IGN Review of Looney Tunes: Cartoon Conductor
Looney Tunes. They're classic, they're timeless, and now they headline a new rhythm game on the Nintendo DS. It's pretty clear that Looney Tunes Cartoon Conductor lifts most of its design inspiration from Elite Beat Agents but it's not a direct copy. The game's also incredibly challenging for a rhythm game with a seemingly younger-skewing target age. You'll have to have a fancy for the old-school animation references as well as a taste for MIDI classical music to enjoy what this game has to offer, but on the whole it isn't a bad effort.
The last time the Looney Tunes license hit the Nintendo DS was in last year's Duck Amuck, a game with incredible animation production values but not much in the way of gameplay. In Looney Tunes: Cartoon Conductor it's the other way around: the gameplay is solid but at the expense of animation that really doesn't fit the style of the classic cartoons.
The gameplay within Cartoon Conductor is essentially Elite Beat Agents without the need to tap-tap-tap. Instead, when you need to hit the notes on the lower screen, it's a smooth stroke across the numbers in time to the rhythm, offering the illusion that you're waving a baton for the orchestra to follow. If you're off-tempo so is the music -- missed notes will be "rewarded" with a sour melody until you catch up to the rhythm. The exceptions to the "stroke" gameplay are intermission "tapping" challenges that seem a little out of place since they're a bit easy, and only seem to be in the game to help players get their score back up to par if they screwed up too much during the main portion of the song.
And like in Elite Beat Agents, the "story" for each song unfolds as the player keeps up with the music. These are all based on actual Looney Tunes shorts from the Golden Age and are entirely recognizable to anyone who's watched their fair share of the classics. But it's here where the game takes a bit of a stumble. Don't get me wrong: the 3D animation of Bugs, Daffy, Sylvester, Tweety, and everyone else are well-produced, but they just don't replace the classic look of the Golden Age's 2D cel-based animation. WayForward's animation in last year's Duck Amuck DS game was the best thing going for it, and it's sad to see the latest Looney Tunes game abandon the classic style in favor of something a bit cheaper to produce. And it's not like the 3D character models benefit the storytelling -- all of the animation sequences are rather short and repetitive. Some of them are also a little awkward with rewrites made to the original story so they can end with the music they're set to.
It's a shame because the developer really went all out with the voice over -- Cartoon Conductor features an insane amount of dialogue from Bugs and crew, both classic and re-recorded from the current "official" character voice actors. The music's a little hit or miss, though -- it's one thing to base a game around a set of songs that outdate the gamer by a hundred years or more, but it's another to turn these orchestral pieces into MIDI files instead of pulling some public domain orchestral recordings. The unlockable, upbeat "remixed" version of the songs aren't that much of a payoff since they're just the same song with instruments replaced and a drumbeat added.
But at least the game offers a significant challenge. It could be attributed to some crazy paths you have to follow on the touch screen, but mostly it could be because it's not easy trying to match a rhythm with songs that don't have an obvious one. It's actually easier to follow along with games like Elite Beat Agents and Guitar Hero because the songs offer much firmer beats to follow along with, but when songs like "Ride of the Valkyrie" and Beethoven's "Symphony No.5" lack a distinct toe-tapping rhythm it's a little tough to feel when you should be hitting the on-screen icons.
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