Last time I found myself watching Cartoon Network it was full of greats like Dexter, Johnny Bravo and the Powerpuff Girls. Everything has changed since then though. The latest game to spawn from the extremely popular kid’s television channel, Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers, features a whole host of the modern day characters in a side-scrolling brawler. Can the new crop of stars pack a big enough punch to succeed, or will it just be a quick cash cow to milk fans of the current programming?
Before laying my hands on this game I had very little knowledge of these so called Cartoon Network ‘stars’. Naturally, I spent some time getting to know who Uncle Grandpa, Steven Universe and co. were. And it is a good job I did, because the story itself is pretty bare.
Basically, Uncle Grandpa falls asleep at the wheel – don’t try that at home – and somehow accidentally switches gears in his camper van, which sends him hurtling through dimensions and ripping holes in them. These dimensions belong to Steven Universe, Gumball, Clarence, Mordecai and Rigby, and Finn and Jake. There’s a really quick cutscene to portray this occurring and then you won’t see another to further the story until the very end. It seems as though the rip within the universes has brought some baddies along for the ride – not that any of that is conveyed properly.
Spread out across six different cartoon worlds, there are three levels within each – one of which is a boss stage. As a side-scrolling brawler, there is an awful lot of mindless button bashing; especially due to only having a single attack and one super attack per character. You’ll generally be following the pattern of moving forwards, stopping to battle any and all enemies whom appear, and then when they’ve all been defeated you move on again until the end of the level is reached.
All six characters can be chosen at any time and swapped in and out mid-level – which is very handy once you figure out that Clarence is a waste of space, with weak soda-based attacks, as is Uncle Grandpa, whilst Finn and Jake can hammer attack their way to glory. By using each character, they’ll earn XP for every shard collected and levelling up unlocks the super attack and a third ability that usually offers an evasive technique. After that, it’ll slightly upgrade strength, defence or speed for each level rank-up. Although all the attacks are varied for each character, they don’t half get boring after a few minutes of use. Even the ‘phone-a-friend’ style ultimate attack, which can only be called in by acquiring a phone pick-up, gets monotonous after a single use.
The enemies are nothing special, with just a handful of different beings to overcome such as a giant puffer fish and strange shard-like creatures. Occasionally there will be alternative versions with shields, being on fire, or just emitting a green stinky gas, but on the whole they become same real quick. Bosses come in the forms of giant junkyard garbage monsters, a ground-pounding chip packet and death himself, all of which certainly stand out with their own predictable manoeuvres to ensure players can await the ideal time to strike.
When all is said and done, there is a little bit of replayability to be had in the four different difficulty settings. Normal gives a decent amount of health and attack power, whereas Fantasy constantly regenerates the health constantly, making it nigh-on impossible to fail. Inferno constantly attacks your character with a blazing fire depleting health at all times, whilst Hardcore means if one hit is taken then that character is gone. The latter I couldn’t imagine any child finding enjoyable; it’s hellish, even though it lets you take over a different character after death.
A lot was made pre-release about how certain characters will need to be used to overcome certain enemies. Honestly, I could’ve quite easily spammed Steven Universe’s main attack and reached the end without breaking a sweat, or feeling like other characters could’ve handled it better.
For a multi-dimensional adventure, Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers is a rather one-dimensional affair. The combat is easy enough for all to pick up, however it becomes repetitive very quickly. The ability to use each of the characters at will is a welcome one, as is the local co-op option for up to four players to get in on the unfortunately inane action. Considering it’s a licensed game, it could’ve done with some voiceovers and additional cutscenes to bring the humour, charm and entertainment found in the shows being represented.
Although there are a few hours of gameplay to be had, Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers becomes a lacklustre chore and struggles with a hit and miss cast of playable characters. It may be cheap, but its simplicity all round – not just in the gameplay – is the main downfall; there are a whole host of better, more entertaining and engaging games for your kids (and those big kids) to play.