IGN Review of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy
It can be said that creating a good game is like cooking a gourmet meal. It's not enough to have all the right ingredients, they have to be combined in just the right way, or else the meal comes out wrong. Such is the case with Full Fat's new Gameboy Advance title The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy. It could have been so awesome, but they mixed it all up and made something that tastes kind of funny.
As anyone who has watched the show will know, all manners of crazy crap goes down in Billy and Mandy's neighborhood. This time, Grim's mojo balls have been released, infecting the entire town and turning everything evil. Billy, Mandy, and Grim have to fight their way through all the evilness to retrieve all the orbs. There is a story mode for all three characters, as well as a mission section with mini levels. The story modes are very basic beat-em-ups, with a boss at the end. The bosses are villains from the show, so fans of the series will see some familiar faces. There isn't a lot of story to speak of, just an opening and ending screen with a miniscule amount of explanatory text. All three story modes are criminally short. The developers tried to space them out, by having players unlock the modes when they collect orbs in the mission modes. Even with this the story mode can be beat in about half an hour. There just isn't a lot of game there at all.
What is there isn't particularly exciting. The story mode is really just a button masher and doesn't offer too much depth or fun. The missions are where all the gameplay variety comes into the mix. There are six levels of missions, each level getting progressively more difficult. The missions range from have to rush through the level as fast as possible, to trying to survive against constantly spawning enemies for a period of time. There is a surprising amount of variety within the missions, making them the real game. Whereas the story mode only has a couple types of villains to battle, the missions have dozens of enemies. In addition, the levels have different themes, from the basic neighborhood level, to old school eight-bit video game levels.
The weird balance of story mode and mission mode makes Billy and Mandy an awkward title. It feels like the story mode was tacked on just to have it. The characters operate the same, except for their special moves, and this makes the characters seem abnormal. While it may make sense for Billy to bounce on his butt to reach high ledges, it doesn't work for Mandy and Grim.
The missions can get fun, though they tend to get repetitive after you've done each one three or four times. Still the developers try to mix it up enough to keep it interesting, and they do a decent job for the most part. However, for a game based on a cartoon, there really should be more involved with the story mode. The developers have interesting character at their disposal and do absolutely nothing with them. This game could have starred any three people and it would have been exactly the same. The downfall of this game comes from the quick unlocking of the complete story mode. Players are less than a third of the way through the missions before they've unlocked the entire story mode. As a result, the motivation to continue the missions is based solely on the fun factor, and they just don't hold up. It's not interesting enough to base a whole game on a collection of beat-em-up minigames. If the story was tied more into the missions, or the story mode was extended, and the minigames were interspersed within the game, then Billy and Mandy could have been a pretty fun game.
At least the game looks decent. The characters have multiple animations when they're beating on bad guys, so the attacks don't look the same every time. The music is the obligatory creepy music that is expected from a game starring the Grim Reaper. It's not toe-tappingly awesome, but it's not super annoying either. Lots of cartoony sound effects accompany everything the characters do, and there's even some minor voicework, but it's just for when the characters get hurt (doesn't that always seem to be the case?).
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