Raising a Gamer

Ariel the Little Mermaid (Genesis)

It’s that time again. The time that we all sit down for another edition of Raising A Gamer. As interesting as it might be to see my 4 year old’s take on a classic beat em up or shooter, we are in for…you guessed it, another Disney related movie game! Hey, I said I would let her pick the games so this should have been expected. Now don’t get discouraged yet because on the surface this game looks reminiscent of another very enjoyable Genesis title.

We recently went to a flea market in hopes of finding a few classics to play together. Some great games were passed up in hopes of finding even bigger scores at other booths. I eventually learned that this is a terrible strategy and ended up leaving empty handed. Not being one to make empty video game promises, I decided to stop by our local game shop to see what we could find. Hidden among random sports games we found Animaniacs and Ariel The Little Mermaid (oh, and NBA Jam for me). I was sure to snag all three after a friendly conversation with Michelle at Game Attic about how Animaniacs  is essentially a kid-friendly Golden Axe clone.

All her video game purchases for the day!All her video game purchases for the day!

I realized that Mae has never seen the Animaniacs cartoon(which I plan on rectifying immediately), so we decided to give Ariel The Little Mermaid a try first. For the first 2-3 minutes the game reminded me of Ecco The Dolphin, which had to be one of my favorite games for the Genesis growing up. As soon as we really got into it I immediately threw my comparisons to Ecco out the window as this game is pretty rough around the edges and it would be video game heresy to compare the two.

In The Little Mermaid you can play as either Ariel or her father, King Triton which is a nice touch for a father/daughter gaming duo such as ourselves. The game requires you to swim around and rescue merpeople while avoiding random sea-life. The story is lackluster so to keep things entertaining, we made up our own scenarios as we went along. Mae would play for a bit as Ariel and then pass the controller to me. Of course, I switched to King Triton and swam about shooting lightning bolts at clams….evil clams mind you, hellbent on destruction of course.

By the power of Greyskull!   ...wait that's not right.By the power of Greyskull! …wait that’s not right.

Controlling the character seems to have been an afterthought when developing The Little Mermaid. You can swim in all directions which makes for an interesting concept and, when pulled off correctly, *cough* Ecco The Dolphin *cough* a very memorable game; however, The Little Mermaid was not able to pull off such a feat. The controls are bad, so much so that I was constantly having to help my daughter navigate through narrow tunnels just to progress to the next area. Considering how difficult it is just to move from point A to point B, attacking is almost impossible. Both playable characters have a melee and a ranged attack but the enemies often move out of the way by the time you have lined up a shot. We both found it much easier to simply try avoiding the eels and crabs rather than facing them head on. What makes things worse is that some enemies take multiple hits to deter and will chase you for a time before they lose interest. Outrunning enemies in this game is difficult due to the clunky controls and confusing terrain, but still easier than facing them head on.

As with most things commissioned by Disney, the visuals are top notch. The sprites are colorful and detailed, I enjoy the way Triton’s beard and Ariel’s hair float up and down to simulate the underwater effect and Mae really seemed to like the attack animations. The levels are attractive and there is a large variety of enemies to encounter. The music also hits the nail on the head and helps to keep the little one enthused about a game with poor controls and a non-existent story. Although Mae has a deep love for all things Little Mermaid, this game just wasn’t able to hold our attention for very long. If the game had better controls, I think we would have had a much more enjoyable time. Ariel The Little Mermaid may be better suited to slightly older and more coordinated players. Oh well, at least we can add it to our ever growing retro game collection. Maybe we will find a new console at the flea market next time, I want to see if Mae would want to try any of the N64 games I liked as a kid.


This game sails off into the distance. Hopefully, never to return!This game sails off into the distance. Hopefully, never to return!