Hare Raising Havoc. (Evaluation)
by Alfred C. Giovetti
Remember what it was like to go to the movies to see a Disney feature-length animated film, such as Snow White, Pinocchio, or Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Disney's new computer game, Hare Raising Havoc, may be too short to merit comparison to a feature film, but the Disney style and quality are there. It may be trite to say so, but a great computer game requires the same attention to detail needed with a movie production.
Sam Palahnuk assembled a team who worked on the game for almost two years. Charles Fleischer and other voice talents from the cartoons re-created the voices that were digitized for the game from a script written especially for the production. It really sounds like Roger Rabbit when he reminds you, "I had better get moving," as you race to beat the clock. A movie sound-effects company digitized more than 240 effects, so when Roger gets hit on the head with an ironing board, it's a totally different sound from when he breaks dishes. The soundtrack of opening, ending, and transition music was composed and arranged by a movie composer and digitized from a sound-studio performance, so the game sounds like a Maroon Cartoon. Stings--short music pieces designed to evoke emotion--have been digitized to punctuate the action. The 1MB+ audio portion of the game is remarkably effective.
Animation is what Disney does best. The Hare Raising Havoc animation started at the Disney storyboard with pencil drawings. The pencil drawings were expanded to detailed action drawings, which were approved by the animation department before being digitized into computer graphics. Video footage from Who Framed Roger Rabbit was captured, modified, and digitized for the animation sequences, such as Roger's authentic and goofy 16-stage walk cycle. The animated characters were then layered over detailed, realistic, and believable backgrounds as in all Disney animated features. The drawings and backgrounds were painted with a computer paint program. The result is some of the best computer animation seen in a game of this type. Remarkably, the action is smooth and runs surprisingly fast on a slow 386 machine.
Beyond the dazzle and glitz of Hollywood and Disney animation technology, the Disney design team had to tackle a new area of interactive silicon-based entertainment. Hare Raising Havoc is accurately described by Palahnuk as a "puzzle and arcade game." As a game, it differs significantly from the other animation-based productions, such as the Dynamix adventure game Willy Beamish. Roger's puzzles are obscure, at best, and their solution requires imagination and the ability to think like a "toon." Roger must be squashed, pounded, tripped, and burned to complete the episode, all as a race against the ever-moving hands of the clock. The seeming lack of time is corrected by repeating certain actions that earn Roger extra time. The solution to the Roger game is a difficult sequence of arcade events which, when combined with the lack of a save-game feature, leave no margin for error. Many will find this game too frustrating, but its visual and audio features will keep others coming back for more.
In spite of the short length, lack of locations to explore, and difficult and obscure puzzles, Hare Raising Havoc emerges as a landmark in the production of computer games. The animation, detailed backgrounds, wonderful music, elaborate sound effects, and voice track make me hope that producer Palahnuk will bring Roger back for a longer and more involved romp in a sequel to this excellent game.