There is a specific stable of shows that I watched growing up all of which have returned in my adulthood in some form or fashion. From Transformers to G.I. Joe, I have been lucky enough to reminisce over these franchises, and hope to someday introduce them to my son. That said, when Namco Bandai announced they were making a game based on the Thundercats I was ecstatic. When they announced it was coming only to DS (not 3DS mind you), I got concerned. Then, once I finally played it, I was offended. This is by far one of the worst games I have played this year, and a true abomination to the Thundercats license.
As you would imagine, Thundercats for the DS is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up with platforming elements. You play as Lion-O and swing your sword at endless waves of enemies and the occasional boss fight. That is pretty much it. While this is far from offensive if the game works and is enjoyable, Thundercats is definitely neither.
Let’s start with the gameplay. Lion-O moves left to right, has a double jump and can swing his sword in an animation that you cannot cancel out of. What this means is that once you start swinging, regardless of direction, you are vulnerable for a substantial amount of time. There is also no dodge mechanic so you will often take hits because you swung too late, and instead ended up hitting dead air. This is superficial difficulty, and makes the overall game more frustrating than challenging. Attacks also feel disconnected from enemies, never delivering that ‘punch’ you are expecting.
You also earn the ability to summon characters via the touch screen. All of your favorites are here including Tygra, Cheetara and Panthro all can be summoned to deliver attacks, while Wilykit and Wilykat deliver power-ups and health. There is a meter you fill to unleash these summons, as well as a special screen clearing attack with your sword, however the summons also cost a token. Tokens can be collected throughout levels, but Lion-O can only carry three at a time. Even this aspect of the game is broken as the screen clearing attack doesn’t hit enemies on the ground or behind you, and the summons are not always super effective.
The platforming might as well be labeled broken. Lion-O can double jump, but for some reason the developers felt the need to add a delay to the second jump. This causes you to miss platforms, thus falling back down. Things are exacerbated when projectile enemies are shooting at you. Eventually you wind up in an animation during which you keep taking damage before you can get back up. This again adds superficial difficulty, and when you combine it with the fact that the game is anything but enjoyable to play, you wonder why they even bothered.
I really want to at least find something nice to say about the game, but it’s broken across the board. Even the visuals, which from a distance appear to tug on nostalgia, are muddy and flat in action. Enemy variety is lacking and the content is barren. The game only offers up a handful of stages, none of which are very long. I guess it is a good thing considering there are no checkpoints, and from what I can tell the game only saves stats, not progression. Hope you are willing to suffer through it all in one play. Finally, the sound: music is a mess and if I hear Lion-O should “Thundercats, Hoooo” one more time, I am going to toss this cartridge in the toilet. Seriously, that is the only line in the game.
Thundercats is a poor example of almost every facet. The license is abused, the nostalgia just isn’t there and the game is downright terrible functionality-wise. I simply cannot recommend this game for anyone. It is short, poorly designed and just not any fun. Someday I truly hope to see Lion-O and the gang return to form, but this game is certainly not the start of something special.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.