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Home On The Range Package Art
 GENRE
  Action
 DEVELOPER
  A2M
 PUBLISHER
  Buena Vista Interactive
 NUMBER OF PLAYERS
  1
 CONNECTIVITY
  No
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Home On The Range

In my opinion, it is genuinely imperative that a journalist familiarizes himself or herself with the subject matter for which they are to write about. As such, I did read up a bit on Disney’s most recent animated picture, Home On The Range, for I have not in fact seen the movie. From what I’ve gathered in my research, the game does faithfully adhere to the narrative outlined by Disney’s whimsical western cartoon. However, remaining true to the source material doesn’t always guarantee a pleasant experience.

Your objective in Home On The Range is to protect the sanctity of the ‘Lil Patch Of Heaven farm estate from the vile wretch of Alameda Slim and his prodigious gang of thieves, who will surely wreak havoc now that they’ve busted out of jail. The premise may be simple, as is the game, but plausibly worthwhile nonetheless.

visuals

From the falling sign and scrolling duck gaggle at system startup, to the colorful animations that punctuate the progressing plot, Home On The Range unexpectedly serves up a title that is, at the very least, easy on the eyes. Though some pixelations could use a bit of improvement, such as the typical bandit you’ll encounter, most models are well designed and accurately portrayed. I was particularly impressed by developer A2M’s effort to capture distinct facial expressions as seen on our two main characters, Buck the horse and Jeb the goat. Different moves and collision set off these facial shifts. Other “motions” exist in little notables like the swaying of a tail or the appropriate positioning of a shadow. As one of many licensed merchandise types they have to work with, I’m happy that Disney -- or perhaps A2M acting on its own -- produced a title that looks as good as this one does.

audio

Though far from infallible, the audio inherent to the product is both decent and genuinely inserted; meaning, it wasn’t just a rush job. I’d prefer something along the lines of the occasional horse neigh or other GBA familiar voice-overs, but one mustn’t delve into a title expecting perfection. The musical score is varied enough to accent the action without irritation, repeating itself in certain level types as will be described in further detail below. Thankfully, each motion of your controlled mammal has its own distinct sound effect, as do the legions of opponents you’ll encounter.

gameplay

Though I was certainly surprised by this title’s above-average sensory features, I was most taken aback by the interface itself. While simple at first glance, the play-scheme possesses numerous characteristics that make it decisively deeper than your average licensed side-scroller. The game loops through a cyclical pattern of three different types of levels, having you confront a ‘boss’ at the end of each cycle. Since the premise of this title is that a group of bandits up to no good have escaped, you’ll need to acquire their respective “wanted” posters to bring them back to the confines of the town cells. Enter the tri-genre system.

To set out after one of the 5 or so villains, you must first ride Buck (you’re apparently assuming the role of “The Rabbit”) through to the next area, making it to the finish line in a certain time frame while avoiding a large quantity of obstacles and foes. Using an engine that emulates 3D, as games like Pilotwings on the SNES did, this recurring racing sequence carries time extensions, speed boosts, health refills, and a couple other assorted “power-ups” that can be obtained as you ride forward. I enjoyed this mode very much, as it acted as a sort of “downtime” to the more tactical platforming that precedes it.

Though grumpy and intransigent, Jeb the goat will reluctantly (or foolishly in the instances when he is tricked) make his way through a variety of large, side-scrolling areas. As two-dimensional platforming in its purest form, pits, spikes, briar patches, creepy crawlers, and water will all act as detriments that must be avoided carefully as you cover the surrounding area. Precise stomping and horn bashing will make quick work of most enemies, though some are a bit tougher to crack. Thankfully, there exists “power-ups” that endow Jeb with some nifty abilities; double-jumps, super-strength/speed, and the ability to spit corn kernels as projectiles. Oh yes, as comical and cliché as is to be expected, the mechanics are well executed nonetheless. Like hundreds of other games the world over that pay homage to the Mario Bros, Jeb can acquire an additional life by collecting 100 tin cans (though silver and gold cans give you multiple points). It’s funny, you see, because he’s a goat.

The weakest of the three parts of each level, though entertaining still in its brightest moments, are frame-by-frame brawling sequences that position Buck the horse as a Kung-Fu super fighter, punching, kicking, and “reignsing” (?) his way through to each bandit overlord. I am thankful that A2M took advantage of each button on the controller, giving R and L direct attacks – forming a super attack when pressed simultaneously that can only be used in limited spurts. Despite a total of five different moves, this part of the game is decisively average, lacking the depth of games designed specifically as brawlers.

multiplayer

N/A

overall

Buena Vista does a remarkable job in setting the difficulty level at a place in which older players like myself are not turned off, while still making sure the experience isn’t so hard as to alienate the younger demographic it outwardly targets. What’s more, the title generally supercedes all expectations by giving the gamer a healthy dose (15 levels!) of entertainment that harkens back to the most pleasant times of the sixteen-bit era. As I said in the opening text, I have not seen Home On The Range -- though now my motivation to do so has certainly been heightened -- a testament to the general quality of the software.

Based on this title, Brett’s impressions of Kim Possible 2, and all the other software they had on display at E3, Buena Vista Interactive has seemingly matured from one of the ubiquitous license-milkers to a new force in the second dimension. With that said, I personally can’t wait to see how they recreate Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas when the title releases this autumn.

Parents, do your kid a favor and buy them Home On The Range. I swear they’ll enjoy it, as to may you yourself if you give the game a chance.

final score 6.9/10





WRITER INFORMATION
Staff Avatar William Jacques
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"Oh oblivious, naïve Humanity... How ignorant we really are - safe only in our blind "superior" view of the world."


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