Re(?)Considered: Animaniacs

Ani-maney, totally insaney, pretty good game-ey

Beloved cartoon irritants the Animaniacs are Animani-back in a largely appalling Hulu reboot which is basically saved from the scrapheap by the excellent return of gene-spliced vermin Pinky and the Brain. Great news for fans of annoying, smug self-mythologising own-fart-sniffing cartoons, bad news for Stuart Gipps. Hey, wait a second, I’m one of those! Noooooo!!

Anyroad, this reboot reminded me of the old Mega Drive and SNES Animaniacs games from Konami, which are both pretty good and interesting in their own surprisingly different ways. So I thought I’d talk about them a bit. They actually made quite a lot of Animaniacs games, and for quite a long while after the show was off the air – 2005 saw the release of both decent collectathon platformer Animaniacs: The Great Edgar Hunt for PS2/GameCube and surprisingly fun GBA/DS isometric title Animaniacs: Lights, Camera, Action! But here I’ll stick to the 16-bit titles.

Beginning with the Mega Drive effort, it’s an accomplished and highly polished platformer with some mild puzzling elements. You control all three of the Warner siblings, each of whom has a different skill that will come in useful for navigating the different challenges encountered. Yakko can push and pull crates, Wakko can smash things and light fuses with his hammer, and Dot can… um… blow kisses. Because she is the “girl one”, do you see? Christ.

Anyway, these moves all intersect in ways that are rarely hugely challenging (except for the runaway train boss, damn), but almost always interesting thanks to the excellent presentation. Each stage takes place in a studio shooting a particular genre of film – Adventure, Sci-Fi, Horror, etc, and consisting of multiple segments. These are generally bite-sized, but expansive enough to get your teeth into, with a nifty password system meaning you won’t have to start from scratch each time.

Taking a different but rather intriguing approach is the SNES game, which has a similar format with multiple studios, each of a different genre, but the interaction is oddly anaemic in some ways – the Warners don’t have unique moves, and the style is closer to a belt-scroller with its lateral movement, rather than a strict platformer. Unfortunately, this means that at times it’s quite difficult to judge exactly where you’re going to land from a jump, and paired with the one-hit-kill gameplay things can become frustrating. You’ll stick with it, though, as it’s very creative in its inspirations with riffs on The Neverending Story, Terminator, Alien and lots more.

There are multiple endings here, too, with the best one only available if you find every hidden script page in the game, some of which are extremely devious. It’s one of those titles that struggles with its gameplay a little, but has plenty to offer if you can overlook the flaws. It’s a truly strange game, with utterly bizarre features like a Sparkster-esque constantly rolling slot machine at the bottom of the screen. Perfect Gipp fodder, basically.

Neither game has been re-released, obviously, but never say never. Their respective foibles rather mirror the Tiny Toon Adventures games – Mega Drive Buster’s Hidden Treasure is familiar but tightly designed, SNES Buster Busts Loose is mechanically dubious but varied. Pick your poison. But not before I take a big gulp of it, because I would rather die than live in a world with those godawful Warner Brothers. And the Warner Sister.