Doctor.

1. World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck

This game was a serious part of my childhood. Playing it now is probably the first time I’ve really revisited it since the mid-90’s and I have to say it really holds up. When the game came out in 1992 it had very impressive graphics for its time but also in terms of game design it was pretty innovative.

Co-op wasn’t unheard of in the platformer genre but World of Illusion uses it in some really cool ways that I can’t remember being used in any other games. Depending on which of the two characters, Mickey or Donald, you choose the gameplay can actually change. For instance, Mickey can squeeze through certain gaps that Donald’s fat ass can’t fit through. If two people are playing Mickey can go through first then yank Donald through, flinging him across the screen. If Mickey isn’t there to help, Donald has to find another way around. This can lead to whole new levels you wouldn’t have seen as Mickey and having almost a whole different experience. They can also stand on each other’s shoulders to reach high ledges and lower a rope to help the other one up. You can also stun each other with their Magician capes that Mickey and Donald use to turn villains into harmless things like doves and cards.

The level design is inspired at times. Each world has its own feel and while they draw inspiration and themes from Disney films, the game mostly relies on original characters and environments rather than pre-existing IP. The levels are surprisingly non-linear and allow for lots of backtracking and exploring without any of the collect-a-thon bullshit that plagued platformers of this time. Each world is unique and weirder than the last as you travel from a forest, to under the sea, which you later find out, is just a fishbowl on a giant desk, which you then traverse to Wonderland. There’s even a whole world made up of sweets and snacks (sup Sonic Colors). Some familiar faces and places do show up though like the aforementioned Wonderland, the Mad Hatter, the goldfish from Pinocchio and I think I even saw that crazy ass bird that runs around in The Three Caballeros.

I think I may have overwritten this section but the game is worth it. I put it in just to get a taste and help me write this article and somehow 2 hours disappear and I was at the last boss. That boss may be the only real problem I have with the game. Since it’s mainly targeted at kids, the game isn’t very hard. I remember it being a lot more difficult but I was able to get through the whole thing without losing more than 3 or 4 lives. Suddenly when you get to the final boss the difficulty SPIKES. I got there with 7 lives and left with a game over.

Go to hell, Pete.

Well that’s it for Disney games. And I got two Doctor Who references into one post. SCORE! if you have any ideas for future 10 Things That Aren’t Sonic columns leave it in the comments!

Readers Comments (8)

  1. “Fezzes are cool”

    I love you.

  2. Bowties are too

  3. Sonic needs to wear a bowtie in sonic 4.

    That would make him cool again.

  4. Fez was that trippy Turkish on-rails-shooter on the Dreamcast, right?

  5. Nah that one’s called Rez.

  6. Rezzes are cool too. The Doctor Who theme would be an epic Rez level

  7. 😉

  8. Doctor Who Rez would be great… it would be the first game since Nier to be bigger on the inside than the outside.

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