Tip-toe quietly towards better kid games.Review by Jonathan Metts
Disneyâ€™s Hide & Sneak, the newest Mickey Mouse showcase from Capcom, is intended only for kids, just like last yearâ€™s Magical Mirror. Perhaps you have a child, or a younger sibling, who loves Mickey Mouse. Hereâ€™s a tip: get them Magical Quest on GBA instead.
Hide & Sneak tells the story of Mickey or Minnie (whichever you choose) tracking down the other mouse, who has been kidnapped by an alien being called Lulu. The alien turns out to be benevolent, but it still dumps a bunch of mini-Lulus all over the place to get in your way. The mice eventually help Lulu call home in a scene ripped straight out of E.T. The story has less development than even your average Mickey Mouse short, although it is told through a few nice cut-scenes.
Capcomâ€™s choices of gameplay for Mickeyâ€™s GameCube titles have been inexplicable so far. Whereas Magical Mirror used an obtuse point-and-click adventure frame, Hide & Sneak is â€“you guessed itâ€“ a stealth-action game. The concept doesnâ€™t mesh at all with this franchise, and itâ€™s executed very poorly at that. Most of the features that make stealth games fun to play, like a radar, non-linear gameplay, noise suppression, etc., are either missing or half-heartedly implemented in Hide & Sneak. Thereâ€™s certainly some logic in making a kidâ€™s game simple, but the fact is that stealth gameplay is inherently complex. When you strip out all the extra moves and attentive enemies, sneaking around just becomes very slow and boring.
The game is divided into only three environments, none of which are very large. Each one contains perhaps a dozen rooms that you must sneak through, collecting a few items along the way. The controls are pretty weird; any action, such as jumping or climbing, is initiated through a sort of visual menu. When you press A, time slows down and the screen fades to black and white. Then you use the control stick to select a nearby object, if there are any eligible ones close enough, and press A again to perform the action. If you select a box, youâ€™ll jump up on it. Select a table and youâ€™ll crawl under it. Select a barrel and youâ€™ll jump into it. Itâ€™s a pretty strange interface, and since you have to go through this process every time you want to perform such a simple action as jumping, it really bogs down the gameâ€™s pace. The enemies are all smaller variants of Lulu, and they have different levels of attentiveness, along with different types of attacks. Generally speaking, you canâ€™t attack enemies at all, but avoiding their attacks is as easy as jumping on a crate or into a barrel. The level design does a pretty good job of taking advantage of the different enemy patrol patterns, and sometimes it takes a minute or two to find the right path.
Occasionally, Mickey or Minnie will be able to do a special trick. These moves are pre-scripted and only available in very specific locations in the game. Each one sets off an extended real-time cinema that shows your character doing some crazy jumping around, sometimes to reach a new area and sometimes to kill a set of enemies. In yet another weird twist, these cut-scenes rely heavily upon animations and camera techniques from The Matrix. Itâ€™s baffling, but undeniably funny to see Mickey Mouse run up a wall, jump off into a somersault, and land behind an enemy as it smashes into the wall. Mickey and Minnie have different versions of these sequences, which is the only reason to play through with both characters. Performing the special tricks uses up your star meter, which otherwise serves no purpose. There are plenty of star containers and power-ups to refill the meter, so running low on star power is never a problem.
Other than the extremely short game length, the worst thing about Hide & Sneak is its camera. Unlike many 3D games, this one doesnâ€™t have a problem with the camera spinning out of control or getting stuck on walls. The problem is that it is zoomed in way too far, so you can only see a few virtual feet on any side. The C-stick can be used to slightly pan around, and in fact itâ€™s practically required that you do so, but even this bandage canâ€™t fix the awful perspective. The most common cause of death is running into an enemy you couldnâ€™t see, simply because it was off the screen. The bad guys can see you just fine though. The result is an inordinate amount of deaths and frustration in a game that was clearly not intended to be very challenging for an adult gamer. I canâ€™t imagine how the target audience would react.
With its plodding gameplay and bizarre design flaws, Disneyâ€™s Hide & Sneak is more of a chore to play than an entertaining game. Kids are probably going to look at this game and ask the obvious: â€śWhy doesnâ€™t Mickey just jump over the enemies, or throw some stars or something?â€ť The stealth gameplay just isnâ€™t justified in any way, and attempting to simplify it for a young audience has instead left it limp and dull. Then thereâ€™s the fact that you can beat the whole game in about two hours. Some kids may have simple tastes, but that doesnâ€™t mean they arenâ€™t skilled gamers. There are much better childrenâ€™s titles available on GameCube, including Capcomâ€™s own Gotcha Force, also being released this holiday season.Pros:
- Cute story
- Great character models
- Funny cinema scenes, Matrix-style
- Boring, stilted stealth gameplay
- Sluggish and frankly weird control interface
- Camera doesnâ€™t let you see anything.
Environments are colorful but simple, with only three different environments. The shadowing is actually quite impressive, as are the models of Mickey and Minnie. Cut-scenes are well done, with strange tributes to Neo and Trinity evident in the special animations.Sound: 6.0
The character voices are right on the money, still completely recognizable after half a century. Otherwise, there isnâ€™t much going on. The music is very repetitive, with only one or two tracks for each of the three sections of the game.Control: 4.0
Mickey and Minnie move very slowly and usually donâ€™t require any quick response. Jumping around on boxes, a common way to get across the room, is agonizingly tedious. The slow-motion trick interface works fine, other than making no sense at all. It does seem like the game would be more playable with a dedicated jump button. Finally, the camera is pulled in so close that you canâ€™t see squat, which is crippling in a gameplay style that revolves around you being aware of your surroundings.Gameplay: 3.0
Ask a kid what kind of games he or she likes to play. â€śSlow and frustratingâ€ť probably isnâ€™t the answer youâ€™ll receive. Hide & Sneak is mind-boggling in design, and itâ€™s not much fun, either. The scarce puzzles are designed well for the young audience, but otherwise, neither kids nor their parents are going to get much excitement out of this one.Lastability: 3.0
With about thirty rooms in all, and some of those being very short and simple, there just isnâ€™t much meat to Hide & Sneak. You could play through as both characters to see the clever special tricks, but otherwise itâ€™s the same game with either Mickey or Minnie. The only special feature is a library of the in-game movies, which is handy for revisiting the story without having to trudge through the game again.Final Score (Not an average): 4.0
Disneyâ€™s Hide & Sneak is definitely not recommended for teenagers and up, and it canâ€™t really be justified as a good kidâ€™s game either. If you already own a GameCube, there are dozens of E-rated titles that are so much more fun to play. Could be worth renting if your child loves Mickey and wants to see the story, but the game is way too short and shallow to be worth purchasing.