Recently, we have been treated to a TV/movie license game that actually matched the quality of its source material, which is a rarity even among the most earnest of publishers and development studios. It gave hope to gamers in being able to see games featuring their favorite characters, which is supposed to be an exciting prospect. Here is another cartoon series with a new game, which does seem to have promise as well.
There have been four previous Powerpuff Girls games for the PC, and they never really took off. Many of the video game spin-offs of the franchise received mediocre to bad reviews for reasons that become apparent upon playing them. Unfortunately, it does look like those games weren’t really given the time and attention that they deserved, which is unfortunate for a fairly popular franchise. But then again, this is the usual fate of TV/Movie license games, aside from some exceptions like South Park: The Stick of Truth
The Powerpuff Girls: Defenders of Townsville is a Metroidvania-style action platformer developed by Radiangames and published by Cartoon Network Games, so this is an official Powerpuff Girls game. The visuals mostly feature the modern Powerpuff Girl style, but the classic Craig McCracken style that longtime Powerpuff Girls fans know and love is also available (and at least it’s not like the Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z anime). The characters, interface, levels, and backgrounds are all rendered quite nicely, whether you choose to play with either the modern or classic style.
This game’s story starts on an evil note, with the girls having their memories wiped by an amnesia beam courtesy of the simian villain and mad genius Mojo Jojo, then falling into the dark underground recesses of Townsville. You then play as Buttercup, who has amnesia and must figure out what’s going on and find her sisters. Superpowers and memories can then be recovered through collectible power-ups, and they must also fight bosses that are in their way. As mentioned, it follows a Metroidvania structure, which means that level designs are sprawling and not linear.
Gameplay is easy enough to pick up since it plays like most platformers and has good gamepad support. Each of the girls has her own unique attack, but everything else is the same, which is not enough to merit effort to switch between characters once they are all unlocked. If there were more difference in offensive movesets between them, there would be more tactical possibilities against various situations, which would have made gameplay more interesting. However, being able to fly around and beat up bad guys as one of the girls is still pretty cool.
Unfortunately, while the visuals were made to be interchangeable between the modern and classic versions of the cartoon, both look like there’s something missing. There’s a dry look and feel to the whole game, despite being from such an action-packed cartoon series. Once you take out everything on screen, there’s not much else going on, and you’ll have to fly around some more to explore the rest of the level. It feels a bit too much like a flash game, from its presentation to its atmosphere. Its music is full of average 8-bit tracks with deep tones that aren’t what the series is known for bubblegum pop tracks are).
As a Metroidvania-style game, it was bound to have big levels with lots of twists and turns, but the way it’s done here hasn’t fared well in execution. It’s fair enough that there would be quite a bit of backtracking, but that’s excusable as long as there are new things to do during those times. However, it’s the same stuff every time, which makes this game feel tedious and repetitive. Most people would say that it’s a game meant for kids, but this is a 15-year-old franchise, which means that most of its fanbase are now adults. It has stumbled a bit in recognizing its target market, and it doesn’t do it in the same way that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic did in serendipity (or in bad luck if you’re a brony hater).
The Powerpuff Girls was a good cartoon series that had its own attempts at holding on to its audience over the years, including a reboot that made use of its more modern vector art style. For $8, this game is quite alright for the most part if you can overlook its various design gaffes. But considering that Radiangames is a one-man outfit, it’s a pretty good and earnest effort.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 6.5/10