The 90’s was a great time for Disney animation – and by extension – Disney games. We have some great ones like the Little Mermaid for NES, Aladdin for both SNES and Genesis, and then we got the Lion King, which looked fantastic, but ends up being one of the most frustrating experiences found on the system. Buckle up for stinker!
The story is ripped right out of the Lion King movie, turning moments in the movie into full-blow stages. As Lion King is one of my favourite Disney movies, I was fine with this, and the movie explores a lot of cool environments, which translates into really interesting areas in the game. Story-wise, the game does just fine!
In terms of gameplay, the game is primarily a 2D platforming game. You take control of Simba both as a child and as an adult. You can run and jump, roar at enemies (which makes them flinch) and claw at your enemies when you are an adult. There are a few stages later on that employ different types of controls (like when Simba is running from gazelles) but most levels generally follow the 2D platform formula. Overall, Simba feel quite good to control in and of itself – and especially in the first level. The downhill spiral takes place in the second level and thereafter.
In the second level of the game, the stage starts normally. Simba moves through a platforming section and must solve a puzzle with various monkeys – completely relevant for a Lion King game! Half way through the level, Simba is required to ride an animal and must jump and duck various obstacles. Cue the frustration! While arrows guide players on how to approach the obstacles, there is one jump at the end of this section where players need to do a double jump. If you don’t just at the exact correct moment – you die! I died like 50+ times before I finally got past it. This was EXTREMELY FRUSTRATING! Then you move to another section where you must swing on hippo’s tails. Seems reasonable – until you realize if you do not jump at just the right time, you die! This section was also EXTREMELY FRUSTRATING! The next section goes back to riding an animal but this time the game does not provide arrows, meaning you need to trial and error whether you jump, duck, or double jump! This section was THE MOST FRUSTRATING IN THE GAME! After finding a walkthrough, I eventually got through the level and progressed further.
Later levels have Simba encounter similarly frustrating levels, few of which are enjoyable because of the awful level design forcing players to use trial and error tactics to get through levels. I never once felt like I died because of a lack of skill – each death felt like it was cheap and unfair because of the design decision the developers made.
In terms of graphics, the game looks fantastic – this looks like a 16-bit Lion King game! The colours are vibrant, and the sprites are big and detailed, and the levels look like they are taken right out of the movies! The game also has a couple scenes taken right out of the movie which add a nice cinematic tone! The music is also excellent and again taken right out of the movies! I was really impressed with how good it sounded!
In summary, The Lion King is a beautifully looking and sounding SNES game that is plagued with awful level design that makes it absolute torture to play. Looks can be deceiving! If more of the game was like the first level, the game could have been much more fun, but instead the game becomes artificially hard and becomes needlessly frustrating! Overall, I give this game a final score of 3/10.
Final Score: 3/10