IGN Review of Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion
Somebody at Papaya Studio had an amazing idea. Take the basic gameplay design of the Super Smash Bros series, use a roster of Cartoon Network's popular characters as fighters, put it on the 3DS, beating Nintendo to the punch in the process. The planning stage was brilliant. Then somewhere along the way the developer forgot to make sure the game was good and just made Cartoon Network's Punch Time Explosion instead.
If you're familiar with Super Smash Bros., then playing Cartoon Network's Punch Time will be second nature to you. Up to four players duke it out in arenas based upon CN properties. Health meters are represented by percentages that build with damage, and the higher the percentage the more a character is knocked back by attacks until eventually he flies off the screen.
The formula is solid, but from there everything goes horribly awry. In order to unlock characters you have to work through the single player story mode. The premise isn't all that original -- the shows get all mixed up and mashed together or something -- but it is narrated by the always awesome George Lowe of Space Ghost fame. Unfortunately, every other character is limited to a couple of catchphrases not even performed by the real voice actors.
The single player is largely a side-scrolling platformer. You jump over bottomless pits, beat up bad guys and collect health power-ups. It's standard fare, but everything in the game feels too loose. Jumping is imprecise, the combat is chaotic, and the occasional glitch can make parts of the game far more difficult than they should be.
But even when Punch Time Explosion works like it should, the fun comes in very small doses. The levels, though aesthetically varied, are basic and boring. You don't use the character's special moves to progress, or really do anything different in any of the levels. Aside from the mini-games that accompany the worlds, it all feels like the same thing with a different coat of paint.
I'd love to tell you that when you finally get into the multiplayer portion of Cartoon Network's Punch Time that the game becomes awesome. It doesn't. This is an amateur attempt at Super Smash Bros. that ultimately fails. The characters are unbalanced. The levels are small and cluttered. The items are hard to use. It's like a Smash Bros clone that got halfway through development, then got kicked out the door and onto shelves half-baked.
The sad fact was that in an office full of people that still love Smash Bros and play it on a regular basis, I couldn't find anyone who was having fun enough with Punch Time Explosion to want to play more than a couple rounds, let alone put in the effort to unlock all of the characters.
THE 3D EFFECT
As a 2D platformer/fighter, Cartoon Network's Punch Time Explosion does little with the 3D effect. The backgrounds get an extra layer of depth, but not to the extent other games have used it. However, when characters use their special moves it jumps into a big flashy cutscene with explosions and lasers and sometimes a giant octopus. But for the most part this is one of the less impressive 3D titles.