Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 02/14/02 | Genre: Platform
Over the years, I've seen many great movies and have played many great games. Very rarely does a good movie translate into a good game (and vice versa). Regardless, Disney continues to pump out games based on its full-length animated films. Their latest movie-to-game release is Return to Never Land, an action/adventure with just as much depth as the movie it's based on. (Incase you haven't seen the movie, let me make myself clear: that was not a compliment.) Return to Never Land isn't horrible, but it falls short of being the incredible game it could [should] have been.
Judging by ticket sales of the movie, most gamers will not be interested in Return to Never Land simply because it's based on a movie. However, I do think that the unique play mechanics will attract some gamers who normally wouldn't be interested in anything Peter Pan-related. I say this because I don't like Peter Pan, but I did enjoy playing some of Return to Never Land.
To my surprise, Peter Pan's flying abilities have been translated pretty well into this 2D game. Flying is fun and extremely easy to do. Hold down the X button to go up and release it go down. Once you've acquired the knife, press the square button to attack. Other buttons are used, but square and X are the ones you'll be pressing the most.
Return to Never Land doesn't have much of a story, and CG movies look terrible. Fortunately, the in-game graphics are comparable to other PSone titles, giving your eyes a decent amount of candy. There is very little pixelation, and the character model of Peter Pan looks great. Who says the PSone is dead? It's still a viable platform if you ask me. I want most of the big games to be developed for PlayStation 2, but I don't want developers to abandon the PSone. Despite the fact that it has been out for more than seven years, it managed to outsell the Xbox in Japan this past week. Sometimes the tried-and-true truly is the best.
The major problem with this game is that it is clearly intended for young children. Young children as in a 4-year-old who has never played a video game before. Case in point: the second stage on Mermaid Lagoon is features the simplest task that you will ever have to complete in a video game. You play as Tinkerbell in this stage, who is on a mission to clear a path for Peter Pan. Big Pete can't progress any further because there are several large boulders blocking his path. Luckily, Tinkerbell is quite small, so she is able to sneak through the cracks and make it across. As the player, it's your job to guide Tink through the treacherous level of boredom. To beat the stage, all you have to do is hold down the X button to fly, and release it whenever you approach the rocky ceiling. Tinkerbell automatically moves forward throughout the ENTIRE level. She can't touch anything, she can't collect any items and she can't battle any enemies (there aren't any to fight, so it doesn't really matter). In other, she's pretty useless. The stage is over in less than 60 seconds. I don't know why that some game developers think little kids need/want video games that are easy to beat. Kids have never wanted easy games! They want the same fun, exciting and challenging games that teens and adults buy (and no, I'm not just referring to the M and T-rated ones). With that said, Return to Never Land is fun, but there isn't much to it. If the first Mario game had been this easy, I may never have fallen in love with video games. A game is only as good as its challenge. Don't believe me? Then maybe you've never played ICO or Grand Theft Auto 3.
While I wouldn't recommend Return to Never Land as a purchase, if you have a young child who is new to the world of gaming, I suggest that you rent it from Blockbuster. If your son beats it as quickly as I anticipate, then you'll know you made the right decision. If not, then you can still go to your local electronics store and buy it for him (assuming he wants it).