Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers is a 3D side-scrolling crossover beat-em-up game developed by Magic Pockets, published by GameMill, and seemingly made to make the most of a Cartoon Network audience whose average age continues to skyrocket.
The game features a mishmash of characters from popular Cartoon Network shows, with six different playable characters available in the game. Finn & Jake from Adventure Time (as one playable unit), Steven from Steven Universe, Clarence from Clarence, Gumball from The Amazing World of Gumball, Uncle Grandpa from Uncle Grandpa, and Rigby & Mordecai (another team unit) from Regular Show. Each character has their own abilities, though there’s plenty of crossover for usability and some characters are largely irrelevant offering very little strategic value for the majority of the game.
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There was plenty of potential for this title to succeed with no shortage of entertaining content being available from the shows it had sourced. Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers, unfortunately, gets nowhere near this, now that we look back on it, optimistic expectation.
The game begins with Uncle Grandpa driving his UG RV through multiple dimensions, losing control after an evildoer breaks in and crashing through territories familiar to the other characters that have been sucked into the game. From there the game jumps straight into the action, dropping you into the first level with very little explanation of anything resembling a long-term goal or plot other than “fight the shard monsters“. It doesn’t get any deeper from there on in, either, and the game makes no explanation of exactly why each of the six characters is even there. The pace of the game plateaus almost instantly, offering very little story or dialogue to keep the mind entertained throughout.
If you’re going to turn your franchise into a video game of some description, side-scrollers are generally the safest bet. Somehow, the mark has still been completely missed with this title. Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers has seemingly done the impossible by incorporating as many classic side-scroller bugs and errors as it can as well as incorporating their own new take on ruining the genre.
The game has got the repertoire of levels all wrong. There are fewer than 20 levels for the entire game, of which almost a third are nothing but boss fights, and each of the main levels is more than twice as long as a side-scrolling game level should be. This extended duration would be almost tolerable if there were some deviation from the flat-line of gameplay available in each level, but the monotony of the first 10 minutes kicks on for the remainder of the game and makes the experience a thoroughly unenjoyable one for its majority. Not only does the game make you endure these cookie-cutter levels, but it will force you to backtrack to levels long-ago completed to find new items to progress in the story; a desperate grab at extending the playtime of an already lengthy game.
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Sure, each character has their nuances to make them unique, some interacting in particular ways with the environment, but the reality is that it’s not necessary to switch between them and the game could just as easily be completed with one character. The game boils down to a button mashing chore, a tiring repetition of the same formula over and over again. A small arsenal of power-ups and special character abilities inject a smidgeon of entertainment on first use but are just time-wasters in the long run.
Gameplay, in general, is a painful experience in Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers and while a lot of the other negatives about the game could be overlooked this simply cannot be. It gets a little more bearable when you bring multiple players into the experience, which seems to be what the game was designed for, but the concept of working together to finish the level goes out the window when you get to the progress screen and realise that the game feels the need to declare a “winner” at every turn. Rest assured, if you are playing this game you are not a winner.
The game sticks true to the design style of the TV shows it’s drawing from, the Cartoon Network style spreading a sense of familiarity throughout. Backgrounds, character design, and even the stunted design of the enemies make the game feel like an extension of its character’s shows. The animation is crisp enough to not bring itself much attention, though the game again falls into a pit of monotony with only a handful of designs for obstacles, enemies, and terrain across all of the levels.
All of the shows that the game is drawing from are current, which makes the game’s decision to go with a synth-heavy soundtrack all the more perplexing. The sound feels completely at odds with everything else happening in the game and changes little through the levels and menus. Sound effects are bare-bones and very similar to one another and there are almost no audio cues from characters, playable or otherwise. There’s not a great deal of dialogue in the game and it’s interesting that almost all of it is delivered textually with no audio. Drawing on some pretty iconic voices and utilising some big catch phrases has been a huge opportunity missed and a potential game-changer in the audio category.
It’s tough to recommend this game to anyone when there are plenty of competing side-scrolling games out there which have done a much better job of mixing an outside product with the genre. What little enjoyment there is to be had in Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers is all over in the opening 10 minutes, the game becoming little more than what feels like a chore from that point onwards. Some well-rounded graphics simply aren’t enough to pull this title out of the “would not recommend” pile. You’d have significantly more fun by watching re-runs of any episode of the six shows encapsulated in this game and button mashing a controller that isn’t plugged into anything.
We played Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers on Xbox One, experience may differ on other platforms.
BLOT Gaming was provided with a copy of Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers for this review.