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Disney's Treasure Planet
Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: SCEA/Disney Interactive
Developer: Magenta Software
Media: CD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:
Disney's Treasure Planet is a return to the kind of quality we saw years ago with licensed games that combined invention, whimsy and spot-on gameplay. Sure, we're less likely to be wowed by graphics for PSOne now that PS2 is on the scene, but the complete package this time around is a nice surprise, right in time for Christmas.

As PSOne goes, Treasure Planet looks good. The effects are nice, and the free-roaming quality of the game makes exploration lots of fun. Little mini-games break up the look and feel of the main game, most with a FPS feel or an Arcade, top-down approach. Racing is a big piece of the movie, of course, so expect to do a little yourself if you do a good job in clearing a level. The cut scenes from the movie really fit into the progress of the game and add to the experience, as they should. Voice acting is top shelf, right out of the movie, as is the music. Where many of the Disney conversions over the years have looked like half-baked attempts to cash in on the movie, Treasure Planet is the kind of game we'd want to play even if we'd never heard of the movie. And if you enjoyed the movie and want more, you could do a lot worse than giving the game a chance.

Based on Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Treasure Island,' which I now command all of you to go out and read, this is a game that looked fairly unassuming on the surface. Since a big premise (and a big part of the movie's advertising) in Treasure Planet is the fact that our hero Jim Hawkins has use of a really cool Solar Surfer, I pretty much thought this was a racing game. To compound my confusion, the version we got to play around with at E3 was most definitely a level with Jim racing through some cool meteor-field track. But, it turns out that Treasure Planet is much more than a racing game. The game follows the movie and introduces the 'treasure hunt' you'll be part of with a scene where Jim discovers the secret map that leads to the mysterious Treasure Planet, a place where Space Pirate Flint is thought to have stashed an unbelievable amount of treasure. With some help from Morph, Dr. Doppler and others, Jim will solve puzzles, race through challenging levels, evade pirates and make the trip to legendary Treasure Planet.

Along the way, Jim and the crew will travel to a spaceport, commission a ship (sound familiar yet, Star Wars fans? ;) and make the trip to Treasure Planet against long odds. The dangers posed by space pirates are only part of the trouble Jim gets into, and each level is packed with challenges, rewards and danger. Although Dr. Doppler always has lot of stern warnings for Jim, there are just too many objects of interest out there, things you can destroy to earn special rewards and characters you'll encounter. The NPC (non-player character) interaction ranges from tough (but mostly silly) enemies to laugh-out-loud funny locals who give you tips or help you along the way. The goal is to gather certain items you'll use to unlock special features in the game. At times you'll be able to shoot objects in the level to earn credits and 'purchase' items, and sometimes you'll find fabled Treasure Planet Tokens hidden away in unlikely places. Every once in a while, a NPC will offer a challenge or quest, and if you're successful you might earn a Token that way also. The majority of levels are built around exploration and the kind of action/adventure easter-egg hunt that is often done but rarely done well.

Pacing is important in a game like this, and the way events are scripted does wonders for making Treasure Planet more playable. Morph, the little gadget that follows Jim around, can do a lot of cool things. It can give hints and tip Jim off to strategies he might use, and it can also form a sort of glider that helps Jim get down from high places or reach places he might find impossible to jump to normally. Just when you might be getting lost or bored, special challenges help to speed up the pace or Morph will chime in to let you know about something you can do at that time. Lots of little puzzles are found in the levels, from standard Platformer jumping or timed puzzles to more sophisticated puzzles that require Jim to gather items and use them as 'keys' for powered doors and machines. This stuff really keeps the game going, not to mention the little battles Jim gets into and the enemies he'll have to take out with his sword or musket.

There are plenty of health power-ups in Treasure Planet, and with little Morph on your shoulder you won't find yourself stuck much at all. Life-replenishing objects and even Free Life power-ups can be found, but only the most novice gamers will have much trouble. The nice thing, and something that Disney hasn't been able to maintain consistently from game to game, is how Treasure Planet manages to be easy enough for gamers of all levels but doesn't resort to repetition and drudgery that would turn off experienced players. The content is young, and the release for PSOne is likely intended to reach a youthful audience. But, as I've griped many times, just because the game is intended for kids doesn't mean it has to be dumbed down, and Treasure Planet has lots of nifty puzzles and twitchy challenges to keep kids on their toes and enjoying themselves.

Game Mechanics:
PS2: This is one of the better examples of PS2 advanced settings making a real difference. If you have a PS2 to run this on, you'll appreciate the improvement in texture and loading that can be achieved by setting Fast and Smooth under the PlayStation driver options. If you're playing on a PSOne, the graphics are still quite nice. Instead of blocky, boring levels, we see some nicely designed areas that have a lot going on. The engine for this game may well be the same one that powered Stuart Little 2, another Magenta Software production.

One beef I have is the funny, not-working nature of ladders. You climb up, but you can't climb down easily. This might explain why Morph's glide feature comes in so handy... The racing levels are basic, but nicely done. You have the chance to go through many times to gather objects, so it isn't much like a race except you do have to get all the objects before the timer runs out. The camera in Treasure Planet does a decent job showing you what you need to see, but it could definitely benefit from a quick auto-response to help kids who aren't accustomed to adjusting the camera on their own.

The variety and sense of adventure present in Treasure Planet make it one of the best Disney games to come out in quite some time. It works on many levels, but the piece of it you or your kids will keep coming back for is the fun. Fun has been missing from Disney's movie adaptations too often, or it's at least been hiding behind horrendous control glitches and shoddy graphics. Magenta did an admirable job creating this puppy, and the care they and the Disney team put into creating a good game shows.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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