Disney Villains’ Revenge: A most fractured fairy tale

A quick note about reviews on this blog: While I have done professional game reviews for years, I don’t want to approach reviews on games here in the same fashion, so this will be something I develop and process and hopefully have fine-tuned if/when I ever get around to having my own site.

I may not finish a game, I might play it on the easiest setting, I might come up with a scoring system later, but right now there isn’t one. Just my thoughts on a game and how far I made it before giving up if I didn’t finish it.

So with that in mind, this is my first retro review on this blog, the 1999 PC release Disney Villains’ Revenge. Now, what does that title evoke to you? It certainly sounds like a game where the villains turn the tables in their favor and possibly win the day. Well, that’s half true, and therein dear reader lies the first of many problems with this point-and-click adventure game.

And just to clarify, I love a good point-and-click adventure game, I grew up on a lot of the Sierra classics (and a few others) and wasn’t expecting more than a fun story with some fun twists on classic Disney films and some simple interactivity that was light and breezy. Even on the easiest setting, that is not at all what I got.

The basic premise of Disney Villains’ Revenge is that for some reason Jiminy Cricket is telling you classic Disney stories from a book, but the happy endings get ripped out. Why? Because Jiminy is tired of telling the exact same story over and over again in the same manner. Does this mean you can give Snow White Peter Pan’s ending? Nope despite his supposed boredom Jiminy still wants the same endings, so why did he even do this?

The spirits of several Disney villains (Captain Hook, The Evil Queen, The Queen of Hearts, the Ringmaster from Dumbo) take over the book because sure, why not. What do they do with the happy endings torn out? Create their own? Get vicious revenge on the heroes? Well… kind of??? It’s more like they slightly alter things so that the end is more likely to turn out in their favor, but it’s in incredibly dumb ways (i.e. Hook turns Peter into an old man a has a sword duel with him). Your job is to help set things right and restore the proper ending, which includes things like making Snow White’s Prince Charming out of magic potions and beating hook yourself in a sword fight.

I get that hey this is an official Disney game, and they probably felt that you can’t have the villains win the day, especially 20 years ago. But they still could’ve gone a lot further and had a lot more fun with the concept of the villains having a little more control over how their story turns out, even if you fix it in the end. Each “story” is just one scenario you fix, and all are pretty short (yet manage to be incredibly tedious in some cases).

To reiterate, Disney Villains’ revenge is a point and click adventure game. I’ve played tons of those, and wasn’t expecting this to be on par with the classics, but was taken aback by just how insanely tedious some of it is. This is even ignoring the fact that I played this through a DOS emulator and while it worked fine a good percentage of the time, there are times it was very unresponsive or straight up crashed.

The best parts are the Dumbo & Peter Pan ones merely because they are pretty short (I think I finished the Dumbo one in just a few minutes), not because they are particularly good. The Snow White one, where you have to mix several potions to mix another is not only incredibly tedious, you definitely would have to write down the recipes on a piece of paper to keep them straight (luckily in 2020 I can just take pictures with my phone for reference).

The worst offender by far is the Alice in Wonderland one though, Alice has actually lost her head (dark, but she’s still perfectly alive somehow) and you have to find it in the forest maze, then follow the white rabbit to escape it, all the while clicking on smoke things and Chesire cat faces that get in your way and escaping guards while painting rose bushes. This sequence is surprisingly long, which in turn makes it incredibly tedious, and if you fail you have to start from the beginning. Take a wild guess whether or not I bothered to finish this sequence…

To add to the mediocre gameplay, Jiminy is your constant companion and repeats canned phrases ad nauseam until you want to burn him alive. Speaking of Jiminy, he’s the only well-animated part of this game, everything else looks pretty terrible, even by 1999 standards. The music is pretty ok but a feature of 90s Disney games was usually that even if they were bad, they usually emulated the music of whatever they were based on pretty well, that is not the case here.

In the end, Disney Villains’ Revenge takes what is on its face a promising concept and does just about everything you can to mess it up. It’s not imaginative, the gameplay is terribly tedious, and it looks bad to boot. I would love to see a modern take on this idea in a Disney where they are more willing to explore villains with current movies like Descendants, Maleficent, Cruella, etc. But even for the much less experimental Disney of the 90s, this is a poor effort. If you have any nostalgia for this game, leave it in the past where it belongs.

That’s it for this week, will certainly be back next weekend with another column, see ya real soon!

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All about Disney games, past present and future. Mix of reviews, opinion pieces and anything else that fits here.