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Kevin Krock, editor

MousePlanet at E3 Expo 2001 in Los Angeles - Part I

VSDA


The Annual Pilgramage for gamers begins·

MousePlanet Home Theater and Entertainment has focused on theatrical releases before now, but several requests from readers about family oriented games has led us to expand our coverage. The annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 was the perfect opportunity to launch a series of reviews and commentary on family- friendly gaming.

I made my pilgrimage to the holy Mecca of electronic games at the Los Angeles Convention Center for the first time and was impressed by how big this industry really is. To be fair, I am not a big gaming enthusiast. I play some games occasionally, but that is about the extent of it. I was amazed to learn that more money was spent buying video games last year then was spent going the movies!

With Disney's Atlantis just a few weeks away from being released, I decided to head straight for Disney Interactive's booth to see what they had to offer.

The entry to just one of the exhibit halls.
The entry to just one of the exhibit halls.

Atlantis Makes a Splash

The hub of Disney Interactive's booth was Atlantis central. With the release of the latest animated feature film, the obvious focus was synergy. The faux pyramid drew audiences into the under sea location of the movie and set the feel and tempo for the games they were demonstrating.

Atlantis at the heart of Disney's booth.
Atlantis at the heart of Disney's booth.

Claudia Christian, voice of Helga Sinclair in the upcoming Atlantis movie, introduced the movie and the games to the assembled crowd. She took a few minutes to speak with MousePlanet about her experience.


MousePlanet's One-on-One
with Claudia Christian
(Helga Sinclair from Atlantis)
As part of the launch of the Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire games at E3, Claudia Christian made a special appearance. For those unfamiliar with Claudia, she is best known for her work on the TV show Babylon 5, though her career has covered both film and television. She plays the enigmatic Helga Sinclair, second in command of the Atlantis Expedition.

MousePlanet: Is animation a new medium for you?

Claudia: I did some television cartoons a few years back, but this was my first experience with a full length animated film.

MP: What was the most enjoyable part of the process for you? The most challenging?

Claudia: The people were the most enjoyable part. Kirk [Wise] and Gary [Trousdale] were wonderful and everyone else was just great! They made it fun. The most challenging was having to act alone. You are all alone in this studio with no interaction, having to convey everything through your voice. Acting is largely physical but I couldn't use body movement. The only way to convey emotion is through your voice, and that is hard.

MP: You jumped from the movie to the games. What was that like? Were there any differences?

Claudia: Differences? Well, we worked over three years on the movie versus one day on the game. That was the big difference. The hardest part was having to get back into character again - it had been a while. As for the game itself, you have the film CGI and animation compared to the game's VR feel. The worlds look the same yet different at the same time.

MP: Have you played the game yet?

Claudia: I'm not really a gamer. I tried a bit, but couldn't get past the first few yards. It has great visuals and is very addictive.

MP: Would you tackle an animated project again?

Claudia: I think I would. It was a lot of fun and quite a challenge.

Claudia Christian, Kirk Wise, and Gary Trousdale play Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire
LOS ANGELES - May 17, 2001 - Actress Claudia Christian, star of the upcoming film, Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire, along with its directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, participate in the debut of the interactive PC game, Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire - Trial by Fire, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. The new action- adventure title, available now in stores nationwide, parallels the movie and features Christian's voice. (Business Wire photo)

A diverse offering

Disney has chosen to offer a selection of different games, all based around the title Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Three offerings are availble, with different options geared towards either the younger crowd (ages 5 and up) or the teen / adult players.


Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire - The Lost Games

Image © Disney Interactive - Click here to buy from Amazon
Lost Games box art - Click to buy from Amazon
Image © Disney Interactive

The Lost Games title is targeted at kids ages 5 and up, and offers four separate games themed around the movie's story line. It runs on Windows 95 / 98 / ME and Macintosh machines and is available now. The games include:

Submergency Urgency : Navigate a submarine pod through Atlantean waters to find the underground passageway leading to the lost empire. Avoid falling rocks, electric eels and gigantic sea worms. 30 levels of difficulty allow different age levels to enjoy the challenge.

Unroadblock That! : Obstacles are everywhere on the cave floor that leads to the entrance to Atlantis. Selecting from 10 vehicles equipped with a navigation tool to clear the route, players will move forward if the trail is clear, or if the lead vehicle can unblock the path. However, should the lead vehicle not have the equipment to move past the obstacle, the caravan returns to square one. 30 levels of increasing difficulty offer multiple chances to move up the ranks of high scores.

Air Escapade : Players pilot their own Atlantean vehicles to attain the highest score by collecting points through a series of challenges. Complete objectives such as collecting King Stones and towing them to their proper landing pads. Then move to the next difficulty level of 30 challenges until vehicle choices are exhausted. Get to the final challenge and return the mother crystal to the Atlanteans!

Machine Arena : Design a machine and challenge the computer or a friend's creation. When the match starts, out-maneuver opponents and, at the right moment, knock them off their feet or out of the ring!

VSDA
The Machine Arena where you can build your creation.
Image © Disney Interactive

There is also an area where users can browse through images from the movie and either print them or send them to friends. Not necessarily all that exciting, but not a bad touch. We'll see this print/send capability throughout a lot of the PC software titles.


Trial by Fire

Trial by Fire, also a PC / Mac game, takes Disney Interactive in a whole new direction. The first Disney release of a first person shooter game, this darker game better matches the feel and emotions of the movie. The game goes far beyond simple shoot-em up, offering both single and multi- player versions that are entirely different experiences. It is available in stores now.

Image © Disney Interactive - Click here to buy from Amazon
Trial By Fire new box art - Click to buy from Amazon
Image © Disney Interactive

Image © Disney Interactive - Click here to buy from Amazon
Trial By Fire original box art - Click to buy from Amazon
Image © Disney Interactive

My biggest concern with these games was that Disney Interactive would be going down the path of gratuitous blood and gore. (It's especially interesting to note the change in box art shown above.) I was pleased to find that the game, while somewhat violent, treats the violence as secondary to the strategy and game adventure. Someone who is shot does not explode into a pile of blood and goo rendered in horrific glory. I could not in good conscience recommend the game for younger teens, but it should not be offensive for older teens and adult gamers.

Image © Disney Interactive
Trial By Fire opponents
Image © Disney Interactive

The single- player mode follows the story of the film, as gamers join an exploration team to find the lost city of Atlantis. Using the Shepherd's Journal as their guide, players fight off the vicious water-dwelling Leviathan, fire-infested mazes, diabolical traps and formidable denizens of Atlantis, before reaching the outskirts of the city. With their team leader's ambition and greed threatening to destroy the ancient empire, players must stop his escape through a dormant volcano, find and activate the four mystical stones of Atlantis, and save the city from a cataclysmic eruption and certain destruction.

Image © Disney Interactive
Trial By Fire game screen
Image © Disney Interactive

In multi-player mode, up to 12 players per game can battle online as either a male or female Atlantean or Trooper in 10 multi-player games, including Capture the Flag, Racing and Tournament, each of which can be replayed again and again. Players can use multiple Explorer and Atlantean vehicles to get around and protect themselves with eight different tools: The Teslator, Froster, Goozer, Bouncer, Puffer, Zoomer, Spinner and Squincher. The games can be played across a private network as well as the Internet.


The Lost Empire - PlayStation console game

The PlayStation version works on the PS, PS1, and PS2 consoles and will be released in June. The game takes you through several levels as you attempt to uncover Atlantis' secrets. The first task is to recruit several of the experts from the movie. You will switch between these characters throughout the game in order to use the skills they specialize in.

Image © Disney Interactive - Click here to buy from Amazon
Milo jumping over lava in the PS game - Click to buy from Amazon
Image © Disney Interactive

Final Thoughts

Disney has effectively leveraged the Atlantis name to create some pretty impressive games. I think most of my concern about excessive violence in the first player shooter game has been alleviated, though the final judgment is up to you. As far as entertainment value, all three offerings are worth picking up.


In Part II, Iāll provide some background on the ESRB rating system and a a quick primer on game platforms!


Questions or comments? Contact Tony at tony@mouseplanet.com!

Atlantis promotional art © Disney
Atlantis promotional art © Disney

COVERED GAMES

Disney's Atlantis:
The Lost Empire

The Lost Games
Ages
: 5 and up
Available : Now
Platform : Win 95/98/ME, Macintosh

Trial By Fire
Ages
: 12 and up
Available : Now
Platform : Win 95/98/ME, Macintosh

The Lost Empire
Ages
: 12 and up
Available : June
Platform : PlayStation

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