Disney-released video games are becoming almost as routine as Disney-released animated films, only the games tend to be more insufferable. It's that negative emotion, alongside the vestigial shellshock of A Bug's Life, that keeps people from looking forward to a movie-license game that's due to arrive on the heels of the movie itself. If Eurocom's Tarzan game proves anything, however, it's that sometimes it feels quite good to be proven wrong.
Tarzan, the game, follows the recently released animated film's plot exactly, and that's a very good thing, as the movie's pacing is conducive to the challenges you expect from a video game. Actually, what Tarzan captures, surprisingly, is the simplicity (with challenge) found in classic games. Tarzan's a single-player game; you play as Tarzan most of the time, first as the young ape man in training and then later as the perpetually "prime of life" Tarzan. When you're not playing as Tarzan, you're running through the jungle as Jane, in a Victorian dress, attempting to flee a pack of baboons; or you're tearing up the campsite as Terk, Tarzan's she-ape companion.
There are 14 levels in all, and, surprisingly, each level and the objective therein is strikingly different from one another. Sure, there are conventions that reoccur in some levels, such as swinging on vines or sliding along fallen trees. However, these consistent features contribute to your overall grasp of the gameplay and become more demanding as you proceed (yes, demanding. Tarzan is not an easy game). About half the levels are composed of standard 2D platform jumping, while you grab items and avoid animals until you reach the end. The rest of the levels take advantage of action scenes in the movie. In the Stampede level, for example, you control Tarzan as he runs ahead of a pack of elephants Crash Bandicoot- or Herc's Adventures-style. You move from side to side and jump when necessary. This parallels the stampede scene in the movie. In the Sabor Attacks level, you fight the leopard, Sabor, with a spear and with tricky jumping moves a number of times until you conquer him, just as in the film. The aforementioned event with Jane is the Baboon Chase level, which follows the movie so closely that it has Tarzan swinging in to save you, hence navigating the chase at that point.
Bonus levels exist as well. To earn one, you must collect four pieces of Jane's baboon drawing scattered around the environment. If you do so, you'll glide down a stream on a raft, grabbing tokens and fruits until the timer runs out, or you'll ride through the jungle on a stork, doing the same, or you'll slide along the fallen trees in the style of Crystal Dynamic's Pandemonium, ducking limbs and jumping over others. What's the point of tokens and fruit? It's all pretty intuitive. The tokens, in lots of 100, give you an extra life, and the fruits (yellow, purple, red, and blue of varying strengths and availability), are for you to lob at animals that get in your way. You'll also pick up other objects, such as a stone blade, to use against close-range predators. Bananas are used to increase your health meter and are pretty readily available throughout the game. If you collect all the letters in Tarzan's name (also scattered throughout each level), you open up movies that move the game forward. Worthy of mentioning, too, is the fact that you can go back and replay saved levels, should you want to find all the tokens, drawing pieces, or letters to gain extra lives (necessary for some of the later levels) or acquire a better ending score.
In regard to gameplay, Tarzan's controls are responsive, for the most part, with some exceptions on the jumps and in fights with a noxious monkey or poisonous frog. And while you usually deal with the animals (sometimes your enemies, sometimes there to give you a lift) immediately, if you don't, you'll discover fairly quickly that the AI isn't too swift. In most cases, the animals are predictable and can be dispelled with fruit bombs or avoided altogether with little effort - with the exception of the evil, evil birds.
All in all, Tarzan is a pleasant surprise. The game looks good (as good as the film), sounds good (better than the film, as you can "X" out of anything you don't want to listen to), and plays quite well. While the game is not particularly mind-stumping or sophisticated, it is challenging and does require a good amount of skill, whether in jumping from place to place, knowing where hidden items might be, or fighting belligerent leopards who lunge a lot. Even if movie-license games turn you off, this game is an exception and worth taking a look at. If you can't stand Disney and have no interest in the franchise, this game is still worth looking at.