It's been about seven years since the Animaniacs animated series was canceled, and at least a few years since it disappeared even from syndication. But that hasn't stopped Warthog and Ignition Entertainment from bringing out a new platform game based on the smart-alecky Warner brothers (and sister). Animaniacs: The Great Edgar Hunt is very kid-friendly, with only mild cartoon violence, so it makes you wonder who exactly the game is aimed at. Those of us who grew up enjoying the antics of the Animaniacs are all in college or older, while the adolescent age group this game seems to cater to probably wouldn't recognize the characters at all. Despite that conundrum, The Great Edgar Hunt is a good, if not very original, platformer in its own right, offering up some funny writing and interesting environments to explore.
The game begins with the theft of all of this year's golden Edgar statues (a cartoon take on the real-life Oscar awards) by the nefarious CC Deville. Tired of having his films overlooked by the Academy, Deville threatens to melt down all the statues unless Warner CEO Thaddeus Plotz agrees to sign Deville on for a multifilm contract. As Deville lords over the Warner Bros. studio in his blimp, he accidentally crashes the airship into the Warner water tower, scattering the stolen statues across the lot. It's up to the Warner brothers (and sister) to track down the Edgar statues. You'll begin the game as Yakko, but you'll soon track down Wakko and Dot and be able to play the game as any of the three Warners. Aside from each of them being able to use a unique gadget, all of the Warners have the same skills and abilities.
The Great Edgar Hunt is set up much like Super Mario 64; the Warner lot serves as a hub to six different sound stages that serve as different environments to explore. Your access to each of the sound stages is restricted depending on how many Edgars you've found. So at the outset you're only allowed to enter the country-western themed area, but eventually you'll explore a lot of different environments like a haunted mansion and a jungle-mine area. There's a good variety to the look of each area, but you'll be doing a lot of typical platform-style item collecting and fetching in all of them. You'll encounter hostile creatures roaming around the environments that you'll combat using typical cartoon methods like smacking them with a frying pan, or simple jump-stomps. Each of the sound stages also has a handful of subquests that you need to discover and do for non-player characters in the region. The storybook land, for example, has you helping Little Bo Peep herd her sheep into a shearing machine. You see, she's having a hard time doing it herself because the sheep's heavy wool coats are generating a ton of static electricity. Another quest requires you to do a tribal rain dance for a Native American chief with a California surfer's accent (he even calls you "bro-ham"). As you can imagine from those examples, the writing in the game involves very off-the-wall humor. It's never quite laugh-out-loud funny like the cartoons were, but for a game the writing is definitely amusing, and there are lots of cutscenes to showcase the game's sense of humor. The original TV voice actors for all the characters were also used for the game, so they definitely add to the ambience.
Fans of the Animaniacs cartoons will also be pleased to note that Pinky and the Brain make cameo appearances in the game. As you explore the environments you'll occasionally stumble across a mouse cage with a squeaky wheel. These cages launch minigames that star the rodent duo in some signature vignettes where they, yes, try to take over the world. You'll then play a minigame that will reward you with a special gadget that will help you further explore the different sound stages. Just like many other modern platformers, The Great Edgar Hunt requires you to do some backtracking to earlier stages, as items and abilities you find in later levels will allow you to explore areas that were previously closed off to you. The game offers a useful pause menu and interface that keeps track of which sub-missions and collectibles you've done, and how many Edgars you've collected overall and each area. It also does a great job at showing you where you should go next, so as long as you're paying attention, you shouldn't waste much time wondering what to do. You don't need to find all 45 Edgars in the game to unlock the final level--if you do the minimum amount of work, the game should only take around eight hours. However, if you're interested in collecting everything, then the game should take you considerably longer.
If there are any complaints about The Great Edgar Hunt aside from its by-the-numbers approach to the game design, it's that it's probably a little easy. The boss fights are trivial, and it's always plainly obvious what you need to do next. The camera also doesn't work well at all in tight quarters, because it can't pass through walls. You can control the camera yourself, but getting a good angle in a narrow hallway is a tricky affair. Those caveats don't detract too much from a good overall game, though.
The game's graphics are hardly a technical splendor, but given that the game is based on an animated series, the engine doesn't have to push a lot of polygons to get the job done. The game runs at a solid frame rate and offers a vibrant cartoon look throughout a variety of different environments. As mentioned before, the original voice actors for the TV show are used in the game, and to great effect. They shine throughout the cutscenes, and the music in the game is quite catchy as well, offering subtle touches such as switching to a muffled, gurgling version of the background music when the camera dips underwater.
While a platformer based on Animaniacs released today probably faces a limited audience, those of us who miss seeing the antics of the wacky trio on TV would certainly get some mileage out of playing The Great Edgar Hunt. They never do anything in the game quite as cool as singing about all 50 states and capitals, but they'll at least put a smile on your face.