Will Belle fall in love with Beast before the petals fall from his rose? Will Beast be able to find Belle and defend himself from her killer snowballs? Does Beast even know how to leave his castle?
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Many Disney properties have been adapted into NES games, with Capcom getting The Little Mermaid and all the TV shows, and Virgin producing The Lion King, Aladdin and The Jungle Book. All of these, however well the products themselves turned out, had enough action and set pieces to make for enjoyable games. Beauty and the Beast, though, is not one of them. It’s a fairy tale about morality, love and excitement, without a wacky sidekick or a magic carpet race to keep things ‘radical’ for the kids. With this in mind, even though there shouldn’t be such a thing as poor source material for a game, Beauty and the Beast makes for pretty poor source material for a game. Imagine if they made NES games based on Caddyshack, Citizen Kane, 2001 or Platoon!
Probe Entertainment’s vision for Beauty and the Beast turns it into a standard platformer, using settings and running themes in the game’s design. The wilting rose becomes a time limit, the books score extra points, the castle is the first level and so on. Almost all of the levels are non-linear and require a lot of exploration to get to the end, and along the way, adversaries like bats, spiders, malevolent statues, wolves and fire-spewing candles await. Besides this, the main enemy in the game is getting lost in it’s multi-storey mazes and being forced to backtrack, as the levels, from beginning to end, are full of spiked pits, dead ends and leap-of-faith jumps. This can get annoying, but at least the Beast is good at his job. His upper-cut kills most enemies in one hit, even if they happen to be several pixels away from his fist, and he can move fast and jump long distances and up to high ledges, if one could forgive the obnoxious delay upon jumping, landing and turning. When that’s not enough, he can climb up walls and hang on the edge of platforms, and if it’s unclear where to go, he can look up and down using the D-pad to find any safe platforms or hazards. When there’s this many abilities on a character, the gameplay could become deeper and more varied, but unfortunately most of the game is spent running all around the level, punching infrequent enemies and jumping over spikes and annoying hazards.