By: Matthew Striplen
Cartoon Network has been a mainstay on TV for over 20 years, and it has countless beloved characters to its name. For fans of the modern shows, the prospect of battling it out as your favorite wacky characters is certainly appealing. In execution, the experience found in Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers is short on everything that makes these characters great.
Since Battle Crashers is an arcade style beat ’em up, the controls aren’t particularly complicated. Each character possesses a standard attack and a few special abilities that are systematically unlocked. Few attacks feel like they carry any weight, however, and the lag after finishing an attack makes every character seem a little sluggish.
Drab environments and unimaginative enemies pervade the entire experience. Although the playable characters are faithfully recreated, there isn’t much else to praise. Everything looks grainy and the animations stilted. Cartoons rely on visual humor as much as they do jokes, and the absence of one leaves the other with a more difficult task.
I hope you enjoy the sound effects and music in Battle Crashers, because you’re going to hear the same handful of noises and tracks recycled constantly. And the sounds of the attacks contribute to the lack of weight and impact mentioned above.
Additionally, there are virtually no instances of voice acting. Most of what provides these beloved characters with personality is the actors behind the scenes. Without them, or even written dialogue, the cartoon characters are reduced to generic fighters wearing the costumes of Steven Universe and the like.
If you want to understand what playing a level of Battle Crashers feels like, imagine playing the classic Simpsons arcade game, and then remove all the personality, humor and skill while including only a handful of enemies.
One of the major selling points of this game is that players get a chance to play as their favorite TV characters. As someone who hasn’t followed these particular shows, I was interested in getting to know them. With the aforementioned lack of dialogue, the use of the characters is squandered.
Battle Crashers feels like a beat ’em up concept was already developed, and then the Cartoon Network brand was slapped on at the last minute, leaving developers little time to flesh out their concepts.
Levels are very linear side scrollers, albeit with some 2.5D elements thrown in the mix. Players can move up or down to reach enemies or other objects, but it’s not always clear when you will be able to hit your target with an attack.
Rather than missing most attacks, players can hit their target by just pointing in the correct general direction. This holds true for enemies too, as gamers take damage from just being in the vicinity of an enemy.
This sounds like the game poses a major challenge. It doesn’t. Not a single level I played had me even consider the possibility of failure. Since each character has their own health bar, losing requires some serious ineptitude on the player’s part.
Completing a level consists of mashing the attack buttons and going right. If you mash fast enough and go right far enough, you win. Enemies pose no real threat, even when beefed up versions of standard baddies or bosses show up.
There’s a large number of playable characters, which may sound like a daunting task, but since most of them function well enough regardless of the situation, the only reason players have to switch is low health.
I can’t stress enough how boring the phoned in gameplay feels. Without any real challenge, personality, or creativity, it’s tough to find a reason to continue playing the game. This is an especially big problem when the game forces you to play the exact same level just to get a new item.
It’s bad enough when the levels are monotonous, but having to replay the same level multiple times is an obvious attempt to pad the game’s length.
It’s difficult to know who to recommend this game to. Fans of the cartoon shows will be dismayed at the halfhearted portrayals of their favorite characters, while beat ’em up fans will be disappointed with the boring gameplay. With so few positives, Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers completely misses the mark by publishing a poor product. Your time and money are better spent elsewhere.