Thursday, August 25, 2011

Under the Radar: Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion (3DS)

So I've decided to work on a new semi-regular segment for ye ol' blog here, titled (as you can see) "Under the Radar".  One of the things about my job is that I see a deluge of different properties coming out all the time. Video games. Comic books. Movies. DVDs. The truth of the matter is that there's simply SO much stuff out there, that inevitably things are going to slip by unnoticed and under appreciated.  Sometimes you might stumble onto a quick blurb about one of these hidden gems early on, only to remember about it far too late, after it's already been exiled to the realm of the bargain bin, or worse, faded into obscurity and out of existence completely.  Well that's where these "Under the Radar" segments will come in.

First up in "Under the Radar"?  Crave Games' recent 3DS brawler, Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion.

I'll admit something to you guys that you might not already know. I'm still a big kid at heart. Big surprise, right? Even though no one in their right mind would ever mistake me for a kid anymore, I still have fun during my free time flipping channels and watching cartoons.  Hey, I grew up on everything from mainstays like G.I. Joe and Transformers to more obscure oddities like Turbo Teen and Centurions.  Tiny Toons. Bonkers.  I watched 'em all.  And so it's only natural that I still get a kick out of watching Cartoon Network and shows like The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, Samurai Jack, and Dexter's Laboratory. So when I first heard about a 3DS game akin to Super Smash Bros., starring the eclectic cast of characters from a range of Cartoon Network hits ... I was sold.

Well, I WOULD have been sold ... if I hadn't already been preoccupied with other games and such at the time.  Plus, I'll be honest, the game's $40 price point (which seems to be the de facto MSRP for new 3DS releases) cooled my enthusiasm a little bit.  I still can't really understand why there's a $10 price difference between the MSRP of DS and 3DS titles.  Eventually, I kinda forgot about Punch Time Explosion ... until a sale at Best Buy this week reminded me of it.  In case you missed it, Best Buy marked a handful of its 3DS titles down to $19.99 from the usual $39.99 this week.  And yep, Punch Time Explosion is one of the games on sale.  So a quick trip to Best Buy and $20 later, I was firing up my 3DS and taking Punch Time Explosion out for a whirl.  And you know what?  I'm glad I did.

Like I said earlier, Punch Time Explosion is essentially a Super Smash Bros. style brawler which takes its material (fighters, stages, powers, etc.) from the stars of various Cartoon Network shows.  There are basically two main gameplay modes: Story and Battle.  The Story Mode plays like your basic platform experience, with players making their way through the Cartoon Network Universe in a quest to uncover the source of a breakdown between the dimensional barriers that usually separate their respective worlds.  It's paper thin as far as plotlines go, but it's an excuse to get all these character together.  Plus, the narration from the mysterious Announcer (hysterically voiced by Space Ghost himself, George Lowe) is well worth sitting through the bridges between levels.  Story Mode is your basic platform experience, broken up by the occasional first person shooter or survival wave segment.  This part of the game starts off really slow ... but just when I was ready to throw in the title, things picked up and before long I was hooked.

After making my way through the Story Mode for a while, I jumped into Battle Mode for a few rounds.  This is your classic brawler mode, where you can pick your favorite character and take on one to three opponents in fast and furious fisticuffs.  Punch Time Explosion supports download play, so you can still play your friends even if they don't have a copy of the game themselves.  And if you don't have any friends immediately available, you can still play Battle Mode against up to three CPU opponents.  One this that bugged me a little bit is that the characters I had unlocked in Story Mode were nowhere to be seen in Battle Mode.  Apparently, those are unlocked separately by winning a set number of Battle Mode matches.  Just keep in mind, you'll have to win about 75 matches in order to unlock everyone in Battle Mode.  So don't expect to beat up your buddies as C****** P***** anytime soon.

With no Super Smash Bros. coming to the 3DS anytime soon (it was announced, but development had not started on it at the time), if you're jonesing for a button mashing throwdown, Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion is a fun way to get your fix.  I'm a little disappointed that the game doesn't have any other 3DS features like Street Pass or Spot Pass and it doesn't have any online gameplay, but it's still a blast to play.  I'll admit that I'd probably still have a hard time recommending the initial $40 retail price for the game, but as I found out this week, you can easily find it for $30 less.  And at that price, it's definitely worth checking out.

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