The Lion King

The Lion King
The Lion King Cover
Platforms SNES, Genesis, NES, Game Boy, Game Gear, Windows, Master System, Amiga
Genre Movie-themed Platformer
MtAMinutes to Action 0
Score 4  Clock score of 4Gameplay: 4
Fun Factor: 3
Gfx/Sound: 8
Story: 3
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The Lion King was the video game released to accompany the Disney movie of the same name. Games based on movies were nothing new in 1994, especially Disney tie-ins, but this is actually my first movie game review. It was released on literally every platform available at the time, including three Nintendo (NES, SNES, and Game Boy) systems and three Sega (Master System, Genesis, and Game Gear) systems, undoubtedly a feat unequaled by any other game.

Really the only reason I'm reviewing The Lion King is because of the saying: "March comes in like a lion, out like a lamb." If you're unfamiliar with the adage, it basically means March will open up with bad weather and end calmly with Spring fast approaching. Here in the upper-Midwest though, lots of snow typically begins and ends the month. Where's our lamb? Back to the review though, here's March roaring in, now I have four weeks to find a game about lambs... could be tough. Anyways, let's get right into the first hour of The Lion King (Super Nintendo version).

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - I choose Start and The Lion King begins. That meerkat Timon appears and says "It starts." Wow, right into the game! Simba moves pretty quick, he's an aggressive little cat. All I can do though is jump and roar, no slashing... yet.

The Lion King Simba Roar Porcupine

01 - So I'm just jumping around some rocks right now, Simba can hang off ledges and roar to flip porcupines. Then I can jump on their bare belly to kill them.

02 - Woah, I just roared and exploded a dung beetle! I'm down to half my life already!

03 - I jump on a beetle this time and he flies around for a moment and then explodes. Almost dead... until I find a yellow beetle health item.

The Lion King Simba Colorful Beetles Pounce

04 - Just grabbed a red beetle which extends my life a bit, nice. Then I find a symbol that kind of looks like Simba, he yells "cool" and it flashes, but I can't tell if anything actually happened.

05 - Geez, there is a whole assortment of items I'm finding, one extended my roar bar, and another one... not sure what it did, but it was multi-colored.

06 - Boss! I just defeated one of those hyenas from the movies! He went down in only two hits though. He would pounce at me and then become tired and start panting so I could jump on him. A short cutscene plays with Simba's dad, Mufasa saying, "everything the light touches, is our kingdom." Man, this guy has a big ego.

The Lion King Simba Hyena Teeth Boss

07 - Oh hey, a minigame. I'm controlling Pumbaa as Timon throws bugs down at me. Against all laws of gravity, some bugs fall really slow while others are quick. I end up eating 36 bugs.

08 - I am now in a level called either "Roar at the Monkeys" or "Can't Wait to be King." Probably the latter. There don't seem to be any enemies in this level, just rhinoceros that spring me into the air, monkeys that throw me around, and giraffes that I can use as temporary platforms.

10 - This is almost kind of a puzzle as I have to roar at the pink monkeys to get them to face a different direction so when they toss me I fly in the correct direction. After that sequence I land on an ostrich and it starts belting across the plains. I have to jump over pigs and duck bird nests, all of a sudden two arrows appear... and I die because I didn't jump high enough, or double jump or something. I only have one life left!

The Lion King Simba Rhino Pink Monkey

12 - Now I just fell in the water and die again. Crap, no lives left. Hardcore. I'm back on the ostrich now, I can "double jump" by jumping with the ostrich and then jumping again with Simba.

13 - You have got to be kidding me. I double jumped too high when I needed to and hit my head on a bird's nest. Lame. Wow, I used my only remaining continue.

14 - Back on the ostrich and I died on the first jump because I jumped too early. Now I fell in the water again.

The Lion King Simba Ostrich Duck Jump

15 - Fell in... again. Game Over. The old monkey with the balls hanging off his stick looks sad.

16 - Well, looks like I have to start all over again. I'll be back when I get past that ostrich sequence.

19 - Just "played" the bug toss. Timon screwed me over by tossing bugs at opposite ends. I caught one.

21 - Died on the double jump again.

The Lion King Simba Dead

22 - And again. Did anyone seriously playtest this game?

24 - Holy cow, I made it past the freaking ostrich part. What the heck, that pissed me off so much. How was I supposed to know you had to do your second jump really late. Who knows.

25 - This part seems almost worse. I have to swing around on these hippopotamus tails over some water. This is extremely unforgiving.

26 - Hey, a 1UP. That will come in handy. Meh. Now I have no idea where to jump to next! There are no more tails! And I can see that there is another ostrich sequence after this.

The Lion King Simba Hippo Tail Swinging Deadly Water

29 - Wow, I had to jump like straight up onto a hippo's head, that was clear. Not. I did collect some kind of sun item though, maybe that's a free continue.

30 - Another ostrich run, and this time I don't have arrows telling me what to do. Somehow I pulled off two double jumps in a row without dying.

31 - Another monkey tossing "puzzle."

33 - In one of gaming's most unclear moments ever, I had to get tossed from the first monkey puzzle to the second, flip a pink monkey switch, then cross back over the water on some water colored logs, then do the puzzle again. Why did the art team paint the logs the same color as the water?

The Lion King Simba Elephant Graveyard Bones

34 - Wow, done with that and straight into the next level, "The Elephant Graveyard." Looks creepy. Good music though.

35 - Woah, something about fighting two hyenas at once seems unfair, but I do it with little health to spare. I just ate a bug that hurt me, seriously guys. Piss me off more.

38 - Now I've got two vultures swooping at me, I don't even know if I can hurt them.

39 - Simba has to out climb two gushing geysers as he claws his way to the top of a vertical tunnel.

The Lion King Simba Vultures

41 - Now I'm just outrunning enemies as there's no point to stay and fight except to lose health. This is an unforgiving game. Simba was forced to just face off with three hyenas there though.

42 - As I finish the level we get a look at Scar, Simba's evil uncle. Another bug toss, another screw over served by Timon.

43 - Holy Mode 7 Graphics! Simba is running at the screen with a stampede behind him. I have to anticipate their patterns and speed dodging them. This could be really tough.

44 - Now there are rocks coming at me! So I've got wildebeest behind me and deadly rocks in front of me. Sucky life for Simba.

The Lion King Simba Wildebeest Stampede

46 - Oh man, my heart is racing but I beat it. A short cutscene has Mufasa telling a hyena, "kill him." The next level is called "Simba's Exile."

47 - This level is laid out similar to the first level with the same basic enemies, but now there are rocks tumbling down on me too.

48 - Geez, I just got killed in an Indiana Jones style boulder rolling sequence. I seriously don't know how to even handle this part because I'm running from the boulder and there's a porcupine right in front of me and it doesn't look like I can jump.

50 - The moment you get hit by the boulder, you die. It seems you have to get hurt by the porcupine and during your invincibility run through him?

The Lion King Scar Hyena Red Sky Cutscene

51 - Just tested that theory and it doesn't work. Hey, I just accidentally rolled through what appears to be a hidden passage that led me past that boulder. Odd. But now there's another boulder chasing me, and I die.

54 - Now I can't find that secret passage again. LAME.

57 - Who does this game think it is? How are kids supposed to play this? How is anyone supposed to play this? This part is literally impossible as far as I can tell.

The Lion King Simba Boulder Chase

58 - Maybe this boulder is the final boss?

59 - Does roaring at the boulder work? No. Woah, I made it through the rolling passage again. I guess there's this secret rolling technique that the game doesn't feel like explaining.

60 - My final challenge is an impossibly long jump over spikes. I wonder where I have to secretly roll this time? Good riddance to the first hour of The Lion King.

Now for some scores out of 10.

The Lion King Pride Rock Rafiki Simba

First Hour Scores

Minutes to Action: 0

Gameplay: 4
The game may have had Disney artists to provide the sprites and animations, but The Lion King could have used some extra work on the gameplay. A lot of extra work. Pretty much everything I played in its first hour except for the first level was unbalanced, difficult, and dare I say, unfair. Some of the jumps necessary were insane, especially in the second level. It is really not easy to swing from hippopotamus tails to avoid death. The ostrich running sequence astounded me with how difficult and frustrating this could be. I kept thinking that this is supposed to be a kid's game but yet they're punishing me for not getting the timing down perfectly. Plus if you mess up, that's another ten giraffe heads you have to hop around on.

The stampede level didn't bother me too much, though the hit detection was rather poor. The real gameplay killer was the last level I played with the constantly falling boulders and the impossible boulder sequence. It still ticks me off and I've put the game away forever. The Lion King seems only suitable for incredibly patient, perfect memory ten year olds who will put up with have so few lives and even fewer continues. On the bright side, Simba did control pretty well when not jumping over water or being chased by boulders. It really could have been a lot worse and my distant memory of the game made me think it was.

Fun Factor: 3
I did have fun the first level, but after that I really didn't care for the game. The second level was deceptively difficult with the ostrich run and all the small platforms you had to hop around on. Basically this entire game was too hard for its own good and really ruined it for me. I just wanted to have fun and enjoy the levels and characters, but all I really could enjoy were the excellent animations. Disney games should be as fun as the movie they're made for, The Lion King fails at that.

Graphics and Sound: 8
The Lion King honestly looks and sounds just like a Disney game should: just like the Disney movie. The music is midi versions of the original soundtrack and are well chosen for the levels I played. We have the carefree "Can't Wait to be King" playing over the enemy-less (but still incredibly hard) level of the same name, and the dark, bass driven Scar themes playing during the later stages I encountered. The sound effects work and there's even a little voice acting with some one-liners. The graphics really shine though, the levels are colorful and the sprites are really well detailed. The animation is superb, my only complaint is the Mode 7 stampede level. In my opinion, Mode 7 graphics were way overused on the Super Nintendo and The Lion King is no exception; the level simply feels out of place among the platformers and really doesn't look that good.

Story: 3
Being a movie based game, The Lion King relies heavily on familiarity with the film to drive the story. There was about 30 seconds of in-game story with everything else being delivered through the levels and their settings. A bad story score doesn't necessarily mean that the story is bad, and I'm actually kind of torn on whether or not I would have wanted more. Honestly, probably not. Most people playing The Lion King have seen the movie and know the basics: Simba is a light-hearted cub, his evil uncle kills his father and drives Simba out so that he can become king. There's more information than you'll get out of the game. Maybe the story is developed more later on, but I doubt it.

Overall: 4
After playing just the first level of The Lion King, I believe I would have given this game a pretty good score, probably around 7 or even 8. But I review the entire first hour, not just the first ten minutes, and the rest of the hour is below average. The gameplay was disappointing and the only thing that saves it from total crap was the really good graphics and sound. I'm sure this won't be my last Disney game review as I have some fond memories of games like DuckTales and Goof Troop. But that's it for my review of The Lion King's first hour. March has come in like a lion all right, I was just dumped on.

The Lion King Rafiki Game Over