Having kids, I’ve been exposed to thousands of hours of shows, from the very bottom of the barrel (Diana and Roma) all the way to those that sit atop the barrel (Bluey). But I’ve never been exposed to MeteoHeroes, which – as a little bit of research tells me – is a 2020 TV series that originated in Italy. It’s the bright spark of a meteorologist, who had the idea to create a superhero team of kids whose remit is to protect the earth, combat climate change and teach global respect. The resulting show has appeared on Cartoon Network and Boomerang, and parents will be pleased to know that it is the modern equivalent of Captain Planet.
The MeteoHeroes have now reached the level of popularity that unlocks a video-game tie-in. MeteoHeroes Saving Planet Earth (my fingers keep wanting to type Saving Private Ryan, which would be a very different game) is a kid-friendly platformer that lets you play as all six of the gang, jetting across the globe in search of bicycle parks to build, litter to pick up, and rooftop gardens to grow. We throw the same criticism at them as we do Go Jetters: we’re not convinced the globetrotting means they’re carbon-neutral.
Playing MeteoHeroes Saving Private Ryan was an unusual experience for me. In gaming terms, my kids have been weaned on the PAW Patrol platforming games. It’s how both of them started playing on the Xbox, so I’ve been their co-op partners and supervisors for at least a dozen playthroughs of each game. To a slightly lesser degree, the same is true of PJ Masks: Heroes of the Night.
Playing MeteoHeroes was a double-take moment, because it is quite clearly modeled on the PAW Patrol games. To almost the last detail, the structure is the same: these are 2D, side-on levels where you take control of a single pup (sorry, MeteoHero). You’re then jumping around cities on the hunt for coins, stopping only for blockages. Those blockages can be overcome through one of the heroes’ three special abilities. The game asks which of the three abilities might work in the situation – a breeze, a tornado, or help from another hero, for example – all themed around their elemental specialities. Once you reach the middle of the level, you swap to another character, allowing you a taste of two different movesets.
Which is, as any PAW Patrol or PJ Masks fan will tell you, the exact formula that the Outright Games tie-ins adopt. It clearly works, so MeteoHeroes Saving Planet Earth have nabbed it. Whether that’s a problem is down to you, and whether you care. But it’s obvious enough that my eight-year old commented on it. It’s also an odd experience for a parent who finds themselves stuck in the same game all over again. Water torture comes to mind.
There are a few changes, to give it credit. There are enemies in MeteoHeroes Saving Planet Earth, which is new, and they’re dispatched with a phaser blast. This being a kids’ game, the shooting is a little basic and slow, shall we say. It’s not exactly Megaman. The firing animation is so long that an enemy will often take a potshot while they’re waiting, which gets frustrating. If you’re far enough away, you might pull up a shield with the left-trigger, which is – again – new. But that, too, is slow, so it’s a bit of a toss up about whether you will raise it in time. Let’s just say that the combat can feel turn-based on occasion.
Another change is that you MUST collect three hidden objects in each level to progress. Basically, the collectibles from the PAW Patrol and PJ Mask games have been made mandatory, and that’s not a particularly satisfying change. They were hidden for a reason – so that eager, completionist players could search for them on a second or third playthrough. Once you stop making them optional, they become a real pain-in-the-neck for a younger player. Our youngest couldn’t complete levels and wondered why. She then had to backtrack to collect them all, and you can probably guess how thrilled she was about that (Daddy had to do it).
There are snags in the established formula, too. The abilities that the characters’ use are denoted by icons, and it’s not clear what the icons represent. A robot-dude kept turning up to ask which might be used to overcome a large wall, and we had no idea. It turned out it was the shuriken ability – a faraway block was dangling by a rope that said shuriken could sever. More often than not, because everything was obscure, the kids were mashing the buttons, rather than using their brains.
Of course, you may be MeteoHeroes fans who have never been exposed to the PAW Patrol games, so we’ll try to take them out of that context. As a platform game for younger players, it’s got a valuable eco-message that isn’t trying to sell you toys. The platforming, too, is decent, with an emphasis on mazes rather than chasms where you fall and die. That said, it’s still got the capability of getting your little ones stuck. Aside from the mandatory items that you have to collect, a lot of the leaps are reliant on double-jumps and don’t have a lot of room for error. Our five-year old found it on the difficult side, while our eight-year old didn’t have much issue.
As mentioned, the combat is Duff with a capital D, but there are various safety nets to ensure that it’s never too much bother. Carrots heal you up, and they’re scattered across the levels; checkpoints are decent; and there are three health pips anyway. So, combat’s a nuisance, but not a costly one.
And there are the superhero moments that are performed by the Xbox rather than you: you get to choose whether you use an ice block or call on a friend to clear an obstacle, and then you get to see a cutscene as it plays out. This is particularly rubbish at the end of the level, when you finally reach the team’s goal, only for the computer to complete it for you. We have no idea why we don’t get to put the waste bags into the bin lorry. But that was a fault of the PAW Patrol games too – it just gets preserved here.
Which is all to say that MeteoHeroes Saving Planet Earth is a copycat kids’ platformer that has more than a passing love for the PAW Patrol and PJ Masks games. When it adds anything new to that formula it only ends up diminishing the original. Sure, the ‘save the planet’ message is laudable, but we struggle to find anything else that makes MeteoHeroes Saving Planet Earth stand out.