Some of you may already be familiar with The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy from their idiosyncratic cartoon of the same name, but for those out of the loop let me bring you up to speed on this strange tale of two kids and death. Billy is, for lack of a better word, borderline stupid. His antics bring back memories of Stimpy from one of my childhood favorite cartoons. Mandy on the other hand is rather quick; in fact sometimes she can be downright manipulative in her actions. The final member of the cast just happens to be the bringer of death himself The Grim Reaper, and for some strange reason he has decided to shack up with these two kids, for which hilarity ensues in almost every episode.
Now I know what you are thinking, what kind of game could Midway have possibly thrown out for such a ridiculous plot line? I give you two words; Fighting Game! That is right ladies and gents The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy is a multi-player fisticuffs in the vein of Capcom’s forgotten treasure Power Stone. While most companies opt to take the easy route and simply create a cheesy action/adventure title starring the protagonists of the show Midway has gone all out and created a surprisingly fun brawler that will likely surprise more than a few gamers who will certainly pass on this one simply because of the license.
The cast of characters is actually pretty decent with many show favorites making an appearance. Of course you can choose the three obvious stars, but alongside them you will find the likes of Jack O’ Lantern, Hoss Delgado, and everyone’s favorite Fred Fredburger. While the cast is certainly diverse sadly their depth can feel a bit lacking as all the fighters eventually feel the same. I am sure that the developers weren’t aiming for any Virtua Fighter like depth or anything, but it would have been nice to differentiate each character just a tad bit more.
The level design however is absolutely amazing. I cannot believe I just used that adjective to describe something in this game, but the developers have certainly done an amazing job of keeping each fight unique with scripted events and tons of interactive objects. Some levels even change the pace of the fight entirely with scrolling platforms that force the players to move along while fighting ala Kung Fu Chaos for the original Xbox. Fans of the show will also notice several familiar locales from the show, which is a nice touch for aficionados.
There is also a hefty mission mode that you can venture into between brawling sessions. This mode consists of forty-five different scenarios that you can opt to go solo or bring in a friend for some co-op action. Each mission rewards the player with some spiffy unlockable that can range from the boring concept art to the more enticing items such as hidden characters. Thankfully this mode can be played in sessions and it does a nice job of breaking up the action of the main attraction.
The two main modes of play can grow tedious after a few hours so it is nice that Midway has thrown in some extra options to help tweak the experience. Things such as bots to play with when you are sans enough players to fill the battle to being able to choose teams and battle it out with a partner certainly make up for some of the game’s shortcomings. The single player is also littered with some hilarious cut-scenes played out in a 3-D cartoon perspective and is deliciously entertaining. The writing is solid and the voices are very well done, well at least when compared to the source material. The visuals all around are relatively solid considering what they are based on, and the designers have done a really slick job with the cel-shading. The frame rate keeps a steady pace and even the camera behaves rather well considering the frantic action onscreen. Overall the game is certainly miles ahead of most licensed titles that have come before it.
If you are a fan of the show and can’t wait to duke it out with your favorite avatars you couldn’t have asked for a better game. Midway has gone above and beyond the call of duty and delivered a surprisingly fun little brawler that really benefits from the source material. While it may only be enjoyed in small spurts there is no denying that The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy will certainly surprise a lot of gamers out there, including me!