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Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers (Switch) artwork

Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers (Switch) review

"Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers holds together reasonably well, but suffers from a fatal flaw: it's boring!"

As Uncle Grandpa drives his motor home down the road, he's fighting sleep something fierce. I can sympathize. I recently finished playing Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers, and I was in a similar state for the four or five hours it took me to clear the campaign. One difference between me and Uncle Grandpa, though, is that I didn't accidentally shift into "Break Dimensions" gear. And I didn't gather together characters from six Cartoon Network properties and task them with saving their suddenly merged world.

Originally released last year for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo 3DS, Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers is a license-based brawler developed by Magic Pockets and Torus Games. Published by GameMill Entertainment (which was kind enough to provide a promotional download key for the purposes of this review), the game is a brawler for one to four players that seeks to provide a memorable experience by mixing an action-packed genre with characters kids know and love. Unfortunately, it fails rather spectacularly, despite for the most part being technically sound.

Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers (Switch) image

Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers combines starring characters from six Cartoon Network properties: "Clarence," "Steven Universe," "The Amazing World of Gumball," "Uncle Grandpa," "Adventure Time" and "Regular Show." If you're not familiar with the heroes from many of those cartoons, don't worry; that's probably for the best. There is a brief animated sequence as the game starts, and another if you stick with it through the closing credits, but otherwise this could be any other brawler starring any other characters. There is very little dialogue, and none of it is voiced. For all I know, the music is faithfully reproduced from the shows in question, but I found the few tracks so repetitive that eventually I just muted the volume.

The game begins in the world of Clarence, with only that character available. You'll fight your way through a few stages and unlock the remaining five characters as you do. Each one possesses different attributes and abilities, and you can expand the range of offensive options available by leveling up characters with the loot enemies drop (or that you can cause to appear by smashing various portions of the landscape or opening treasure chests). The available options are actually rather unique. Gumball attacks with a vacuum, but can also toss a grenade that explodes after several seconds, dealing hefty damage to the surrounding area. Rigby and Mordecai work as a pair, and send an electrical charge that is puny but continues dealing damage over time. Finn and Jake, from "Adventure Time" wield a powerful hammer blow that can carry you through most of the game. Uncle Grandpa, that troublemaker, uses a flamethrower.

Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers (Switch) image

Although you select a character at the start of a stage, you can switch between them on the fly. This is highly recommended, since the game is easiest if you make sure to level up all of your characters together. There are some late-game challenges that go better when your characters are capable of sustaining a bit of damage without crumpling to the ground in the unconscious heap. If you lose all six characters within a given stage, you'll have to start over and you won't get to keep any items or treasure you found. Fortunately, the game is easy enough for most of its duration that you won't likely run into trouble.

Like many subpar brawlers,Battle Crashers can quickly grow tiresome. Although there are numerous characters available, the strategies players should use with each of them vary only slightly. Stage designs are largely uninteresting, mostly just asking you to move to the right and pummel anything that gets in your way. There are a few attempts to break things up a bit, with one stage assuming the form of a maze and another one forcing players to high ground when chilling waves of water periodically sweep over the battlefield. For the most part, though, standard stages contain few surprises.

Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers (Switch) image

The game is broken into six worlds, each with three stage nodes. A given world contains two action stages, and the third node is devoted to the showdown with that realm's guardian. If you could simply advance from one stage to another, the game would be over in about half the time it actually takes to complete. However, you'll periodically reach the end of a stage and find that you need a special item in order to proceed. So you had back to the world map, and select a stage you've already cleared. Then you play through it again, almost to the very end, at which point a new path presents itself. You grab the item at the end of that branch and finish the stage, then return to the stage you couldn't finish a moment ago. You play all the way through to the previous end, and then advance a short distance further to clear the stage. This happens frequently, because there are six special items, along with another four trinkets you must gather.

Maybe some players will appreciate being forced to run through the same bland stages two or three times apiece. I am not one such player. Although it's true that the stages are often more difficult the second time through (since enemies grow more persistent and in some cases you even have to deal with a steadily draining light meter), there is not really a case where repetition improves the experience. It's a bit demoralizing, because so often your progress is halted so you can take a tedious stroll down memory lane. The effect is worsened by the fact there aren't many unique enemy units, so you spend a lot of time battling penguins, bats, and cylindrical enemies that I swear look like animated condoms. Bosses are more interesting, but you only have to fight most of them the one time.

Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers (Switch) image

Another issue is that stages are filled with pitfalls. These take the form of flame, toxic gas, electrical energy or freezing winds. If you stumble across one of those pitfalls, you'll have to deal with the status element and will probably take some hefty damage. If your enemies cross those same pitfalls, they often gain an elemental affinity that yields the same result, which makes them dangerous--but more importantly, annoying--to deal with in a confrontation. Many enemies also can slowly heal themselves, or they are equipped with shields that prevent you from dealing damage, or both. Shields are, to use the game's own description, "annoying." You might suppose the developers would say "We know this is annoying and mostly a waste of time, so let's only incorporate it infrequently." But they don't say that.

Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers is a bad game not because it is broken in any obvious way (except for loose controls and a tendency to get stuck on some parts of the environments, I had no technical issues at all), but because the design doesn't show sufficient respect for the player's time. I probably would've enjoyed myself more without the padding, and I certainly could have done without the constant barrage of elemental attacks that turned many later stages into a tedious slog. The medium hasn't come so far that brawlers can't still entertain, but developers brave enough to tackle the genre really need to nail the execution if they're going to delight audiences. Going through the motions and dragging familiar licenses through the mud in the process just doesn't cut it.


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (November 12, 2017)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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