"Kim can punch and kick, stringing together ‘combos’ of each attack simply through button mashing. But there are major issues with responsiveness and hit-detection. Sometimes Kim simply will not attack though you think you might be pressing the right button, and other times Kim's punch or kick will execute but miss completely when it appears that it shouldn’t. But you needn’t worry too much; enemy encounters are few and far between. It seems as if there are maybe four enemies in each stage. I’m exaggerating, but not much."
Where did Kim Possible go wrong? She was adequate in her first adventure on the GameBoy Advance, nearly perfect once developers A2M took over for her follow-up, and disappeared in her competent but obscure third outing. The scene was set for a triumphant return on the powerful (comparatively) Nintendo DS. I expected Kim Possible 4, a brilliant side-scrolling romp, which would pick up where Kim Possible 2 left off, featuring challenging platforming, heavy on exploration made possible by smooth progression in collecting and utilizing all Kim’s unique gadgets and abilities. That’s not what I got.
I got Kimmunicator.
It’s still a side-scroller, despite the use of polygons and active camera that pans around Kim. The effect is admittedly quite cool, and the graphics are reminiscent of those used in Flashback, that old PC classic. Unfortunately, much of Kim’s cuteness is lost because the graphic style can’t properly capture her 'tude the way the hand-drawn sprites did. The problem is exacerbated by the costume unlocking feature on offer, whereby you can find an assortment of cute outfits for our heroine to sport. She can wear a ‘casual’ outfit (work that skirt, girl) or a stealth costume so that she can do her best ninja impression. It's all very endearing, but you can’t see her clearly enough for it be the cool plus that was intended.
Kim’s physical appearance is the least of the game’s issues, however. There are four worlds, each with three stages. Kim’s mission makes no sense, but the gist is that her arch-nemesis Drakken and his not-so-loyal sidekick Shego (think Destro) have created some kind of robotic monstrosity and have kidnapped Wade (Kim's computer geek ally). For some reason I couldn’t gather, Ron Stoppable is out of the picture, but checks in from time to time to make nonsensical rapport with Kim. The writing in Kim’s show, and the previous games was always strong, so it’s especially disappointing that none of it seems to make sense or build to any sort of rewarding climax in Kimmunicator.
From silly story to hurting gameplay we go: Kim can punch and kick, stringing together ‘combos’ of each attack simply through button mashing. But there are major issues with responsiveness and hit-detection. Sometimes Kim simply will not attack though you think you might be pressing the right button, and other times Kim's punch or kick will execute but miss completely when it appears that it shouldn’t. But you needn’t worry too much; enemy encounters are few and far between. It seems as if there are maybe four enemies in each stage. I’m exaggerating, but not much.
The greater control issue then, is that of jumping. As in previous installments, you can double-tap forward before hitting the jump button to have Kim sprint into a front flip and then into a long leap. Unlike with previous installments, actually pulling this move off consistently is a real chore. About one-third of the time, the double-tap just fails to input, and I encountered situations where the miss had Kim simply step off a platform, hurtling down to levels far below. Great.
The best thing I can say about Kimmunicator is that it’s more of Kim and her gadgets and attitude, but the attitude is muted by inane dialogue and the aforementioned graphics issue, and the gadgets… Ah, the gadgets. Rather than have the player earn the use of Kim’s handy items like the grappling hook and comb lock-pick, everything is for sale right from the onset, provided you have the scratch to buy. “Money” is found in great abundance just hanging in the air around the environs, so it’s fairly easy to accumulate the capital necessary to buy everything on offer before even the halfway point of the game.
The lockpick is essential to progress through certain sticking points where you’ll need to override security locks to keep moving. When you select it, you’ll enter a screen that invites you to play a game of ‘trace through the maze with your stylus’ – and oh, don’t touch the walls. Even this mini-game isn’t perfect: the calibration doesn’t seem quite right, and as such, the exercise is quite a bit more difficult than it should be.
Aside from the lockpick and the huge helping of healthpacks you’ll need to survive all the broken combat encounters (enemies can take as many as six hits before dropping), there’s not much else you’ll want to buy. Strangely enough, I found only one occasion which required the use of the grappling hook, which was not only a lot more fun to use in Kim Possible 2, but was called into constant use once it was unlocked. There are no lipstick trampolines here, nor are there hot sauce grenades, but we do get the night vision goggles, which, as is the case with the grappling hook, we’ll need once. What were they thinking?
To say that Kimmunicator is a huge disappointment would be a huge understatement. I had high hopes for more of the inventive, challenging and engaging platforming we were treated to in Kim Possible 2, only enhanced by the strength of the medium.
The only innovative breaks in the side-scrolling tedium are the even more tedious sequences involving your naked mole rat pet navigating airducts (ostensibly to cut the power with his teeth) and one anomalously brilliant stage featuring a helmeted Kim parachuting into Drakken’s lair – between mountain outcroppings and above leaping magma, as you steer with the D-pad and provide precious updrafts by blowing into the mic on the DS. If only the rest of the game were on the same level. Shame.
Staff review by Marc Golding (December 04, 2008)
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