Disney's Chip 'n Dale
Review written April, 2006
Saying a videogame is good for very young children but not adults is tantamount to saying a game is bad. Children have no standards, no discriminating taste, poor reasoning faculties, too narrow a base of experience on which to base judgments, and they have not pondered over any theories of aesthetics. Perhaps, their thoughts unclouded by such intellectual concerns, they might be honest about what they like at the direct gut level, but such opinions are fickle and informed merely by whimsy and are thus meaningless. And children are doomed to eventually become adults, and then even the appeal of things that amused them before may be lost with their childhood.
If something for children is to be any good, it must be able to grow with them. Indeed, works such as the movie The Wizard of Oz or the game Super Mario Bros. 3 are loved by children and adults alike. They, however, were not made exclusively for children. Their creators put all their talent towards making them as good as possible; they neither compromised nor condescended. The Wizard of Oz explores themes of fantasy, desires and expectations contrasted with reality; and does so with wit and satire. Super Mario Bros. 3 is challenging and overflowing with ideas and imagination. Children who experienced those works might only have cared that they were fun, but those deeper qualities were always there, waiting for their audiences to be able to appreciate them.
Disney's Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers has no deeper qualities. It barely has more substance than Super Mario Land. It is insultingly easy, so much so that almost anyone would be able to beat it, upon trying it for their very first time, in not much more than an hour.
Rescue Rangers uses a "grab and throw" play mechanic, similar to that in Super Mario Bros. 2, also an easy game, but one whose easiness seemed less a consequence of blatant pandering and more of not applying its ideas to their best effect. Rescue Rangers has no ideas to apply. Its stages have a minimum level of perfunctory, uninteresting obstacles, but are predominately flat, simple, and dull.
The game's heroes' (chipmunks) natural helplessness when confronted with larger predators might be reflected in their need to be armed to defend themselves, but the interruption of grabbing an item to deal with each enemy gives the game an irregular rhythm, lacking in momentum. An additional technique, hiding in a crate, which renders the hero immobile but virtually invulnerable, improves neither the game's difficulty nor its pacing. Alternatively, some speed may be restored by running through levels, ignoring rather than defeating enemies. Many stages are deliberately constructed with multiple floors through a screen so a path around enemies may be found.
Rescue Rangers is based on a cartoon of the same name, which I watched as a child. After the intervening years, however, I had remembered little from it, other than a few plots. I'm not even sure why I patronized the show when I was younger (and recently viewing it again supplied no answer), but the likely reason is simply that it was entertainment that was available. Since then, I have learned calculus, studied quantum mechanics, read Ulysses, and watched 2001: A Space Odyssey. That any of those things offer more profound pleasures than Rescue Rangers (in either incarnation) is no great mystery. I have also since played R-Type and Vagrant Story, works that demonstrate that great sophistication and artistry has been achieved by videogames. Mature individuals hold such sophistication as an ideal in their entertainment, and while they may feel no shame in occasionally relaxing with less demanding fare, they still demand some degree of stimulation even in recreation. Rescue Rangers is intentionally devoid of anything that might stimulate, lest it frustrate thereby.
Children might not have developed taste, but they do have strong imaginations. Perhaps that allows their minds, when confronted by a game like Rescue Rangers, to embellish details that give a quality beyond what exists in the objective game. When I was a child, I could run through the woods, and pretend I was in the army, or a robot, or an adventurer, or whatever. I had fun then, but if someone of my current age enjoyed that, I'd think he was simple minded. If I tried it again now, I'd feel embarrassed. That's how I felt playing Rescue Rangers.