8.5

If you love platforming, The Lion King is top tier in an era where movie cash-ins were actually good.

In the 90's plat formers were king. I don't even have to list the countless plat formers released in that era for you to believe me - you already know the impact that Mario and Sonic made on the gaming world. Back then anything was fair game, even licensed Disney games - that were actually good. Disney could've rushed development of these games like any other movie cash-in, but they took the time and made something actually memorable. 1992's Aladdin for the Genesis was the best, but another licensed movie game two years later took a close second: The Lion King.

Inspired by the absolutely wonderful Disney movie, The Lion King game puts you in the shoes, er claws, of Simba, the pokey cub who just can't wait to be king. So think of this game as a Mario/Sonic hybrid in a form of a cat, where health packets are replaced with bugs, coins are replaced with bugs, and in fun little mini-games after each stage you collect, yep, bugs (who knew lions were vegetarians?). At this small state Simba can only run, jump on enemies, and make a cute though unimpressive roar. Jumping on enemies does the trick most of the time, but porcupines need to be roared at so they'll turn upside down to be able to be stomped on. Sounds easy, but you're main concern is plat forming, which involves precise timing and quick jumping as proved in the very difficult Elephant Graveyard level - and it gets harder from there. After certain levels you'll face a hyena boss with predicable jumping patterns, but it's also fast, so ending these battles quickly is a good idea (think of it as an advanced form of those spiked koopa bosses you face in Super Mario Bros. 3).

The Lion King offers plenty of mini-games and level variety to satisfy those lovely bunch of cocoanut gamers. The bug grabbing mini-games with Timon and Pumba offers variety as well as some extra lives if you complete the mini-game requirements. Level design is fantastic. Fans of the movie will love how Disney captured the greatest moments of the movie into this game. From seeing Pride Rock in the distance, to jumping on colorful hippos while an 16-bit version of "I Just Can't Wait to be King" plays in the background, to running from herds of antelope inspired by one of the movie's most climatic moments, to jumping on logs rolling down a waterfall, to skidding down a slope of bones in the Elephant Graveyard…it just makes the game feel epic.

Several stages later in the game Simba grows up to adulthood and the gameplay takes a whole new look and feel. The game has now shifted from a plat former to an action game accompanied by Simba's new abilities: he can now swipe at enemies, tackle them after jumping, and his mighty roar is a lot less of a kitty pet meow. With new abilities comes new tactics, as of now you'll have to swipe foes with your claw to stun them then tackle them for the kill, and hyenas are now common enemies other than bosses. Platforming is still apparent however, though since Simba is heavier in his adult form, gravity is put into consideration while jumping for Simba can't jump as high as he could while he was a cub. This leads to harder and more cleverly designed levels where enemies are more abundant, and where lava, poison gas, and falling rocks are everywhere.

If you are a fan of challenging platformers and Disney 90's nostalgia you'll get a special kick out of The Lion King. Even if you're not a fan of platformers, you'll still enjoy the game's quality compared to the movie. Okay, I admit the movie is better than the game of course, but just be thankful it's not an awful movie cash-in.

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