Never mind that baboon liver; do you know where some very strange mixing of essential parts is going on? In video games for kids, where cross-promotional marketers are transplanting characters and story ideas from virtually every genre of entertainment. There are video games based on sports figures, hit movies, even rock-music acts. Now, the latest trend is to pluck famous faces from TV cartoons and build games around them. But, as any parent who ever played the Beverly Hillbillies card game knows, a success in one medium doesn’t always translate well into another.
In Taz-Mania, starring that cartoon temper tantrum the Tasmanian devil, kids spin and stomp their ways through seven perilous stages, all animated in top-notch Warner Bros. style. Trouble is, Taz-Mania’s slobbering, incoherent hero shines only when he’s paired with an intelligent foil. Left on his own here, Taz seems stranded. And this game’s high frustration quotient — it took me 26 tries before I could make it to the second stage — will have even well-behaved kids doing their own Taz imitation in no time.
Another Warner Bros. license, Tiny Toon Adventures, lies at the opposite end of the challenge spectrum. This multilevel action game is easy enough for even small children to master, although older kids may be challenged by the higher levels. Unfortunately, the game is marred by an inexplicable lapse in design judgment: Why is it super-competent Babs Bunny who gets chased by the evil Montana Max, and why must she be rescued by the all-male trio of Hamton, Plucky Duck, and Buster? (From what I’ve seen of Tiny Toons episodes, Babs would be more likely to don a Rambo suit and strike out in search of a quivering Plucky.) Sexism aside, boys and girls alike should enjoy this game, which captures both the sassy attitude and the overstated, bug-eyed animation of the TV show.
From Disney, there’s Darkwing Duck the latest property licensed from the Disney Afternoon syndication package. While this game retains the TV show’s mock-heroic elocutions (”I am the terror that flaps in the night!” the crime-fighting waterfowl announces during the opening. ”I am the winged scourge that pecks at your nightmares!”), the action seems to have been patterned after CAPCOM’s popular Mega Man series, with its jazzy music and goofy-looking enemies. That model guarantees that Darkwing is above average, but savvy kids may feel cheated — it’s like getting a G.I. Joe action figure with the head of Batman.
Finally, who would have thought that TV’s most anarchic cartoon show would spawn the most mentally stimulating video game? In Krusty’s Super Fun House, players lead The Simpsons‘ Krusty the Clown (a.k.a. Hershel Krustofsky) on a quest to rid his playhouse of rats, using movable blocks, pipes, and springs to herd the rodents into traps manned by Bart and Homer. Parents may wince as the hapless vermin get mashed and pureed, but kids will know the extermination is their just reward.
Tiny Toon: A-
Darkwing Duck: B