The time has come for our first video game review, and boy let me tell ya, it was a stinker.
I have this very clear memory, back in 2003. There used to be a small theater a few miles away from me and there they showed the new cinematic event: Peter Pan. I forced my father to take me multiple times, and in my memory I replay a scene from the film, when Wendy kisses Peter and the sky turns a pinkish blue, and the theater would light up that color. Peter burst into the air shouting in glee as the pirates shit their pants and let me tell you, that was the moment that I fell in love with the idea of film. Yes I was four at the time but whenever people ask me what moment made me love the movies that image always floods to my head.
Growing up I was obsessed with this character. I would play the PS1 game Disney’s Peter Pan: Return to Neverland (which I just bought so prepare for a future review) every time I was dropped off at the Eagle’s Nest (Giant Eagle’s old daycare), pretend my action figures could fly, watch the Mary Martin 1950’s play on repeat from my local blockbuster, hell my grandma even made me a Peter Pan costume.
A few weeks back my local retro game and toy store was going out of business and when I went there they had the Gameboy Advance copy of Peter Pan: The Motion Picture Event. I decided that for the few dollars it was worth I’d give it a try.
Oh boy was it a bad idea.
I really wanted to like this game, after all I have a huge soft spot for video game tie-ins. But, after a whopping hour and nine minutes of playtime I beat it.
Graphically, this game is a hit and miss. While some environments looks good (Hook’s ship), the rest look like a hodgepodge of random locals that a child fused together. The ugly terrain also has terrible level design. The woods have random swamps that drain your health if you accidentally touch them, Mermaid Lagoon has endless pools of swimming sections (if you stay towards the bottom of the screen you can avoid all of the hazards in these sections) that lead you in circles for what feels like hours, and enemies that are so small that their hit boxes can be almost impossible to find.
Throughout my adventure I died a total of seventeen times. While that doesn’t sound bad, almost all of that was in the first few stages. You receive little to no guidance on what to do. Like I mentioned above about the Mermaid Lagoon levels, if I had a guide to follow I could have shaved my overall gameplay in half. I spent a full thirty minutes going in circles because the developers didn’t want to give an idea of what to do or where to go. Eventually, I found where I was going and breathed a sigh of relief… until I had to do it all over again two levels later! It was absurd and infuriating.
The combat is also very difficult except when you fight Hook. Yes, you read that right. The main antagonist of the game is the easiest part. In the levels you fight snails, pirates, fish, and boomerang looking creatures. To defeat the snails simply hit them head on, the birds you have to take multiple hits to finally have an opening to attack, and the pirates… it took me a good fifteen minutes to figure out how to damage them. Turns out, you have to block all their attacks and when they back up they are open for a stab, but be quick because you have a second to hit them or else they will block yours. Some pirates also can’t be defeated this way so you have to jump at the exact moment the sword would hit you and then you are able to hit them while in the air.
The best levels in the game are when you fly in the clouds. Peter controls like a typical on rails flying mission. You only have to move up and down to avoid the obstacles. While it was simple and a good way to collect coins the calming blues and the fluffy clouds just make you feel like your actually flying.
Throughout the game there are a few things you can pick up. A Blue Ring is used to fill your health, a Green Ring gives you invincibility for a short time, a Gold Ring extends your health meter and after a random amount of coins you receive an additional life. There are no collectibles or extras to be obtained throughout.
Peter Pan is a character that is ripe for the taking when it comes to video games. His IP gives you Neverland, Hook, Mermaids, Pirates, and an abundance of other characters and locations with a variety of gameplay options that could lead to a fun and engaging adventure. However, no one has come close to reaching that potential and instead rely on cheap and quick gimmicks that are forgettable and bland. Hopefully one day there will be a Peter Pan game that captures the imagination of the character, but this game certainly isn’t it.