Review by WishingTikal

Reviewed: 08/06/03 | Updated: 10/22/05

'Plunge into an enchanted adventure beneath the waves.' Indeed.

I remember this game was one of my favorites on Genesis when I was young. There weren't a lot of games where you could spend the whole game underwater, except for Ecco, so it was a nice change of pace. I still think this game is one of Genesis' finest Disney-based games (the finest one being the superb Pocahontas game -- notice how both feature female protagonists). Try it for yourself and you'll see.

The story is as simple as it can get: rescue the merpeople who have been turned into polyps by Ursula. You can play the game controlling either Ariel or Triton, as the character you won't choose will be captured by Ursula. Depending on which character you choose, you will get different powers, although the adventure stays the same.

The game features 4 levels before you reach Ursula, but they're quite long, as this game is not a side-scrolling platformer, like you could be inclined to think. It's more of an adventure-type game, where you need to explore a large area similar to a maze, in search of the polyps and other things you can pick up along the way. To complete a level, you'll need to find and free all the polyps, then face a boss. Since the levels are designed like mazes, it's a bit hard to navigate through, but you can use the map at any time to check your current location and the emplacements of the polyps.

Thankfully, the game goes a lot further than this. Ariel and Triton both have two types of attacks they can use to get rid of the enemies, and also, they can call up Sebastian and Flounder to help them throughout the adventure. You can also find keys to open up treasure chests, and of course, a lot of diamonds and different types of treasures, which can be used as money to buy keys, health and more attack powers through Scuttle's shop, located in one spot in the level (which you can locate using the map). Occasionally, you'll bump into locked gates or will need to clear an area of enemies and treasure, so that's when you'll need to call Flounder or Sebastian for help, each having a specific different ability.

The way the game is designed may seem a bit simplistic, but it's actually a lot of fun, probably because of the maze layout of the levels. Unfortunately, the game suffers from a few problems, notably the length and the controls. If you've played Ecco, then it controls about the same, in the sense that you swim to move around, but somehow, I always have a lot of trouble turning around or changing direction in the Little Mermaid. It also happens often that I mix up the buttons and end up wasting attack powers or the Flounder/Sebastian abilities, which is quite frustrating. You can play the game on three different difficulties, but even the Easy mode isn't that easy, although it can be completed under only 1 hour.

The underwater environments are graphically of a good caliber, with plenty of nice little details like seaweeds, corals, seashells, sea stars and everything else you normally would find underwater. The blue background could have been a bit more fledged out though. The bosses are quite impressive, although few in numbers. The music themes are great, especially the main theme on the title screen, but the levels' music could have been a bit more worked on. It does go well with the underwater aspect though.

Overall, the Little Mermaid is a fun and entertaining game that you should try if you have the chance, it's not just for kids. Graphics and sounds aren't the best around, but the gameplay sure makes up for it, despite the short length. I just wish there were a few more levels. I'll just go with what the back of the box says about the game: Plunge into an enchanted adventure beneath the waves. Can't be represented better than this.

Gameplay 8/10
Graphics 8/10
Music 7/10
Overall 8/10

Rating: 8

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