George of the Jungle can't be too pleased with the creators of this DS platformer. George, of course, is the comedy Tarzan from a last century cartoon who hangs around in the stifling hot jungle in a leopardskin off-the-shoulder number – it's all he needs to keep the wind out.
So we can only imagine his dismay at finding the inclusion of an ice level half-way through the game, a move that exposes the shortcomings of the game and presumably shrinks George's to the size of cashew nuts.
Fifteen years ago ice levels were the staple inclusion of every 2D platformer and were noted for sparkling ice textures and the fact that the inertia-modelled characters didn't stop immediately. Instead, they slid for a few virtual feet which meant ice levels were often the hardest to complete. So commonplace were they that they became a platforming cliché and a sign of lazy design. That perception still exists today which makes the appearance of an ice level in George of the Jungle not only surprising considering the game's title, but also sums up what's wrong with the game – namely that its ideas are incredibly old and tired.
It's not that we're anti all 2D platforming. In fact, when it's done well it's perfect for handheld gaming. But when it's done in the way George of the Jungle demonstrates, it's perfect for no-one.
Our first issue is with the movement of George, who walks incredibly slowly – almost as though his toe hairs were tied together. Perhaps this is a trick to make the levels seem larger but all it does is force you to hop around the environment just to get some speed up.
This might have been okay if the jump function wasn't so explosive in its nature. It's like George is jet-powered on his way up and then snapped backed down to the ground as if attached to a bungee rope. Speaking of ropes, George seems to move in instalments when clinging on to a vine, making what could have a been a key feature for the action look cheap and sluggish.
The next problem we have is with the actual objectives of the levels, which consist purely of item collecting. There are no devious puzzles and no need for exploration; just the need to make sure you double jump into every corner to make you've picked up all 50 hawk eggs. There's not even fun to be squeezed from killing jungle terrors as all you do is perform the standard platforming head-bounce to end their miserable existence.
Lastly, there's the disparity in the degree of danger that in-level hazards provide, which makes the game frustratingly inconsistent in terms of difficulty. Stray into a trap, get clobbered by a monkey or fall on some thorns and you'll lose a tiny bit of health. Fall into some water or from a fair height and it spells immediate death that requires you to start the level again. From the very beginning. The very beginning! What this means in practice is that you can burn through most of the level without any real need for self preservation but then get the severest punishment from a threat that's often actually positioned off-screen.
Mercifully there are some breaks from the platforming in the form of mini-games that attempt to make some use of the DS's dual displays and touch control. Most enjoyable are the scrolling shoot-'em-up sections, although these are too fleeting and easy.
Others, including feeding a lion fruit and keeping bees away by chucking honey at them (wouldn't that just attract them more?), are mostly memorable by remaining consistent with the rest of the game's disappointing presentation.
George of the Jungle is obviously aimed a younger gamers but, as ever, that's no excuse for creating an inferior product that swings from unfairly hard to far too easy, or fails to capture any of the charm of the cartoon it's based upon. Frustratingly, this just ends up joining a list of licensed products that desperately hope to sell on the strength of the name rather than quality of the experience. But then they do say it's a jungle out there.