Sugar, spice, and everything nice. Mix in a little Chemical X and you’ve got the recipe for a hit cartoon show that was super popular on Cartoon Network for quite a while. Even though it’s not on anymore, you can still catch episodes of The Powerpuff Girls on the Boomerang cable channel. And they recently had a TV special a few weeks ago, too. And they’re still going strong with a new PC game that my friend Leroy reviewed here. Check it out!
The Powerpuff Girls has consistently been strangely connected to obscure things that I like. My favorite example goes back to 1996; I was introduced to and fell in love with a Scottish punk pop band, whose entire US audience was probably me and a couple dozen “riot grrls.” A couple of years later when my favorite “What a Cartoon!” short was finally getting its own series, I was floored when that band, Bis, had performed the iconic ending credits theme song. It was such a strange coming together of two things I liked.
Move on to Radiangames (an indie developer I followed and enjoyed through their work on the Xbox Live Indie Game marketplace) announcing that they were about to release a Metroid (my favorite series of all time) inspired Powerpuff Girls game; I was both in pleasant shock and thinking “of course.”
Your first thought might be “Isn’t this about ten years late?” Well, earlier this year a 15th anniversary Powerpuff Girls special was aired and this game was meant to tie-in to that (although it is not related to the special itself). The game was delayed a bit to touch a few things up and add in an option for the classic character designs (the new TV special gives everything a different look).
The game opens up with Mojo Jojo wiping the Powerpuff Girls of their abilities and you start off as Buttercup lost in a cave, trying to recover her memories and find her sisters. Initially you pick up basic abilities like punch and flight and shortly after, a beam attack. At this point, the game opens up to what it is, a non-linear, exploration heavy shooter. The game runs at a very brisk pace, you are constantly finding new abilities, earning power ups and fighting a few bosses. Once you have assembled all three girls, you’ll need to switch between them constantly to make use of their unique abilities.
The gameplay is smooth and responsive and the progression feels great. The game is fairly short, perhaps about three hours for an initial run, but there are additional difficulty levels and a complete second quest with a new map layout. On the other hand, the production values of the game are a bit on the low end. The highlights are the actual characters themselves, which look great and accurate (both in their new or classic style) and the cutscenes, while not animated, are fully voiced by the cartoon’s original cast. On the other hand, the levels themselves and the enemies are visually very flat (new style graphics has some lighting and particle effects, while classic style is completely flat in an attempt to mimic the look of the original show). Every enemy in the game is a different circle robot and the only character enemy is Mojo Jojo…driving a giant circle robot. The soundtrack is done in 8-bit chip music style, but it also flat, not bad, but doesn’t feel like it adds to the game much.
However, for under $10, the presentation services the game well enough and the game is just a lot of fun if you’re in the mood for a brisk Metroid style exploration game or just want an enjoyable romp with the Powerpuff characters.
I do have one other complaint though and that is simply this: Mojo Jojo, again? The Powerpuff Girls has such a breadth of wonderful villains and almost all of them are more interesting than Mojo Jojo, yet he somehow cemented himself into the “arch nemesis” role of the show and is usually the featured villain in outside media. It’s probably safe to assume that as a licensed product, Radiangames probably had some guidelines to follow and one of those was probably to use Mojo Jojo. In that case, why not find roles for other characters? There are three boss fights outside of Mojo Jojo, but they’re all characterless circle robots. It’s not a glaring error and it doesn’t really bring the enjoyable gameplay down, but it’s a wasted opportunity in my opinion, both as a fan of the show and of the game.
But overall the game is just fun, it’s very well-constructed and even for a non-linear adventure game, the idea of crossing it with heavier shoot ‘em up elements brings a fresh coat of paint to the genre. The flat presentation is slightly disappointing but you will be having such a good time punching and shooting circle robots and collecting neat upgrades and power ups, you’ll not be paying much attention to them. There’s a great hard mode and a second quest, so even grownups can enjoy this one.
Of course, since this is based on a kid’s show, it’s very much kid friendly. Cartoon violence is all you’re going to find here and the extent of it would be punching circle robots. Beyond that, I feel that this is a good game for kids. It’s well made and in a genre that has not been explored much (if at all) for a character license game, so in that regard you’ll be giving your kid something fresh to play if they’re tired of jumping over things and collecting doodads. –Leroy Capasso