As one starts with only Yacko, you eventually reach areas that need to be accessed by other characters. You're probably expecting to be able to swap heroes with a click of one of the shoulder buttons or something, right? Not so! Remember, this is a throwback to the side scrollers of yore, so nothing is so easy. To change characters, you must enter a special door and play a “mini game” called Polka Dottie, which is little more than a droll exercise in mimicking the control movement displayed onscreen. This can also gain you some extra time and the better you do, the more film reels you can earn. Being able to use other characters from the show, like Pinky & the Brain, was nice and all, but I couldn't help but feel as though it were simply tacked on to compensate for the lack of originality and imagination in the game's overall design. For example, Dot can flip grey switches but can't figure out how to flip brown ones. Wait, I need to swap over to the Brain for that? Adding to the pain is the lack of a save feature. While Lights, Camera, Action! isn't very long (each of the three films consists of five scenes), having to use the archaic password system gets annoying quickly.
As I stated earlier, Animaniacs is obviously an attempt to return a simpler style of platformer. The problem is that it succeeds in all the wrong places. I've tried to be very open minded about the re-releases of older games on the GBA, and the system is home to many a 16-bit port; there's no argument there. The thing I found most gratifying about Animaniacs is that it was successful in taking me back to the days when the Genesis and SNES ruled the Earth. I have to admit, it did actually put a smile on my face for an instant there. Sadly, that smile was quickly turned upside down in spectacular fashion once reality set in.
Nostalgia then took a bullet to the head.
Like many cookie cutter licensed platformers of the 90s, Animaniacs looks and sounds great, but comes up short where it matters: gameplay. Trying to navigate stages via the isometric view is a chore, and the GBA's little NES-era D-pad is a constant reminder of why I love my Neo Geo Pocket Color so much (click sticks, Nintendo. Get a clue already!). You'll soon find your hands twisting and turning in ways God never intended, as you fruitlessly attempt to jump from platform to platform. Hitting moving targets is even more difficult and getting your character to face diagonally is more frustrating than challenging.
So what we basically have here is an archaic example of a genre that had become flooded with “me too” releases and uninspired cash-runs. Animaniacs could have been so much more, had the designers actually applied all that has been learned about game design since 1995. Sadly, it's back to the water tower for this one.