Disney’s The Jungle Book is another of Ubi Soft’s ongoing stream of cross-platform character-based titles, though instead of a standard roaming adventure or platformer, we’re being offered a fresh rhythm and dance game. The Jungle Book is being developed on five different platforms: PSOne, PlayStation2, PC, Gamecube and Game Boy Color.
Although The Jungle Book was originally a series of short stories penned by Brit imperialist oddball Rudyard Kipling in the 19th Century, most of us are familiar with the cast of characters from Disney’s movie (now, gasp, 30 years old). And with the funky characters of Baloo and King Louie, the license has coolness about it for every generation. Just about everyone can groove on down to “I Wanna Be Like You” without fear of ridicule.
Catherine Roy begins by explaining the Bare Necessities of the title (tee-hee). “In the game, players are asked to adjust their ears to the tempo of the music and input arrows on the beat in order to make the main character dance,” she explains. “The better a player inputs their moves, the better Mowgli dances. The focus of the game is on the rhythm, and the objective is to get your character to dance well.”
Roy admits that the whole dance-game concept is nothing new, but argues that The Jungle Book does bring a fresh angle to the genre: “The Jungle Book will be one of the first dance games to address the North American and European markets, and will be the first to be made accessible to kids. Our powerup system is something that hasn’t been seen before. It brings something new and original to the genre.”
Players adopt the role of young Mowgli, who swings through nine different environments, all of which will be available in the two-player Versus Mode. This offers players two very distinct play scenarios — Power-Up Confrontation and Dance Marathon. Roy clarifies, “Very different in style, these scenarios will allow players to choose the kind of confrontation they want to have, one where they really interact with one another and try to make each other fall by using powerups, and another where they just compare skill levels. In both scenarios, players will choose their difficulty level, their characters and their environments before competing against one another.”
The Dance Carpet can be used for the Sony consoles, enabling keen butt-shakers to actually dance themselves silly. Roy explains the peripheral: “It’s a controller, but instead of holding it in your hands and pressing the buttons with your fingers, you get to stand on it and press the buttons with your feet. As you input the arrows on the beat with your feet, you’ll actually find yourself dancing pretty soon.”
For those gamers more interested in The Jungle Book story than knocking their friends over on the Dance Carpet, the Story Mode may offer a little light relief. “The story mode is the heart of the game,” Roy enthuses. “This is where players will be able to relive the excitement of the movie and experience the Jungle Book adventure. It can either be played in single-player or in teamplay. The main difference is that in teamplay, players will be able to help each other to reach a common goal, as they can save each other’s mistakes.”
Roy divulged a snippet of information about the programming team that focused specifically on the PlayStation2 version of the game. “Our PlayStation2 engine is a port from our PC engine called Open Space. Nine programmers are dedicated to our PS2 engine under the direction of Nicolas Rioux. Previously he has been lead programmer on Speed Busters (PC) and Technical Manager on Speed Devils (Dreamcast). A lot of attention was put on the animations, as they are part of the heart of the game. We wanted to have the same level of quality that the customers are used to seeing in Disney movies. Twelve animators worked for five months to create all the in-game animations. And another team was in charge of the high-definition kinematics. And thanks to our new 3D engine, we were able to use skin deformation and multi-target morphing in the animations. The particle generator helped us do some cool special effects. You can also see procedural texturing in Baloo’s pond and the waterfall in the last level.”
Expect the Sony versions and Dance Carpet in stores in time for the holiday season. The Gamecube version might be a little farther off, but at least we know Nintendo’s new console will have at least one dance game. Doesn’t that make you feel better?