The Rube’s Review: An ANIMANIACS Video Game Retrospective [Part One]

Animaniacs SNES

With it’s well balanced mixture of Marx Brothers comedy, pop culture references, and subtle adult humor, Animaniacs was a success with both young and old audiences…

PUBLISHER: Konami
GENRE:
Side-scrolling, Adventure
DEVELOPER:
Konami
PLATFORMS:
Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis
MODES:
1 Player

The 90’s was a great time for cartoons. Multimedia behemoths Disney and Warner Brothers with their fingers in television programming, there was a high demand for sophisticated children’s programming. Kids and adults rushed home from their 8 hour shifts so they could sit down as a family to watch animated adventures such as Duck Tales, Gargoyles, Tale Spin, Batman: The Animated Series and Tiny Toons Adventures. Instead of bland stories of good vs. bad, vehicles/robots that go boom!, or the Care Bear Stare, most 90’s animation focused more on intriguing dramas with high production art.

To put it simply, some of these shows were just beautiful to watch and sucked you in with good storytelling. This “animated renaissance” was something special and finally put an end to the previous era of 22-minute toy ads… until around 1997, with the introduction of Pokemon, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and other mediocre merchandising giants. But for awhile, anyway, animated life was good.

Animaniacs-SNES-1Out of these daily-animated programs, Tiny Toon Adventures stuck out from all the rest. Retaining the funny from years of classic Warner Bros cartoons, the anthropomorphic classroom antics of Buster Bunny and friends was full of nonstop laughs and a big hit for Amblin Entertainment. With its success, Steven Spielberg approached it’s head writer Tom Ruegger with a brand new idea: an animated variety show chocked full of comedy and music skits.

Originally Tom wanted to base this new concept on Plucky Duck and three 3 duck brothers as a Tiny Toons spin-off, but after talks with Warner Bros. and realizing that these green-feathered siblings would be competing with Duck Tales and Darkwing Duck, Steven and Tom were told to come up with something new. During a brainstorming session with the Tiny Toons’ writers, Steven, a big fan of 1930’s vaudevillian comedy, came up with a novel idea of three comedic black & white brothers. With some fine-tuning, these Zany Puppy Children would come to be as known as Yakko, Wakko, and their sister Dot.

With it’s well balanced mixture of Marx Brothers comedy, pop culture references, and subtle adult humor, Animaniacs was a success with both young and old audiences. Not only was it one of the funniest cartoons on television, but with the added educational songs such as Wakko’s America and Yakko’s World, Animaniacs was praised by parents and teachers… Hey, who knew learning could be fun. Soon after it’s release, plush toys and shirts, soon followed. It was only a matter of time until we saw a home video game.

Animaniacs-SNES-2 Animaniacs-SNES-3

…Animaniacs is one of the best games that ever came out for the SNES.

You start the game with the opening of one of the Animaniacs fan favorite skits, Pinky and the Brain, which are two genetically enhanced lab rats with an ongoing goal to take over the world. In the game’s intro, their new plan is to steal a movie script from the Warner Bros. lot, produce a box office hit, and use the money to take over the world. After these wee partners-in-crime jump into their single breasted robo-businessman suit and go about their grand heist, the studio’s CEO hires the Warners to collect the 24 script pages (found on various levels) before the furry vermin get their little paws on them.

You control the Warner Brothers (and the Warner sister) through various fun levels, which are chock full of cameos of the show’s wacky cast and famous pop culture parodies, like the shark from Jaws, Star Wars robotic duo, rolling Indiana Jones-esc Deathstars, and Ridley Scott’s Aliens. Each movie lot/level offers various game play (running hopping, riding, shooting, etc), which makes this title stand out from other SNES platformers. Every level – my favorite is the Aquatic Studio – does a great job of keeping you entertained, which is important since each must be played many times as you to search for those hidden script pages before going on to battle the metal geared furry duo.

Animaniacs-SNES-4Other than looking for script pages, you’ll start to pick up a sh#tload of coins which add to the game’s excitement as your cash goes to a power up slot machine. With every five coins found, the three-wheeled slot machine (found at the bottom of the screen) starts to spin. If you get three of a kind, you’ll gain a variety of power-ups including the return of locked-up Warners and extra continues. Even though this function isn’t really a game changer, it’s still nice to see that Konami went all out when making this game.

I know, at his point you’re thinking, “But Rube, when are you gong to go all batsh#t crazy and tear this game a new assh#le? Yeah, I know that so far this review is very straightforward but to be honest, Animaniacs gives me very little to gripe about. In my opinion, with its variety of game play, familiar cast, upbeat music, and great graphics, Animaniacs is one of the best games that ever came out for the SNES. It’s so good that even when the game becomes a challenge, you don’t mind restarting each level.

But with every good game, there are some problems that can’t be overlooked. First off, you’re going to die a lot, especially while playing the Fantasy level. This level starts with your black and white puppy children speeding along on broomsticks while trying to dodge and jump over trees and IT’S BRUTAL!!! Remember that part in Battletoads with the speeder bikes? How you got so %$!@ angry with every crashing death that you had no choice but to fling your controller like Thor’s hammer into your He-Man toys and yell obscenities into your own frustration pillow until to pain went away? Yep, it’s that type of frustration that makes you relive that childhood pain with every crash.

Animaniacs-SNES-5 Animaniacs-SNES-password

With every death, there’s a quick cut scene of Ralph the Security Guard grabbing a Warner to be trapped in the water tower, but there is hope. You can “save” lost Warner/gain a life back by playing the Water Tower level found on your map. Yeah, it’s a way to get a life back but man, what a pain in the ass it is as you climb that water tower while dodging vultures and Ralph (who is armed with a fire hose). Also this sudden stop in game play really does kill the mood, especially when completing this task over and over again. The real downside of this level is that if you’re not good at it you can easily lose more Warners in the process. I really do love this game but I feel that this mundane task is just a waste of time and it just makes more sense to continue with a pass code once you lose all of your Warners/lives, which brings me to my final complaint.

I still don’t understand to this day, with the invention of the NES battery save pack, why would any publisher go out of their way to inconvenience their audience with a lengthy passcode? What makes Animaniacs passcode more of a pain in the ass is that it’s made up of twelve pictographs instead of the common letter/number combo. The only thing that redeems this passcode system is that you can continue right away (after dying and selecting Password) without playing a round of Pictionary to do so. You really only have to write sh#t down if you decide to turn off your SNES to play another day.


4.8
OUT OF 5

GREAT

A few issues aside, I have to say that I love this game. Konami got everything right when they made Animaniacs, with a fantastic mix of fun game play and enough challenges to keep you playing gleefully for hours. With a memorable soundtrack, character cameos, and zany HELLOO NURSE!!! antics, it feels like you’re part of the TV show. In my opinion, Animaniacs is one of the best side-scrolling platform games to ever come out for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

PROS

+ Great representation of the show
+ Fun and challenging levels

CONS

Retrieving captured Warners
You’re going to die… a lot
Pictographic passcodes

Written by The Rube

The Rube is co-owner of Rusty Quarters Retro Arcade & Museum in Minneapolis, MN. He is also a Special Effects Artist, Master Chef, and Multiple Threadless Design Winner. Other than writing reviews and doodling, he enjoys watching bad movies, building monster model kits, and collecting games for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

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