Friday, April 22, 2011

Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion

Cartoon Network has long been my favorite cable TV station. Back in the days when it used to play a nonstop parade of my favorite Hanna-Barbera cartoons up until the past couple of years, when the last of their good shows (with the exception Ben 10, which starts good each season) died.

Seriously, I thought it was Ben 10.

What kid wouldn't like a full hour of Flintstones Kids followed by Speed Racer? I know I certainly did, especially with a pinch of Captain Planet and a dab of Poke'mon here and there for good measure. Cartoon Network was an orgasmic explosion of all your favorite shows, your mom's favorite shows, and a bunch of shows you'd never even heard of (but would undoubtedly be somebody's favorite shows) all rolled onto one little channel.

Except Super Friends. Nobody liked Super Friends.

 Naturally with all of this awesomeness hanging out in one place, it wasn't a surprise when Cartoon Network began producing their own poorly drawn adventures lovingly dubbed "Cartoon Cartoons." This elite set of toons included iconic titles such as Dexter's Laboratory, Johnny Bravo, and the Powerpuff Girls as well as some not-so iconic series like Cow and Chicken. All of these cartoons were created in an effort to compete with the much more accessible cartoon and children's station: Nickelodeon.

So naturally when Nick began spinning off into the world of videogames, Cartoon Network was close to follow. With their interpretations of Nick's games. Most notable was their answer to Nicktoons Racing, which wasn't really a goldmine of a game.

Yet somehow, they made it worse.

Poor Cartoon Network was forever doomed to follow in the gaming footsteps of their longtime rival. Usually it seemed that Cartoon Network would only produce a game to counter something Nickelodeon had released six months earlier, although I was a little baffled that they never came up with a response to Nicktoons Unite! Which was itself some kind of weird, twisted version of X-Men Legends.

So it seemed that Nickelodeon was in the business of ripping off other games, and Cartoon Network was in the business of ripping off Nickelodeon. Which is why it was surprising when I heard about Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion. I'd always thought that Nick would be the first to step into Nintendo's domain. So much so that I made a roster a few years back. It even included Drake and Josh, and some weird way to tell Megan apart from Carly. Why? Because Miranda Cosgrove is totally within my age bracket.

Naturally, my first response to hearing about classic Cartoon Network (my apologies, "CN") characters being represented on consoles was some kind of joyous "hoot-ha" and a dreadful gurgle in my stomach that I won't reproduce textually for the sake of those who are squeamish. Initially I thought this was going to be some kind of console version of Fusion Fall, which I honestly wouldn't mind.

Looks good to me.

Nope! What's actually happening is a Cartoon Cartoon invasion of Super Smash Bros.! This is either going to be a terrible joke at the expense of older fans, or the greatest thing since... Super Smash Bros.. The game's roster, which has already been revealed, definitely seems to be catering to the older fans of these shows. Especially since it doesn't seem to be concerned with any of the new crap Cartoon Network finds amusing.

Characters like Dexter, Samurai Jack, and Blossom, being the figureheads of their shows, make up the bulk of the roster. However, other characters are not only visible, but playable, that only fans of a specific show would recognize. Monkey, the superpowered monkey from Dexter's Laboratory, is one of these characters (and I'm happy as hell that he's there.) The most recent show being represented is Ben 10: Alien Force with that series' interpretation of both Ben and Vilgax. Though I think Ben can go Ultimate, so it might actually be based off the Ultimate Alein series instead. Not quite sure on that one. It's basically the same anyways.

So at first I was totally stoked. Smash Bros. and Kids Next Door under one roof. What could possibly go wrong? Besides including Flapjack? Unfortunately, after this initial explosion of... need I say it? Glorious bliss, I decided to watch a couple of gameplay videos and bring myself back down to Earth.

                               Meh...                                                                                    Oh, dear lord...

 It's better again.

So as you can see, I'm not at all sure what to make of this game. It seems to be using the percentage weight system invented by Super Smash Bros., so that's a plus. On the other hand, everyone seems to be really... bulgy and floaty. And soft. None of the motions seem to have any weight to them, and the hit boxes look extremely off. The running animations also look... well... weird...

Despite the praise I had given the roster earlier, it is missing quite a few key characters. Namely the Eds. Absolutely none of them seem to be there. At all. Not even as assist characters (although Johnny Bravo made this list... unfortunately he isn't playable.) The only Kids Next Door operative happens to be the most boring, and while Father isn't the worst villain to pick, he looks like Mr. Game & Watch on fire. Or crack. Take your pick. Flaming crack?

Courage and Megas not being visible isn't my only gripe. What's the deal with the stages? Most of them look like really straight forward, platformless space. It's like every stage is some kind of small, lifeless Final Destination. That's a huge "no-no" in a game like this, and I'm hoping this is just because we've only been shown a small number of play areas.

The videos we've seen so far are from the 3DS version, which launches next month. Supposedly the game will be released on consoles later this year, with about ten more playable characters, so hopefully some of the deserving creatures who didn't make this cut will at least be an assist in the next release. I'm also hoping they iron out some of the fluffy physics going on before then, because I really want to like this game. Right now, it doesn't look like I can, but I really, really want to.

Welp, here's to hoping a media game actually turns out good.

One that isn't based off a comic book...

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