I didn’t want to go into this one cold so I hit up Wikipedia for the requisite background info on the Nickelodeon franchise called The Wild Thornberrys. It seems that they’re a family of nature videographers who make the rounds in the African wilderness. Somewhere along the line, the cartoon was deemed successful enough to warrant a feature-length film on the subject matter. Based on my reading of the Wikipedia synopsis, The Wild Thornberrys Movie video game works to follow the plot of the movie more or less faithfully.
I thought that this was just going to be a series of disconnected minigames. In fact, there are 3 distinct types of activities present: minigames (7), multiplayer games (3), and the main story game. The minigames include a jigsaw puzzle, a painting activity, and a sliding tile puzzle (nooooooooo!). There is the enjoyable and eye-pleasing Swimming with the Dolphins minigame seen above, where you compete against the computer-controlled dolphins to dodge sharks and collect starfish. But there is also the baffling strategy card game called Feed The Animals:
The goal of Feeding the Animals is to feed said animals before the poachers do. I’m not sure if I see the logic in that. But I understand that the poachers are supposed to be the antagonists in this tale. I came to my own conclusion, however, that any animal dumb enough to be snared by these tactless poachers probably deserves to be turned into a trinket. You know, Darwinism and all (in fact, a supporting primate character is named Darwin). To illustrate what I mean, the first challenge presented to you when playing in story mode is to save the cheetah cubs from the poachers– the poachers who are trying to swoop down using a helicopter in order to swipe the young cats.
But then the main character, Eliza, gets carried away by the helicopter and must be rescued in a separate game. Eventually, Eliza winds up in a private British school along with her monkey and endeavors to escape. This is the section that put an end to my adventures, though I gave it a good shot. The first phase of the school game has Eliza wandering throughout her mostly vacant school dodging the occasional guard and trying to find Darwin the monkey. I actually had to draw a logical map on paper to keep this part straight since everywhere looks pretty similar; mercifully, the developers threw in numbers on the hallways and doors. The guards in this stage are beyond stupid– they pace back and forth in a straight line and only “catch” you if you happen to be standing directly in their line of pacing. Then you get sent back to the start of the level.
Things get tougher when you find the monkey and try to escape via the garden maze where the guards are a tad more diligent. This part is segmented into several areas that must be unlocked with gate keys. The most humorous aspect is that the guards exercise strict jurisdiction over their segment and will not cross outside of their boundaries. I eventually developed some strategies, like trying to get all the guards to follow me in a strict procession as I searched for the area key, which changes position each time. The aptly-named Darwin monkey would get stuck sometimes but not to worry– he couldn’t be captured and would eventually catch up.
I couldn’t get past the segment where I had to hop on a bicycle and hightail it out. It’s not easy to pilot the bike and I never got much opportunity to practice before getting caught and sent back to the start of the stage.
Through it all, I have to give this 2002 title proper credit– it’s very well engineered, very colorful, very well-animated, and reasonably fun. In fact, I may even revisit it someday to play through to the end, since I didn’t even get through half the levels of the story mode.