When Laura and I started this blog, the plan was a bit one-sided: I would supply titles from my gaming past and she would play/critique the games. Our posts have expanded quite a bit from this original intention, but the general theme of, “gamer boy exposes his girlfriend to tons of video games,” has remained the core of GIMMGP. However, as I sit down to write the first post for our month of Disney movies and games, I realize that the tables have completely turned.
While I grew up in a household where every new animated Disney release was met with grand celebration, I somehow missed out on their adaptation of Tarzan. Additionally, all of the Disney games I have enjoyed in my life were exclusively played on Nintendo’s original trifecta (that’s the NES, Game Boy, and SNES, for those keeping score at home), so I did not play the companion game featuring the classic jungle hero. On the other hand, Laura loves Tarzan, both in film and game format, so she was rather excited to hear my thoughts on the matter (or maybe she was just eager to watch the movie again).
Overall, I rather enjoyed watching Tarzan. I thought the use of character art featuring minimal lines and simple colors was a great contrast to the complex backgrounds, brimming with detail. This art direction made the soulful eyes of each character stand out over the course of the film, and drew me deeper into several scenes. The plot was well structured, and I particularly liked the bookended battles with Sabor and Clayton which were used to show Tarzan’s initiation and later return to his jungle family.
Side note: Speaking of bookending, did you know that Tarzan’s iconic yell is actually a palindrome? The stock sound effect that is used by MGM Studios in their Tarzan films is made up of a series of 10 notes/sounds, which produces the same noise when played forward or backward. Granted, the yell given by Tarzan in the Disney film is not the same noise, but still, The More You Know and all that, right?
Now, many of you may cry ‘foul’ at me for this, but I did not enjoy Phil Collins’ soundtrack for the movie. The songs were not outright terrible, but I felt that his attempt to narrate the film through song fell rather flat. Take the opening scene for example: we witness the tragedy of Kala’s newborn child being stolen away from her by the leopard Sabor. This scene is absolutely heartbreaking, as she arrives just in time to see her child being killed. While most film soundtracks would feature a powerful swell of instrumental music, or no music at all, Mr. Collins decided to narrate the on-screen happenings in his usual upbeat crooning. Again, the song is not bad by nature, it just deflates the sadness of the scene. Maybe that is just what Disney was going for, an attempt to keep children from being too depressed from the start of the movie; we may never know.
To compliment the movie, I ordered a copy of Tarzan for the Sony Playstation. This game plays it safe by using 3D models in a mostly 2D sense, with players guiding Tarzan from one side of the screen to the other. As Tarzan makes his way through the jungle, he has the opportunity to collect many different trinkets along the way. While most games at the time just utilized end-of-level score tallies as a means to urge players to collect all the things, Tarzan employs a rather clever alternative: the more collectibles a player gathers in each level, the more of the film he/she gets to watch at their leisure in a movie clip gallery. Since the release of the game predates the home release of the film by nine months, this was a brilliant move to keep enthusiasts (read: children) playing the game to 100% completion.
Unlike many other licensed games, Tarzan stands the test of time as a fun platformer with graphics that do not look too dated in our high-tech world. The main levels feature a balanced challenge, and there are plenty of bonus stages to keep one entertained. I managed to find a used copy of the game online for under ten dollars, so grab the game and movie if you are looking for a fun (and cheap) Disney weekend. One word of advice though: if you decide to bellow Tarzan’s iconic yell of triumph upon beating the game, make sure your significant other is not sitting right next to you, with unaware ears and docile heartbeat. He/she may be a bit put off by the display of raw jungle power (read: loud, startling noises).