Loads Of Potential
Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion was a game for the 3DS that was, essentially, a Smash Brothers clone, except instead of characters from various Nintendo franchises beating the tar out of each other, the game made use of Cartoon Network’s various properties to fill its roster. Unfortunately, the game wasn’t that good. It was as wacky and random as Smash, but the controls were stiff, the physics felt weird, and the dual-screen interface made it hard to keep track of who you were attacking. In the end, the only real draw to the game was the lighthearted story and the nostalgia factor in controlling characters such as Dexter, The Powerpuff Girls, and Captain Planet.
Now a new version of the game, dubbed Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion XL, has come out for consoles, and the developers claim the XL stands for “extra large.” Well, I have to give them credit: they actually did address complaints and give fans much more of what they loved about the first game. In fact, I’d go as far to say that the Punch Time Explosion development team added more to this simple console update than most hardcore fighting game companies add to their mainstream titles. However, as admirable as this dedication to the already existing fan base is, it’s not enough to fix the plethora of problems the game suffered from the first time around. As a result, Punch Time Explosion XL is certainly a better game than its handheld counterpart, but it’s by no means a blockbuster title.
The first thing the development team added was new characters. Eight new fighters join the original roster of 18, bringing the character count up to 26. New fighters include Aku from Samurai Jack , Young Ben Tennyson from the original Ben 10 , The Toiletnator from Codename: Kids Next Door , and the one, the only, Johnny Bravo. Unfortunately, most of these new characters come from series that are already pretty well represented in the game. Ben 10 and The Powerpuff Girls have tons of representation, while Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends is represented by only Mac and Bloo. Many truly classic Cartoon Network shows such as Ed, Edd n Eddy , Courage the Cowardly Dog , Space Ghost Coast to Coast , and Sheep in the Big City have no representation whatsoever. Even more recent action-themed Cartoon Network shows such as Generator Rex , The Secret Saturdays , and Megas XLR are absent, even though they would make awesome fighting game characters. Oh, and yes, there are absolutely no characters from Adventure Time , no matter how much we wanted to see them.
To make up for this lack of diversity, most of the roster now has a new secondary unlockable costume that references something else from the series they come from. Billy and Mandy can take on the appearance of Billybot and Mandroid, the Powerpuff girls can dress up like the Rowdyruff Boys, and Captain Planet can even masquerade as Captain Pollution, for those of you 90s children who remember that series of episodes. The team has also given each character a new “Synergy Attack” where they call upon yet another character from another Cartoon Network show to aid them in battle. For example, Ben Tennyson calls upon Fred Fredburger to fart, thus making Swampfire’s heat blasts extra combustive. (No, the amount of fart jokes hasn’t been toned down, unfortunately.) The team has also included many new non-playable assist characters such as Mung Daal from Chowder or Valhallen from Dexter’s Laboratory , but none of these characters actually represents a new franchise or show. In fact the only new franchise represented in Punch Time Explosion XL is Johnny Bravo .
That being said, the team tried to do as much as they could with the properties they had available. Characters now have new Punch Time Explosion XL attacks, powerful finishing moves that wreck the entire screen. Five new stages have been added including Candied Island, Mount Fondoom, Foster’s Friends Room, Mandark’s Lab, and the KND Moon Base.
They’ve also added several new modes to the game including a traditional Arcade Mode, a Training Mode for people who want to brush up on their skills and combos, and a Drones Mode, which is basically like the Multi-Man Melee from the Smash Bros. series. Players can now play the single-player campaign cooperatively with a friend as well. This is a welcome addition, considering how frustrating the campaign was in the 3DS version.
Unlockables have also all been put inside an “unlock shop” allowing you to purchase them in any order you like with points you earn from other game modes. Included in the shop are short cartoon clips from each of the properties featured in the game. It’s really just another diversion, but it is awesome to see those cool Samurai Jack fights from back in the day.
Punch Time Explosion XL certainly looks better than its 3DS counterpart, but it’s pretty obvious it’s a 3DS conversion. None of the models look as if they were designed for HD consoles, and the game still feels as stiff as it did on the 3DS. The physics are still pretty wonky, and while the controls do feel a bit more responsive, the game is still a pretty heavy mash-fest. Platforming in the single-player mode is just as infuriating as ever. The game honestly wasn’t designed to be a side-scroller; it didn’t work in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and it doesn’t work here.
As much as has been added to Punch Time Explosion, the game still feels like it is missing something. The 3DS version was missing online play, and many fans thought that the console version would bring us a full online suite. Nope, online mode is absent again. Matches are just too mashy and random to be much fun to a hardcore crowd, and they don’t control easily enough to appeal to a casual crowd, making it tough to find a demographic that actually likes this game. Even the franchise choices are kind of random and might only appeal to a small subset of even the most hardcore Cartoon Network fans.
Now, I’m not stranger to poorly made licensed titles. I know when you put a brand on a game, more often than not, it’s going to be a letdown. However, Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion XL is extra disappointing because of all the potential it had. The development team obviously cared about the game they were making, as shown by all of the additions to XL, and the subject matter was perfect for a party-style brawler. It’s just a shame that the basic formula of the game was flawed enough to keep it from being appealing. If you are a Cartoon Network fan, you should pick up this game for the inside jokes and the awesome retro references, but no one else is missing anything by passing this one up.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.1 Graphics
It’s pretty obvious that this game is a 3DS port. 3.2 Control
The game is pretty mashy, but still fun. 3.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music isn’t the best, but the voices are true to the Cartoon Network originals. 3.8 Play Value
It’s hard not to like a game that lets you play as Captain Planet. 3.3 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best