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Nicktoons: Battle for Volcano Island Review

Developer: Blue Tongue Publisher: THQ
Release Date: October 24, 2006 Also On: GCN and PS2

Nicktoons: Battle for Volcano Island is the second game in what is likely to become a Nicktoons series. Based on a concept of teaming up characters from multiple Nickelodeon shows, Nicktoons seems to have a winning formula, appealing to fans of more than one particular show. However, making a game worth playing takes more than just packing it full of licensed characters. Is the gameplay in this game up there with the character selection? Read on to find out.

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Graphically, Battle for Volcano Island is about what one would expect of THQ. The characters all look good and look very much like they look in the cartoons from which they were drawn. The backgrounds also look very cartoon-like and are detailed enough to look good, but not so much that the detail detracts from the game. Overall, one could almost say, “If you’ve seen one THQ game, you’ve seen them all”, but at least the formula that isn’t broken is a good one for the most part.

It’s the same story with the sound. The sound effects are good, but won’t knock your socks off by any means. The music likewise is okay, but it isn’t anything memorable. But the high point of the sound in this game, as with almost any console THQ game, is to be found in the voice acting. All of the characters sound like they should, and, in the cutscenes, they all act like they should. It is obvious that THQ has gone to great lengths to analyze the characters and to give them voicing and dialogue that is appropriate to them, which is a plus for any licensed game.

The gameplay, however, is a bit on the generic side. Every character can double-jump, can attack enemies hand to hand, has a varied projectile attack that ammo can be collected for, and has an attack from above. However, the difference between the characters in actual gameplay is almost purely cosmetic. In all the time that I spent playing this game, there was nothing that I needed to do that I couldn’t do with SpongeBob.

The levels themselves are almost purely linear. You go from point A to point B to get something at the end. At first you’re going for characters to fill out your group, but eventually you’ll be going for parts to build the machine that you need to take on the Mawgu, who is the bad guy in this game just like in the handheld versions. At least there is a little exploration aspect though, as there are objects in each level to be found to unlock bonus levels for each character as well as other things, and many of these you’ll have to leave the main path of the level to find.

Occasionally there will be sections that will have you use other things to accomplish your goals though, such as slingshots, sections that give some much-needed variety to what otherwise would seem a very bland affair. There aren’t too many different types of enemies, although their appearances change a bit as you go through the game, and there’s also a lot of platform jumping to be had. But the game does have its creative moments occasionally, and it never gets so repetitive as to be boring.

The only thing I really don’t get is why THQ felt the need to have six playable characters if there was going to be no significant difference between them. Like in the handheld versions, Jimmy Neutron has lost his playable character status, relegating the six playable characters to three SpongeBob characters, two Danny Phantom characters, and Timmy Turner from Fairly Odd Parents. Since you never truly have to change characters, I must say that the character use balance of this game is sadly lacking.

Unlike the GBA and DS versions of this game, however, the other characters usually follow whichever character you’re controlling around. They share a lifebar, but the only one who can truly be injured is the one being controlled by the player. In combat situations, the others will attack occasionally, although the computer AI is not very intelligent. Also, usually when there’s a long platform jumping sequence, the other characters will wait for the character being controlled to make it across, then they’ll magically appear near him.

In terms of difficulty, this game lies somewhere on the easy side. Revival points abound, you have infinite lives, and there’s no real penalty for falling into a hole or into deep water except that you sometimes lose some ground. Still, considering the fact that this game is in all likelihood being aimed at young kids, a slight lack of difficulty is somewhat forgivable.

One other option that exists in this game is that a second player can join in at any time or leave at any time without interrupting the flow of the game. I was unable to find a second person to play with me at all, so I cannot give educated comment on this feature except to say that it’s there. Of course, it probably only serves to make an already easy game easier, but it is a nice feature nonetheless.

In terms of replay value, there are two things to be mentioned. First is that you need to collect four objects per character to unlock a bonus level for them, which can take a while to search through all the levels for. Second is the fact that these bonus levels are timed, so, if you are truly ambitious, you can try to improve your times in them. While many gamers who play this game might be inclined to try to unlock the bonus levels, I can’t imagine too many people will worry about improving their times in them after beating them. However, the main game is decent-lengthed, so a relative lack of replay value isn’t the end of the world.

What then is my conclusion? The GBA version has a better balance of character use than this one does, but other than that, the console version easily stands as the best of the three due to its reasonable entertainment value, presence of a battle system (which isn’t there in the GBA version), and excellent voice-acted cutscenes. Therefore, if you are thinking about getting this game, the console version is probably the way to go, although the GBA version is good in its own way also. I should note that the reason the GBA version scored higher is that it is better as a GBA game than the console version is as a console game, not because the GBA version is actually better in a pure sense.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 6
Creativity: 6
Replay Value/Game Length: 6
Final: 6.5
Written by Martin Review Guide