Genre: Platformer
Year: 1994
Developed by: Westwood Studios
Published by: Virgin Interactive
Platforms: Genesis, Master System, SNES, Game Boy, PC, Game Gear
Feeling Like: Short Lived Reign

OK, I promise, number 470 won’t be a two-dimensional, side-scrolling platformer starring a beloved Disney character. The Lion King is also based on an incredibly popular movie and takes great advantage of a few key storyline segments in the film. That pushes it over The Jungle Book but a few problems keep it firmly in the Dregs (474-450).

After all, it can be beaten in under half an hour. I’ve always been a strong proponent of quality over quantity, but come on. There’s just not that much here. But what IS here is worth a quick play through. Let me elaborate.

The levels are more varied than The Jungle Book but not by much. Again, you have a very limited scope in terms of geography to tell the story so the developers didn’t have cause to deviate. It’s jungle, rocks, trees and sometimes a dark combination of all three. However, controlling a full grown lion and punching hyenas in the face with 550 pounds of cold, sharp fury claws was more satisfying to me than throwing a bananas at monkeys. Call me old fashioned.

Little Simba doesn’t have it as easy. There are two sections that gave me a massive headache: jumping on logs to the top of a waterfall, and the technicolor dreamcrap level that involves monkeys, bird nests and a color palette that doesn’t help anybody.

This one. I hate it.

Little Simba has to die about fourteen times before he figures out which giraffe head to jump on, which bird nest is a fake, which monkey to toss him like a load of bad laundry, which monkey I FINALLY figure out to roar at to turn him the other way, when to duck on the ostrich ALL while listening to “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King”. Little Henry was not happy about this.

Thankfully, it’s followed shortly by one of the best scenes from the movie, the Wildebeest stampede. Side note: I cannot BELIEVE it’s not spelled Wildebeast. Anyway, it’s a spectacular animation achievement in the movie, and it’s a pretty thrilling level in the game. It changes perspective to have Simba scurrying towards the camera as the Wildebeaest and rocks threaten to ensure his demise. It doesn’t look impressive at all by today’s standards, but props to Westwood on this one. Besides that, the elephant graveyard and escaping from the hyenas also works really well. “If ya ever come back…WE’LL KILL YA!” sounds stupidly good on 1994 hardware and lends tension to Simba’s escape.

Following the Hakuna Matata level, you grow up and adult Simba is far more badass. The levels aren’t as interesting, but the switch to more combat-focused game is well met after the mostly playful nature of platforming in the first half of the game. By the time the final battle rolls around, throwing Scar off a cliff and taking your ascension at Pride Rock feels like a very satisfying ending. A short reign, but at least a memorable one.

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