Another day, another review for an awesome Disney game on Sega’s 16-bit machine of absolute wonder and amazement. Hi, I’m Olly023 and I like Sega and Disney and I especially like it when they come together in a neat and tidy package in the form of cartridge.
It is for that simple reason why today I shall be reviewing Disney’s Pinocchio for the MegaDrive. Co-produced by Disney Interactive Studios and Virgin, it’s yet another movie tie-in game that follows the story of the film in a gamic environment. I may have just made up the word gamic, but you dig the words I be spellin’. It’s a single-player, side-scrolling (mostly) platformer, with some rather unique and original elements that has it stand out like the shiny diamond it is. A great game I would have reviewed much sooner had I actually managed to complete it a month before writing this review. Yeah, there’s moments of absolute difficulty, but we’ll get to that. All in good time, retrobates.
If you haven’t seen the film of which the game is based (you hate life) or don’t know the rough story (seriously!?), it’s about a puppets journey to become a “real boy” following a visit from the Blue Fairy. Shenanigans and adventure ensues, obviously – and what leads to some of the most spectacular moments of animation from the studio that do it best. The game follows the sequential order of the film in the form of levels and allows players to interactively re-enact certain scenes featuring absolutely gorgeous graphics entirely fitting of the equally gorgeous film it represents. Alongside Pinocchio is his ‘conscience’ Jiminy Cricket, who you also get a shot at controlling in game, with his father/creator Gepetto being the other non-playable protagonist aside from those mentioned (though there is the rafting bit). The story is after all: Disney’s Pinocchio. Coz it’s the game of Disney’s Pinocchio. Ergo, it’s great. Simples.
Graphically speaking, there’s a wealth of colours being used all over the shop, making proper use of the available palette(s) of the MD. Sprites are gorgeous representations of their celluloid counterparts, with fluid animation and all of a decent size. There’s some amazing touches, such as the casual transformation into the donkey (which the scene itself is one of the most memorable in cinematic history), as you see the ears, tail, etc. appear on poor little Pinocchio. I love it. Levels themselves are equally as beautifully crafted, both from a gaming standpoint and as pixel art reproductions. I love the simplest of touches here, such as the life bar being in the form of a depleting wand or the cut-scenes being told in storybook form.
The music is beyond some of the best of any of the Disney platformers, again; brilliant adaptations of the source material. It all just adds back to that overall presentation, it’s close to perfect, there’s not much more I can say. I want to, but words can’t describe. Music and Disney is so intrinsically linked that it was always going to be important for any game version of a film to replicate that childhood capsuling sound.
The key to the success of Pinocchio is really all that variation I keep banging on about. Yes, it may sound like flogging a dead horse, but there’s no repetitive nature to it what so ever. This helps that replayability as you’re just going to want to come back for more, collect stuff you missed on a first play through or just to re-experience it with wiser eyes and mind. There’s so much to take in. It truly is on another level and just shocks me the amount it gets overlooked whenever Disney games get mention. Of course, Aladdin is absolutely astonishing from its masterstroke in game design, but then the likes of the Lion King take a down-turn in quality (from a gamer perspective) as it progresses. This doesn’t. You’re not playing the same game you’ve played a thousand times, it’s not your typical cart and for that it deserves all the praise I could ever possibly give it. Hats are well and truly off, ladies and gents.
The presentation is beyond fantastic, much like many of the Disney games for 16-bit systems. Pure Disney magic captured in little interactive pixel form. With the atmosphere created from the chiptune renditions of the films musical cues, to the beautifully crafted levels that fill you with nostalgic joy and a sense of wonder. It really is a thing to behold that only the most soulless folk with the coldest of hearts would find difficult to ignore. My nose aint growin’ here, just true facts. Presentation is as close to perfect as you can get.
There is much variation with the gameplay, changing things up from act to act. Beginning with relatively simple platforming, to the rhythm game section at the puppet show…It’s really rather deep, with the variety on offer mixing it up enough to warrant full attention, keeping the player on their toes from screen to screen. First timers should not struggle too much with the Easy setting (think Castle of Illusion), but will still notice an increase in difficulty as the game moves forward. Whack it on Normal and that old school frustration will kick it. For example, I had great trouble with timing on the coaster sequence, which took multiple attempts to getting it just right. Muscle memory and practice is a necessity, so be warned if you’re not a fan of that kind of play style. I feel it is worth noting that you actually don’t start off with an attack as such, so that first level is literally platforming at its utmost purest. By the time you’ve hit the sixth scenario (tail n’ all) your learned kick will become a necessity, as you take out enemies willy-nilly. The overall objective is the three badges which you obtain through progressing the game successfully.
There’s much to collect as typical of the genre, but it never feels a chore. Just remember though, everybody and everything seems to detest Pinocchio and just straight up wants him dead. Whether geese, snot-nosed brats or other dangers, Pinocchio is just the bane of all their lives apparently. Disney, undoubtedly; subtly telling kids to not trust anyone. Darn. Anyway, a coaster ride is, in fact; a spot on reference to the gameplay itself, as it has you relaxed and joyous at one moment, before locking you in sheer moments of intensity and even distress. You can’t beat a water level where you’re essentially skitchin’ with fish to get away from that gigantic bloomin’ whale (well, he is called Monstro after all). An awesome blend, really. Plus, you get to play as Jiminy Cricket swatting away moths, bugs n’ shiz. What more do you need?
Verdict:- Some may say I am over exaggerating, but some studios just seemed better when on a Sega machine. Virgin Interactive/Disney are by far and large an entirely successful coupling during an amazing generation of video games.
What that joint work brought with Pinocchio may well be their finest hour. Their masterpiece.
Just as the Disney film it is based, this too; is an absolute masterpiece.
Second Opinion:- Transbot remembers this very well and also remembers that due to it's release date being so far on in the MegaDrive lifespan it got almost no real love from people, everyone was rocking PS1 by that point.
What we have here is a superb game that really lives up to the Virgin/Disney partnership legacy and is most probably the best game they ever produced, seriously it's that good folks.
Transbot Scores:- 9 out of 10
With the multiple skill levels to choose from (with a significant spike in difficulty) and limited lives/continues, I feel the game manages to balance the line between fair and outright testis hard. If you are the kind of player to blast through on the hardest mode, well I doth my cap; but you’re playing it wrong. Or only getting a small part of the experience. But for everyone else, from beginner to average and beyond, there’s a tonne of greatness to behold and should rightfully grab attention and impress outright. It is fair to say that once you’re clued into everything and your muscle-memory skills kick in, you can have the game done in 40 minutes, but the atmosphere is such that you’d want to stick around longer anyway. It’s a hard thing to explain, because it’s Disney magic.
Basically, yeah. I really like the game and I think you should play it. It’s like I wished upon a star and the game was born. If you don’t rush out now to play it any possible way, you may well be missing out on one of the best engineered games of the 16-bit era.
Format: Mega Drive/Genesis
Genre: Action Platformer
Region Reviewed: PAL
Year of Release: 1995 (UK)