the writings of a mind

Title: Treasure Planet Battle at Procyon
Genre: RTS
Strap: Could the Disney merchandising machine have accidentily made something worthwhile?

Children, as weíve often noted before, are very capable games players. Itís rather embarrassing that its really only the PC market that still patronizes younger players with an attitude of fobbing them off with "childrenís games", as if fewer years under your hat are in some way going to limit your ability to hit a mouse button at high speed. Thankfully, this time Disney seem to have noticed.

Treasure Planet breaks the rules of Disney games by remarkably not being a platform game. Itís not even a racing game. It is in fact a space combat strategy game. Yegads. Playing the part of the movie hero, some years after the end of the film, your character is taking the last few tests of his training. This cleverly lets the game tutor you through the first couple of levels, before throwing you out into the murky depths of pirate infested, er, no water.

Space, despite its pointing in all directions ways, does seem to always be presented in a rather planar way in the media. When did you ever see a ship arrive to attack the Enterprise at right angles from above? And the boaty-floaty world of Treasure Planet is equally flat. Your customisable ship bobs gently along on the same layer of nothing as everything else, making things decidedly more simple than the terrifyingly three dimensional world of grown up space combat.

Missions range from basic hunt-and-destroy-the-pirates affairs, through to escorting important vessels through dangerous regions, and investigating bizarre happenings. Iíve spent the afternoon seeking out missing ships that were thrown off course by a rogue storm, each of them in a different predicament. And thatís the key Ė Iíve spent the afternoon doing it. The average kidís movie spin-off doesnít normally warrant much more than a couple of hourís play before either boredom takes over your body like a lethargic brain-sucking alien, or youíve finished it.

But best of all, itís not stupidly easy Ė itís actually reasonably challenging. While the controls are a very stripped down version of the norm, they are not reduced to childish button pushing. Instead, details such as selecting crews, choosing weapons, and tactical management of your fleet are all present, and all surprisingly involving.

Aimed at eight year olds and up, for once this hits its pre-teen audience square in the hull. The effort has gone in on the story, the graphics are beautiful, and the learning curve is balanced extremely well. And itís got pirates.

 Definitely aimed at the pre-teens, all of the yo ho, but with none of the rum.


Tech Specs:

Publisher: Disney
Developer: Barking Dog Studios
Price: £20