The Cartoon Network franchise certainly isn’t shy about borrowing game mechanics from other titles. Kart racing, for example, and the brilliantly conceived, but disappointingly executed, Phoenix Wright approach to the Harvey Birdman series are just a couple of examples. Their latest title borrows from another popular Nintendo franchise, Super Smash Bros., and when I say “borrows,” I actually mean outright steals. There is so much in common between these two titles that it almost feels like they pulled a Soulcalibur guest character act. Still, if you love the brawling of Smash Bros. and the cast of characters from Cartoon Network, is this really a bad thing?
If you can believe it, there is a story here. Even more surprising, is that it is actually competent and fun to follow. It seems that the villains in the game have figured out how to travel through broadcast transmissions, thus merging all of the shows together. This sets the background for these characters fighting each other on the plethora of stages from each show. The story mode also throws in mini-games to spice up the monotony along with unlockable new stages and characters. This is a surprisingly meaty mode that will take gamers around half a dozen hours to complete.
As I said, Punch Time Explosion not only borrows from Smash Bros., it downright steals every aspect. You fight on a two dimensional plane accruing damage percentages that make you more likely to go flying off the stage. When you do, you lose a life. You can play with up to four players and things become more and more hectic as more people are added. Items can be picked up for health gain or just to toss at your foes. The controls are super simple and intuitive. This game may be the most shameless rip-off of another franchise since Dante’s Inferno.
Just because the game is a carbon copy doesn’t mean it isn’t fun though, especially if you are a fan of the Cartoon Network characters. Just like Smash Bros., PTE is chock full of characters and stages from your favorite shows. Ben 10, Dexter, The Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack, Billy and Mandy and Flapjack are just a few of the familiar names you will see. There are also a ton of stages to fight through. The game is a virtual love letter to fans.
My gripe about the collection of faces is that most of them really don’t stand out besides being aesthetically different. Fighting games live and die on their ability to make each character more than a palette swap. PTE fails in this regard. Sure, each character has their own set of moves and animations, but performing them with various combatants rarely feels unique. I was also disappointed that when you unlock the character in story mode, you still need to unlock them in Battle Mode before you can select them constantly.
Visually, the game looks great on the tiny screen. Again, as is the case with most 3DS games, the actual 3D feels simply tacked on and useless here. Sometimes, I wonder if the console really would have benefitted from simply offering this feature, as opposed to focusing on it. I rarely play a game with it turned on. In fact, I usually only turn it on to see how it stacks up for a review. I did enjoy the audio in the game, even if it is sparse. The voices from the show are here, but mostly consist of just their catchphrase. Everything else is standard fare and is ripped directly from the respective shows.
Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion is not a terrible game, but it fails to capitalize on what it was trying to mimic. The controls are spot on, but the game is shallow. The characters are in abundance, but they all feel fairly similar. For everything the game does right, it simply cancels it out with a misstep. 3DS owners looking for a Smash Bros. clone to tide them over until the real deal comes out really don’t have a lot of options, but there are two much better brawlers on the system already for fans in search of a fighting fix.
Review copy provided by publisher.