Ariel's Story Studio is The Little Mermaid animated storybook in everything but name. It closely follows the plot of the 1989 movie much like the other titles in that franchise - still the most popular posts on my site. But there's something about this title that I don't find quite as endearing as the others.
Released in time for Christmas in 1997, around the same time as the classic movie's reissue, it somehow feels rushed. The quality of the animations aren't as high as previous titles. Sometimes they look fine enough, but too often there's a weird stretching in their facial features that makes me wonder if their mother was also their sister. Perhaps that's the reason why no-one has a mother in this fable!
The smaller animated objects strewn around each page gives the impression that little thought went into their placement. This is most evidence in the 'Part of Your World' page where Ariel is looking at the gadgets and gizmos of her collection haphazardly strewn around her grotto. The games (if you can call them that) and sing-along segments are not found in a static border, but 'hidden' on the page. Find the oyster to sing a related song and a starfish (Patrick, is that you?) to play a game. That's all well and good, but it only adds to the clutter onscreen. What they lead you to isn't the greatest either.
Firstly, the songs are not the same as the movie. They are midi versions with lyrics re-recorded with mostly the original voice cast. The mini-games are also something of a disappointment in that they are not games at all. Finding the starfish will transport to one of three simple creation utilities. The first is a grotto which plays like a virtual fishtank. The problem is you can only use the plants so many times and the ones that do more than wave in the tide will always fall to the bottom of the screen. Some on the fish that swim by may give your 3-year-old a giggle, but there's ultimately not much to it.
The second creation tool is an audio mixer. A song will play and you can select one of four different accompaniments while playing a fish piano with your keyboard's number keys. There's more here than necessary but it still comes across as surprisingly bland. I found it nigh on impossible to get anything sounding good, and I'm pretty sure my tone-deaf ears are not the cause. Lastly, there's the best of the bunch - a create your own storybook tool. It seems to be a very simplified development kit for the main game but with limitations on what you can place on the page. Most of the items and backgrounds found in the main game can be placed on the page although few have any animation and those that do are very limited. You can even add audio from a selection sounds, music and voice clips. There are extra 'stickers' to find and collect in the main game by hunting down the paper-filled cork bottles which is a welcome extra incentive to click on everything.
Perhaps it's the focus on creation tools that's the reason why this version felt off to me, and why it left Animated Storybook off the title. The main game was perhaps compromised a little to make way for these extra but result is that it just feels rushed and incomplete. Perhaps it was pushed out to be a cross-marketing tool for the movie's re-release (a deadline it missed by a month I might add). That being said, I'm sure the littlest mermaids in your lives will love every moment.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox running Microsoft Windows 3.1 to get the game working on modern systems. Tested on Windows 10.
File Size: 311 Mb. Install Size: 682 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
Disney's The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Story Studio is © Disney InteractiveReview, Cover Design and Installer created by me