You can’t talk about being a kid during the 90s without bringing up some of the most amazing cartoons of all time. Yes this is subjective, but almost everyone nostalgic about 80s cartoons cringe a bit and say “you had to be there” when showing new people episodes for the first time, and newer cartoons were co-opted by said 80s kids to the point where those growing up in the 2000s said “yeah, I liked it until my dad made it weird”.
Specifically I’m talking about the cartoons produced by Steven Spielberg and Amblin Television, but you probably guessed that by now since you clicked on an ‘Animaniacs’ article and probably just want me to get to the fucking point. Well too bad. I have a word count I have to hit and lengthy relatable intros are an easy way to do that.
While ‘Tiny Toon Adventures’ and ‘Freakazoid’ had their audiences (for completely opposite reasons I’m sure), in the venn diagram of cartoons, all circles overlapped on ‘Animaniacs’. It was a fun, clever show that had jokes that kids could enjoy, and references that amused adults…sometimes. I admit, after rewatching the show, I laughed at some of the things that flew over my head as a kid, but there were still jokes that left me scratching my head. We’re talking some deep cuts here. Did you know that in episode 15, the phrase “Turn out that light!” is shouted, which is a reference to WWII era cartoons that used the same line? I had to look that shit up because I didn’t even know that was a reference!
And blah, blah, blah, word count reached. Time to insert segue into the next part of the article.
…so of course they made a game out of it.
HERE’S WHAT I REMEMBER:
Right off the bat, I remember the visuals being so striking that I knew I was going to have a great time, only to immediately get stuck. I don’t remember what it was that halted my progression, or how soon it happened, I just remember joy, then RAGE. I’m actually eager to play this game again simply to see if I can recreate what pissed off little 8/9 year old me so much that I actually almost returned the game to Blockbuster. I was SO angry. Eventually I figured out whatever roadblock was keeping me from enjoying the game and had a blast with it. I was always a sucker for games that themed each level, so adding a layer of movie and TV parody to each level’s theme brought me right back to my initial impression. I loved every second I was behind the controller.
The only unfortunate thing is that I can’t remember anything that made me love this game. I mentioned that there was level theming, but except for the first stage that took place on the Warner Brothers backlot, I remember the feelings of playing the game more than I remember the game itself. If you’ve read some of my other articles, you’re probably thinking “Surprise, surprise. Your fucked up brain forgot shit AGAIN.” To which I say: first of all…mean. And second of all, this was a popular game that I played a metric shit ton way back when. I should remember this as vividly as ‘Battletoads’ or ‘Splatterhouse 3’, yet I don’t.
All I can actively remember is that you can switch between characters, you solve some puzzles via pushing things, and the previously mentioned backlot stage. Even these memories aren’t totally reliable since every time I try to focus on something specific it morphs into that damned Garfield game I played one weekend when I was twelve. Again, I’d like to point out that I can’t remember an acclaimed game that I played over and over again, but I can vividly recall one that I played a handful of times back in 1997.
Life isn’t fair sometimes.
HOW DOES IT HOLD UP?
Huh. Konami made this? Somehow I completely forgot. This was 1994 Konami too, which for those of you who only know Konami for their pachinko machines and killing of dreams, was the height of their talent and creativity. Unlike most games I revisit, I was able to take a sigh of relief before starting. Normally when I type something like that, the rest of the article goes on to describe how playing the game felt like being slowly ground to death by stampeding horses, but there’s no bait and switch here. While it has a few issues, ‘Animaniacs’ is a legitimately good game.
The first area of the game is a great showcase of Game Design 101. Before you get thrown into a pool of wacky shenanigans, you are given three tasks to perform, each showcasing the different abilities of the Warners. I can see how my younger self got stuck since the last task is to use Dot’s ability which is a blown kiss. My young brain probably said “Ew, yucky!” at the thought of playing as a girl (progressive, I know), then got pissed when the other characters couldn’t progress. Clearly I got over this sexism long enough to get to the next section since I actually remembered that there was a next section.
I may not have remembered the details of the levels, but what I remembered about the makeup of each level was surprisingly accurate. This isn’t a game that’s based around beating up enemies by spamming your attacks. Each section of each level is a small puzzle that requires switching between the Warners in order to solve. There weren’t baddies constantly patrolling each platform, or constant projectiles spamming the screen hindering progress, no, you were shown that you couldn’t progress and that you had to use each characters’ abilities and a little bit of cleverness to progress. This might have been different with the bosses, but I suck at puzzles and never made it to one.
My one criticism is that the movement felt slow and sluggish. It was fun watching the Warners do their cute little march, but after a while I just wanted to get to the next platform at a normal speed, not like I was walking with a concrete slab tied to my balls. Luckily there was only one section where the sluggish movement gave me trouble, so for the most part the level design takes this into account.
I’m glad I went back to this game. If anything, it showed me how I could forget something so damn popular. At the time, my jam was hoping along platforms and bopping enemies on their head whether it was with my feet or bullets. ‘Animaniacs’ is not this kind of game. I remember the cartoon so well because it revolutionized what a cartoon could be. The game, while polished, wasn’t what I was looking for at the time. Thus out of my brain it went, leaving room for such finely crafted games such as ‘Jaws’ and ‘Shaq Fu’.
Sometimes I hate by brain. That’s why I punish it with alcohol.