Glancing at the cover art for
The Emperor’s New Groove — Groove Center, one would expect this new software title to offer snappy dialogue, mystical challenges and lots of adventure. Not having viewed the companion major motion picture release, Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove, I had only an inkling to the fantasy storyline. But The Emperor’s New Groove software and the motion picture have little in common.
Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove animated film features the talent of David Spade as an arrogant young emperor named Kuzco who is transformed into a llama by his sinister, diva-like advisor with a flare for mixing potions named Yzma (voiced by Eartha Kitt). Kuzco is befriended by a kind-hearted peasant named Pacha (voiced by John Goodman) who travels with him to regain his throne before Yzma can finish him off — while also teaching him to see the world differently.
This Junior Game title, designed for ages four to eight, offers three multi-level activities and a creative activity with only the characters from the film to hint to you anything about the film’s original storyline. In other words, this software title does little to interest players in the film.
After signing in, all of the games can be reached from the main navigation screen — lorded over by Yzma who explains how to access each of the activities.
Your older kids may enjoy the Kroc Krusher game, which features Kuzco hanging by a cord from a broken rope bridge above a river filled with crocodiles. You use the left and right arrow keys to change the direction that Kuzco is swinging in. By pressing the spacebar, you can make Kuzco spit at a bridge plank to make it drop towards the crocodiles. As Kuzco’s rope swings, the rope stretches lower. Levels two and three allow for a faster-paced game by making Kuzco spit on the bat. You can increase your game time by making Kuzco spit on the condor to shorten his rope. Younger children may find this game too frustrating, especially while trying to swing-position Kuzco well enough to drop the planks into the mouths of crocodiles.
Yzmania is an arcade-styled puzzle game that can be a lot of fun for older kids. You once again help Kuzco, who’s trapped on top of a zuggurat as Yzma’s soldiers are marching up the ramps toward him. The top platform features color-coded animals (blue, green, gold and pink) which can be matched to soldiers of the same color marching along the same side of the platform. You use the mouse to aim and shoot at the soldiers, transforming them into animals. But you need to prevent too many soldiers to reach the top of the ziggurat — if one soldier of each color reaches the top platform then Yzma wins. You can earn a partial victory if a soldier or two reach the top, but the only way to totally defeat Yzma is to avoid allowing any soldiers to the top. The two higher levels can be especially tricky for younger players, since soldiers can pop out of trap doors hidden along the platforms and the game runs a pretty fast pace.
Kornotopia is a strategy game where you help a small village grow the crops they need to survive. Your goal is to help Pacha to hoe, plant, water and harvest crops in order to meet the needs of the empire’s harvest. You click and drag each tool over to Pacha and then click on him to release it. The tools include a hoe, bags of seeds, a watering bag and a harvesting basket. To grow the crops, a series of actions need to be performed using the tools in order to till, seed, water and harvest the crops.
Each crop requires a particular number of waterings to ripen, such as one watering for beans and four waterings for pumpkins. After each basket has been filled with a harvested crop, you need to click on the cart to have it counted towards the village’s farming quota. The two higher levels increase the intensity of the game by adding natural disasters to the equation, like rain storms, locust infestations, snow storms and tornadoes. You’ll get a sense of the mechanics behind farming through this simple crop-growing simulation game, and it’s well suited for younger and older kids as well as their parents. By completing the emperor’s harvest order before disaster strikes, you win the game.
In Loomation, you’ll create an animated tapestry, alive with backgrounds, characters, dialogue and props. You help Kronk, Yzma’s burly sidekick, express himself through art. The loom offers six panels to be filled in various combinations — each adding to a frame in an animation. You can click and drag the characters, props, backgrounds and dialogue into each frame. Individual items can be easily rearranged by clicking on them and moving them, or removed by dragging them into the trash.
Once a Loomation has been completed, you can click on the Projector to watch the panels animate in Loomavision. You can also click on the Messenger icon to send information about a Loomation to a friend via e-mail — recipients get an e-mail with a URL to Disney’s Web site, where the Loomation is viewable as a Shockwave animation. Another creative Loomation option is to print out a full-size or individual-frame flipbook (card stock paper is recommended for this project).
Loomation can be a lot of fun to work with, but the activity turns terribly frustrating when its online component kicks in. You can download new art from Disney Interactive’s Web site by taking your cumulative scores from Kroc Krusher, Kornotopia and Yzmania to an online Marketplace to barter with Kronk. The Marketplace can be reached by clicking on the Marketplace icon on Yzma’s map, but if you don’t already have a live connection running before operating the Groove Center, you’ll have to quit out of the game, get a connection and relaunch the game before accessing the Marketplace. If your computer is functioning with anything slower than a 56K dialup connection, then your children will be sure to grow frustrated while waiting for the appropriate add-on files to download. And worst, if you install the software without the Internet capability option selected, then decide later you want to access this feature, you’ll need to uninstall the whole program and reinstall it again with the Internet option selected.
After playing this activity center, you’ll be wondering where the “groove” went. Although the Loomation creativity area can be fun, there are certainly other creativity software programs supporting similar feature sets while also offering more art tools and open-ended options. The games featured on Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove — Groove Center don’t pack much punch when compared to other full-feature arcade-styled and strategy games that may already be in your home. So, unless you really enjoyed the imagery of the characters from the feature film, then you’re wasting your time with this title.
Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove — Groove Center is available now at major software retailers at the suggested retail price of $29.99.
System requirements include: Mac OS 8.5 through 9.x; G3 processor, 233 MHz or faster; 32 MB RAM; 100 MB free hard disk space; 8x speed CD-ROM drive; and thousands or millions of colors video display.