Have You Played… The Lion King?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

My four year old daughter is obsessed with The Lion King of late, which should be an enormous relief given we had to struggle through 18 months of her only being interested in the most cloyingly pink princess horror prior to that. I though it would be an entirely wise idea to show her the old DOS Lion King game (developed by Command & Conquer creators Westwood, no less), which I had fuzzy but fond memories of. A significant mistake.

We grafted hard back in 1994, didn’t we? The leaps, strides and compromises made in order to make a 2017 game accessible and non-frustrating were broadly a long way off back when Virgin Interactive adapted Disney’s Hamlet-inspired tale of the Savannah. Oof. This ain’t 90s Nintendo, either.

Hakuna Matata, what a wonderful phrase. It means jump and fail for the rest of your days.

Limited lives and precision leaps are a tricky grind if you’re playing this for yourself, but try playing it for the entertainment of a four-year-old impatient to see the next section. “But why do you keep dying, Daddy?” “If you got off my lap and stopped waving your hands in front of the screen then maybe I wouldn’t, little one.” “But why?”

Like the not-quite-so-brutal Aladdin, the art and animation is lovely to this day, though. The pixels are huge, sure, but it looks absolutely like The Lion King, no squinting required. An early level also recreates the musical number I Just Can’t Wait To Be King, complete with pinging off giraffes’ heads, bouncing off rhinos’ bums and and swinging from monkeys’ tails. In other words, little Connie adores the sight of it. What a shame it’s killing me to play it.

How about completing the circle of life by releasing an HD remake with double-size health bars and three times as many lives, eh Disney?

Failing that, The Lion King is available via GOG these days.

35 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Arnvidr says:

    I have indeed played it, and I remember it being very hard for young me. I never got more than halfway through it back in the day, and I’m not prepared to pay what they’re asking for it to try again.

    Still have fond memories of it though.

  2. tbs says:

    If you’re a fan, you should watch this Dev’s Play. They touch upon some of the differences between the SNES and Sega versions, as well as why some levels were ridiculously difficult.

    Personally, I was more partial towards Aladdin.

    • Premium User Badge

      wonderingmonster says:

      Ooh, nice! Thanks for the link!

    • thenevernow says:

      Nice link and I got lucky speeding through it, so…

      Spoiler alert:

      the game is hard because Disney thought rentals cannibalized sales if the player got too far in the game.

  3. MrPete says:

    Oh how I remember that.
    Back in the days when I had neither access to many PC games nor a PC that could play most games that I saw in magazines or on display machines.
    And one of these was where I played this, much to the chagrin of the employees…
    I played until I was either asked to leave, lost interest or my feet started to ache due to standing in front of a line of PCs that should show how good they were by playing fancy games. Most often it was the first…

  4. Didero says:

    I remember playing this game as a kid. Even then it was very difficult. I’m pretty sure every time me or my brothers played it we used cheatcodes, otherwise we just couldn’t get very far.
    Plus our version seemed to have a bug at the end of the “Can’t Wait To Be King” level where you couldn’t make the final jump to the level exit, so we needed a cheatcode to get past that too. Come to think of it, maybe that was copy protection? I don’t know how we even got the game, but there’s a good chance it wasn’t store-bought.
    Still, I’ve got fond memories of playing it.

  5. Merus says:

    Releasing the game with more lives won’t solve the problem with The Lion King, which is that the Can’t Wait to be King level is broken; it’s possible to get past it, but it’s not just you, Alec.

    The problem with going back to those balls-hard games from our youth is that we discover that they were hard because the developers didn’t playtest them properly. Battletoads is a well-known example. There was a Spider-Man game for the Amiga that I had, where you played as Spider-Man trying to track down Mysterio (there was a secret moving platform that let you skip to the outside of the final room, with no way in to fight Mysterio). It was all one big map, and you moved from room to room trying to find passages to new areas and avoiding the traps Mysterio had placed, but I never could get past the sewers, which had slippery walls and tight jumps.

    I ended up looking it up about a year ago, and found a Long Play of it – that ended in the sewers. Apparently, it’s not actually possible to complete the game.

    • CartonofMilk says:

      also some games in those days were tough because they were adaptations of arcade games, which were meant to kill you often so youd spend all your money in the machine, that once ported to home systems somehow removed the unlimited continues option.

      And i mean i get also that to add lasting value to games that would take at best 40 mins to finish on a perfect run you needed to ramp up the difficulty a bit so people wouldn’t be done with your game after a day (or one rental) but there has never been a ridiculously hard 8/16 bits game that has made it in my favorites list ever and id’ suspect it’s the case for most people. In fact i can think of specific games about which i’d say “yeah it COULD have been great but it was way too hard.” There IS however on my list some probably too easy games. Between too hard and too easy, i’ll always take the latter.

  6. CacarotV says:

    No No No No No. Never release this game again. I still have to beat the first damned game. Stupid animals, handing my ass to me so many times over. Every time I load this up I smile and laugh nostalgically; cut forward 10 minutes and it’s uninstalled.

    I’ll tell you what’s a motto with me. Old school difficulty curves, I can’t help but love them.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    Games from this era were good for teaching kids the concepts of futility and helplessness.

  8. Merry says:

    Aladdin was better

    I have serious guilt about recommending The Lion King to my then six year old. She wanted to spend her birthday money and had asked me what game she would like. I had bought Aladdin for her bigger sister, and that was a hit

    She couldn’t get past the first level

    I am forever the worst parent

  9. Rince says:

    And to think that people says that the Dark Souls game are hard.
    This one. This one is madness.

  10. Butler says:

    I remember playing the first level. Lots.

  11. Fersken says:

    A quick google didn’t turn up any trainers, but there are cheats for this game I think. Maybe those could help?

  12. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    I loved this game though I faintly recall using a trainer cheat that gave you infinite lives when I played it (or maybe I stopped using that, can’t remember). Either way it was still really difficult but I did eventually complete the game and toss Scar off a cliff.

  13. chrisol says:

    OK – you need a better strategy !

    I’d suggest finding a complete playthrough on youtube and with 4 year old in attendance (shock) pretend to be playing through the game by vigorously tapping the keys, or shaking the controller and taking some sharp intakes of breath from time to time.

    Job done, game seen, move-along-nothing-else-to-see-here…

  14. K_Sezegedin says:

    Was the super NES version easier? I rented this and finished it in a weekend, thought nothing of it save the cool animation.

  15. Vandelay says:

    I did play this… I don’t remember it being hard… I had it on the Master System, so no idea if that version was any different, but a glance at the levels and I definitely played the penultimate level, if not the last. I guess I just had an abundance of patience.

    The Can’t Wait To be King level was glorious though. So much colour and the use of all the animals throughout really captured the film.

  16. Bent Wooden Spoon says:

    Well, looks like we’ve lived in the age of pointless “Achievements” and corporate nickel-and-diming for so long that even old timers have forgotten that back in the Good Old Days, when my lawn was free of kids, games came with cheats you didn’t need to pay for:

    link to gamefaqs.com

  17. carewolf says:

    Wasn’t this a free game made for PR?

    Anyway, I remember playing it a lot. And it was incredible frustrating to die in the final battle with Scar.

    I also recall adult Simba being kind of sluggish compared to young Simba.

  18. Someoldguy says:

    Never played this one, but I have to admit that I’ve been hard pressed to bite back expletives galore trying to achieve 100% completion on some of the LEGO games recently. Yesterday’s example: trying to get up to the top of Orthanc (must have taken 20 tries) and later trying to knock over a series of orc-head posts in a very tight time frame. The changing slope of the hillside combined with the bizarre camera angles the game kept giving me made the latter so much harder than it should have been. I enjoy the hidden secret elements of the LEGO games a lot, but I could do without the controller precision required on the hardest challenges.

    It rather neatly adds another answer to the recent RPS article ‘Why do we spend time playing games we don’t like?’ – because our child is insisting that we try just one more time to get past some infuriating challenge. One they’ll probably lose interest in minutes after you finally manage to achieve it.

  19. Det. Bullock says:

    Never beaten it, I don’t remember if at least I got to the last level or not, my brother sure did though.
    I was incredibly crap at these platformers however, and it was all we had for our Mega Drive at the time.

  20. General Ludd says:

    I failed to complete this so many times. If I got past the stampede I failed on the damn waterfall. Never won once.

  21. Jalan says:

    The stampede escape was something that I grew to loathe more in the game than I did the actual film. I was in my mid-to-late teens before I managed to successfully navigate it without losing a single life. I kept thinking to myself at the time “this has to be the hardest part of the game… everything else must be a breeze by comparison”, but how utterly wrong I was.

    It is a surprisingly well made game for its time, but it is such a misfire in terms of the obvious target audience that would’ve been playing it.

  22. geldonyetich says:

    It would be illogical for me to say The Lion King could possibly be singlehandedly responsible for making me want nothing to do with platformers.

    I am, however, thinking it.

  23. dahools says:

    Alec or anyone else, got any recommendations for games to play with your four year old daughter on your lap. (Or rather mine?)

    I usually give her an old PS3 pad while I am behind with the steam controller actually controlling. Broken age is OK so far but I am getting frustrated when I cant solve the puzzle and we cant progress the story quick enough, (searched a long time looking for what turned out to be a f*cking peach needed to proceed!)

    She likes Stardew Valley and is getting better, however hasn’t quite got the dexterity on the pad to do it on her own. She can’t quite line up the watering can to the crops yet. So I end up taking over as she loses interest.

    I am certainly open to ideas, bought Castle of Illusion before it went off sale for good (as she loves mickey/minnie) but like in the article above after about half way the Platform/jumping difficulty spike just ruined it for both of us.

    • Angel Dust says:

      Minecraft is an obvious one and once my 4 year old had those controls down she started firing up things like The Witness or The Talos Principle. She wasn’t solving any puzzles of course but has lots of fun just walking around and interacting with things.

  24. skyturnedred says:

    I still have PTSD.

  25. kud13 says:

    Only one of those Disney tie-ins I’ve ever played was the Chip and Dale one. I suspect it was a shareware version, but I remember being very proud when I finally mastered those 9 levels (3 sets of 3 nearly identical, gradually more complex challenges). And then endlessly confused when I had no idea how to make more of the game happen.

    Mind, I was like 8 and my English was at a “Grade 2 as a foreign language” level.

  26. BlueB says:

    This is in fact the first video game I remember ever playing. I must have been around 5 years old. Never got far – couldn’t make those damn jumps!

  27. Spacewalk says:

    I beat this game but that was back when I could beat a lot of games.

  28. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    It must have been easier on consoletoys, because I remember beating it in 2 or 3 weeks, just like every other platformer. You were not supposed to beat those in one sitting, that would be terrible value.

  29. Cropduster says:

    I remember my next door neighbor had it, and could beat it fairly comftably without much hassle, I could never get past the waterfall on the Hakuna Matata level, and just rembering that now brings back rage.

    It was definitely one of the better movie tie in games though, and they way that Lion Child went from babby to grown up at a certain level, complete with new attack move, seemed amazing at the time.

  30. UW says:

    I don’t remember this game being that hard.. I used to beat it in one sitting pretty regularly. Maybe just because I played it so much. I had on Mega Drive rather than PC though.

  31. nullward says:

    You know, if you play it on a SNES/SEGA emulator, you get near instant state save & restore features… just flicker back in time a few seconds and try that jump again, Simba!