Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
Little Mermaid stars Ariel, of the Little Mermaid Disney cartoon fame. Closely converted from the Megadrive.
Guide Ariel or Triton around the scrolling maze levels, freeing spellbound mermaids and defeating Ursula's wicked minions.
Once upon a time, there was a fishy princess called Ariel who was so beautiful she had the run of the reef. Her father, King Triton, was besotted with her, and planned to marry her off to some rich fish or other. But an old arch-enemy had different plans. Ursula, a hideous octopus-like witch with an attitude, was throwing the undersea kingdom into turmoil by turning all the pretty mermaids into shrivelled plankton.
Knowing they might be next, Triton and his daughter set out to free the mermaids from their spell, and confront the cunning calamari in her lair. Their magic, and their marine pals come in handy.
The Little Mermaid has four levels, each with its own guardian at the end. The reef is a tight maze of rocky inlets, with eels jumping out to grab you unawares. The monster here is a gloomy Rock Troll. Next is the remains of a sunken ship. The ghostly remains of the sailors patrol the galleys. Deadly sharks swim around inside the hull. After that, Ariel discovers the lost temples of Atlantis, where bizarre floating archers and discus-chucking statues are her main problems. The final level is a trip through the volcanic caves, where touching the walls is enough to fry you.
All across the deep are chests, that probably fell off the back of a galleon years ago. All it takes to break into these treasures is one of the many keys found in the reef's nooks. Chests often contain money, lives or energy.
Either Triton or Ariel (depending on who you pick) are able to swim around the various reefs and sunken wrecks without breathing. Control is dead easy — just push in the direction you want to go. Both characters have a magical power which repels the underwater villains. Triton throws sparks from his trident, whereas Ariel has neat little circlets of stars. The effect is the same, and the characters have no other differences, apart from the obvious physical ones, that is!
Ariel has three pals to rely on, when the task in hand becomes too much for her. She calls them by holding button two and moving the joypad. Each direction releases a different creature. Sebastian the Crab scares any offensive creatures from the area. The Digger Fish's talents are used on the sea bottom — he scours the sandy surface for hidden treasure. Finally, Flounder is her youthful pal who is able to shift the heavy rocks that Ariel cannot pass. But the mermaid only has a limited number of these creatures, as they float away after completing their job.
Each level is spread over many screens, so getting lost isn't too difficult. Luckily, a map is at hand. Pause the game then press button two to bring up a sonar map where you are marked as a red spot, captives as green spots, and the level boss as an unmistakable red cross.
The Little Mermaid worked well as a film, but doesn't really cut it as a game. Basically, there's not enough to be done, with only four empty levels to float through. It's a sort of cut down Ecco, but the cuts have come in the playability and challenge departments. The control is also annoyingly sluggish, coupled with jerky scrolling. The graphics are quite nice in places, but that's no reason to pick up a Game Gear effort which should last a day tops.
With Ecco the Dolphin, Sega proved that an underwater game can work incredibly well — unfortunately, The Little Mermaid doesn't. Even allowing for the fact that it's aimed at younger players, a game that can be finished in 20 minutes flat has got to be a waste of dosh. Although graphically it's okay, the gameplay's samey and tedious with little challenge involved. A mentally detfective sheep might gain a modicum of enjoyment out of this but anyone else keep away!
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