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Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers

Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: GameMill Entertainment
Developer: Magic Pockets
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Action/ Fighting/ Family

Graphics & Sound:

Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers joins a long, proud tradition of beat-em-up games that extends as far back as the arcade renaissance of the '80s. What makes this version special is certainly the franchise names attached, basically all the shows from CN that you (or you + your kids, if youíre older) love. The giant mashup stems from (of course) a bungling Uncle Grandpa, who rips the fabric of space and time and introduces a massive force of evil creatures that will require an equally massive team-up.

Not only does the lineup include a host of characters from the Cartoon Network, it faithfully captures their various personalities through cut scenes and in-game action. Especially nice is the ability to quickly flip through characters in real time, which rewards players who just canít choose their favorites. Rather than make up an entirely new design style for the game, the designers created worlds built to resemble the setting youíre used to seeing each character in during their show. Of course, itís a bit weird to see Gumball cavorting against a background that feels taken directly out of Adventure Time, but itís a fun weird feeling.


Gameplay:

The mashed-up gameplay is exactly what youíd want in a side-scrolling, multiplayer title where the action would get monotonous unless you had some variety in your choice of character. As we mentioned, the quick swapping more than delivers and ensures you donít get caught bringing a knife to a gunfight. Each character has a series of special abilities that can help when fighting certain enemies. A simple example is Steven Universeís shield-busting ability. You can still defeat shielded enemies without him, but everything gets a lot easier if you can remember to dial in the character best suited for each enemy.

Adding to the complexity is the fact that most character abilities arenít unlocked out of the gate, only with repeated use. If quick switching is the antidote to boredom, loyalty to certain characters is what helps them earn points after battle and level up. Over time, youíll easily unlock all the abilities, depending on how many fighters you have in your party. Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers supports up to 4 but only for local co-op play, versus battling with friends through Xbox Live. Gameplay progresses through levels dedicated to each of the available characters, including Uncle Grandpa, Gumball, Steven Universe, Finn + Jake, Mordecai + Rigby, and Clarence.


Difficulty:

Once you unlock all the special abilities for each character, youíll feel extremely capable if not a bit overpowered. Letís face it, these games were never intended to be highly challenging as much as a fun social experience with friends. Thereís plenty of craziness and youíll definitely find yourself beaten down a few times early in each characterís development, especially when mobs of enemies or bosses attack. Luckily, youíll end up with enough powerful abilities (that generally all have a generous cooldown) that you can conquer all the enemy hordes and repair the damage done by Uncle Grandpa.

In addition to your personal abilities, youíll find lots of pickups and temporary powerups throughout the worlds youíre exploring. These are generic, but can still trigger one-time attacks that are unique to each character, accompanied by some hilarious cut scenes. Most take the form of full screen devastation that wipes out enemy hordes, requiring only some planning and coordination to ensure you trigger them at the right time. If you should go down for the count, itís relatively easy to get back into the game quickly and help your compadres. Enemies and mobs donít seem to scale, so the more co-op players the merrier, not to mention that playing with more people helps you adjust play style to match enemies or environmental hazards.


Game Mechanics:

Considering games like this are usually modeled off the old single-arcade-stick design philosophy, youíll find that Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers is all about keeping things simple. Each character has a primary attack and jump button, and each additional special attack is mapped to a specific button. Thatís it for controls, and everything is buttery smooth in terms of navigating the onscreen environments. Our only issues had to do with some of the jumping and elevation, which felt clunky in comparison to everything else. Luckily most of the game is just left/right orientation, with the occasional up/down dodge required. Itís not always clear whether jumping has much of an impact, either on dodging enemies or pulling off special attacks.

Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers is an easy game to love. Itís not breakthrough innovation on any level, but itís loads of fun to play and will make CN viewers especially happy. There arenít many other ways you can get your fill of all these different characters, and although some of them have games dedicated to them already, others are appearing in videogame form for the first time. Especially if youíre shopping around the holidays for a fan of CN and simple, fun games, you couldnít do much better than this.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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