Bless our souls, Herc was on a roll during the ’90s. He had a blockbuster hit film and his game at the same time received plenty of praise for its excellent graphics. However, now that time has passed, the hero’s history on the PS1 and PC is rockier than other Disney titles of its time. We’re searching for the best movie game, and unfortunately, Disney’s Hercules misses the mark. He is now certainly defeated but he’s still the nicest guy.
Disney’s Hercules Action Game is a 2D platformer/runner hybrid that was released in 1997 by Eurocom, Virgin Interactive, and Disney. Like the Disney games before it like Aladdin and The Lion King, it takes into account the animation style of Hercules and brings it into game form beautifully. The ornate Greek style still remains present within the game itself, and it has a ton of personality from its enemy design. It’s also neat that the game plays with a mix of 2D and 3D. For example, during the tutorial level, Phil has Hercules striking dummies on a rotating wheel with his sword. You see the dummies move into a closer focus as they spin around The fight with the hydra is especially cool It’s a cool effect that 2D platformers even today don’t do and should include.
hero to zero
However, Disney’s Hercules Action Game suffers from its 2.5D perspective as well. Sometimes it’s difficult to know where to go, and the trees in the foreground can block your vision. There is a forest level early in the game that relies on you move between different lanes of perspective, but the game doesn’t make it clear when you can shift lanes, leading to much tedium. While that’s going on, you’re pursued by birds that can sometimes be hidden behind trees, making them difficult to take out.
The game can also be a little frustrating from its level design. Like the classic NES days, Disney’s Hercules Action Game can be very cryptic as to how to progress. In the training level, you have to throw a boulder into the foreground where some dummies stand. After looking up a YouTube video, I finally figured out what to do as I presumed that the boulders were set dressing and not the main thing to do previously. There is a boss based on the buff centaur we see early in the film, and he’s very tough to beat. It’s not because of some excellent game design like FromSoftware’s Souls series. No, it’s because of the awkward controls.
Proceeding further, the terrible platforming is floaty, imprecise, and can lead to frustration down the line. Thankfully, the challenge isn’t too high when it comes from moving from place to place, but at a few moments, it can make you rage with blue envy like Hades in the film. We also found that the combat was challenging to deal with. With every encounter, you’re likely to trade blows with enemies before slaying them and with just three or four lives, it can be intense. It’s especially bad when you arrive in the town of Thebes. All manner of objects and people are running into you, creating a stress-inducing level. Thank goodness for passcodes (we’ll get to that later).
The other side of Disney’s Hercules Action Game is the running segments, likely inspired by the Crash Bandicoot series. Rather than running towards the screen, however, Hercules is hurling himself into the fray with his back facing towards you. This is when it gets absolutely bonkers. Unlike the floaty platforming, Herc is actually responsive to control. His jumps are quite precise and you can quicken or slow him down by going up or down on the analog stick. The unfortunate thing is that these levels are very messy.
The game fills the screen will all manner of obstacles that it’s nigh impossible to avoid them all. In the Cyclops Attacks level, you are trying to escape Thebes while the monster throws all manner of rocks and structures towards you. Meanwhile, the crowd is running towards you in a wide area. Also, there’s a horse carriage that crosses the street and walls that block your way on the left and the right. It’s chaos and once again with very few lives, you’ll often have to go back to the password screen to proceed.
Meg, get on with it
Fitting with the Greek theme, Disney’s Hercules Action Game‘s password system is set up by rotating pottery and once put in correctly, they’ll take you back where you were in the game rather than starting at the very beginning. Somehow, Eurocom made this element of the game frustrating too. Meg arduously says the same line over and over again, “So you have a password for me, or have you stopped by to say hi?” The sass she says is fitting with the character as you wait on the password screen, but at the same time, she has to slowly move from one pot to the other. When you want to get back to the action quickly, it’s annoying to be on the password screen for a few minutes. And you’ll be doing this a lot if you play this game. It doesn’t help that Meg’s words are being upstaged by the loud music either.
One of Hercules’ few saving graces in his game is the excellent soundtrack. Heavily inspired by the movie’s OST, it brings back familiar songs into the levels themselves. For movie licensed games, this is surprisingly unheard of. I love the twists they add to the themes we know and love into the game’s action-packed levels. The MIDI’s also sound decent for the time. I also love the old school FMV clips from the movie in the game. There’s even a custom animation of Hades that says game over to you. If I was a kid playing this game back in the day, I’d be frightened.
If you want to play Disney’s Hercules Action Game on PC, there’s a Steam version. However, if you want to play with a controller, make sure you open up Steam Big Picture and find a user-created controller configuration for the game. Strangely, it is set to the keyboard, which is the strangest way to play a 2D platformer. Keep in mind that the ground pound move is hard to pull off on the PC because of the strange transition between keyboard to controller.
There’s no chance, no way I’ll be playing Disney’s Hercules Action Game anytime soon. Its rocky game design and poor controls let down its awesome 3D effects within a 2D plain. As the game’s graphics and music are so authentic to the original movie, it may appeal to big time fans of Hercules, but as a game, it’s as bad as Hades’ nasty teeth.