Supposedly, this game is based off of Disney’s hit movie The Jungle Book. I say “supposedly” because I don’t remember the part in the movie where Mowgli had to collect eight gems, or the part where he rode around on the back of a turtle while collecting eight gems, or the part where he bounced up and down on Baloo’s gut in order to collect eight gems. Maybe those scenes are in the extended version; I don’t know.
However, the game does seem to follow the plot of the movie. I think. No plot is actually ever established; I’m just making an educated guess based on the semblance of a plot I was able to piece together by playing through these seemingly randomly pieced-together scenes. You’re given objectives at the beginning of each level, and that’s it. You’re not told why you must complete these objectives; you’re just told that you have to. “Why am I collecting these gems?” you might ask yourself. “What’s the point?” There is none; you just have to.
And let me tell you, those gem-collecting levels are obnoxious. They invariably lead to the ever-popular syndrome of “okay, I’m at the end of the level and I haven’t yet found all of the stupid things I’m supposed to collect for no reason. Now what?” There’s nothing more thrilling than backtracking, I always say. These levels are completely un-fun, and unfortunately, this game has a lot of them.
Honestly, would it have been that hard to make the objective just “reach the end”? I know you don’t see a lot of games like this, but I think we could’ve figured it out.
And in the levels where all you have to do is reach the end, it’s never clear where the end actually is. Unlike in most sidescrollers, where it’s generally accepted that you either move right, or up, you have no idea where you’re supposed to go in The Jungle Book. Some levels have you go right, some left, others up or down. If they had their choice, I’m sure the developers would’ve had you move in some yet-to-be-discovered direction as well.
Speaking of unruly directions for a game to go in, some of the insta-deaths in The Jungle Book are a little hard to swallow. Dying via landing on spikes or falling into water isn’t uncommon in the gaming world. Most of us take it for granted. But if you play this game long enough and die enough ridiculous deaths, you’ll start to wonder why, exactly, water is so murderous. I can accept that if Mowgli falls on a spike and gets it jammed through his foot, he’s so much of a nancy-boy that he just curls up and dies rather than walks off the pain. What I cannot accept, however, is that getting his feet wet spells his doom. Especially when Baloo frickin’ floats down a river throughout one of the levels.
Classic Disney games are notorious for being too difficult for children to actually play; thankfully, most of this game doesn’t follow suit. It does, however, feature one of the strangest learning curves I’ve ever seen in a video game. You don’t often see games in which the first level is the most difficult, and the rest only take a few minutes to complete. I guess we should give some credit to Syrox for innovating there. Too bad most people would just give up after constantly losing the first few levels and move on to something more entertaining, like flavored dental floss.
The graphics of this game suck; they just flat-out, unconditionally suck. You’ve of course got the washed out visuals and the blurry animations that are par for the Game Gear course; but also, some of the game’s visual effects are just bizarre. For example, the game’s layering is such that one of the background layers is actually on top of the health bar layer. Like, you’ll walk by a tree, and suddenly you’ll have no idea if you’re dying or not because the tree is covering up your life. I don’t know how you even do that.
If you’re going to do precision platforming, you need have precise controls. That’s the lesson all developers should take from this game. You can’t expect a player to quickly jump from platform to platform if the jump button doesn’t actually work half the time, and when it does, the timing is off and the player falls to his doom. The Jungle Book has all these platforms that fall away after you’ve been standing on them for a few seconds, and unfortunately, a few seconds is exactly what it takes for your character to realize you’ve pushed the jump button.
Also, heaven help he who wants to just aim to the upper right and chuck a spear. You can’t do it. You just can’t do it. Aiming at a diagonal like that makes your character move, which adds an extra challenge to the game that isn’t particularly entertaining.
But hey, The Jungle Book is chock full of instances like that! There’s plenty of “well yes it’s more of a challenge, but it isn’t actually a fun or rewarding challenge” moments, such as when you’re trying to run and jump from one platform to the other, and there’s approximately one exact pixel you can make this jump from. And you have to have your D-pad pointed in exactly the right direction. And you probably have to apply some precise amount of pressure to the jump button. It’s absurd. It shouldn’t take me fifteen continues (not lives, continues) to make one jump. I’m not that bad of a gamer, man.
If the Game Gear’s The Jungle Book has any redeeming value, I sure can’t find it. It isn’t fun to play if you’ve got an hour to kill, because it’ll take you about that long just to beat the first level (and then only a few minutes to complete most successive levels.) It isn’t fun to play if you’ve seen the movie, because you’ll have given up on the game before you reach a single thing that you can recognize from the movie, beyond the main character. It isn’t fun to play if you’ve only paid a dollar to own it, because you’ll just be annoyed that you spend an entire dollar on this game. While it’s impressive that this game manages to fail on every level possible, I can’t see that as being a reason to buy the game. There’s only so much you can do with a Game Gear, but this is just sad.