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Nicktoons: Battle for Volcano Island Review

Developer: THQ Publisher: THQ
Release Date: October 24, 2006 Also On: None

Last year THQ combined four of the most popular Nickelodeon characters into one game, and the result was Nicktoons Unite. Despite the fact that the DS version of that game was not particularly impressive by any means, the game did well enough to warrant the sequel Battle for Volcano Island. Although there are a couple of steps backward compared to Nicktoons Unite, the DS version of Battle for Volcano Island is easily a superior game to its predecessor.

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Graphically, Battle for Volcano Island is pretty standard for a THQ Nickelodeon game, meaning that the graphics are pretty good but shouldn’t be expected to be awe-inspiring. Still, the characters all look pretty much like their cartoon versions, and the backgrounds are likewise appropriately cartoonish. Overall, there is nothing about these graphics that would warrant a serious complaint.

On the sound front, the sound effects are certainly nothing special. That’s not to say that they’re bad, but most of them are the same stuff you hear in most platformer. Still, they do their job effectively enough, so I can’t complain too much. The music is pretty good and usually sounds appropriate for the environment that you’re currently in, but most of it isn’t particularly memorable. Although the voice acting is limited to one-liners by the characters with most of the story progression being carried out by text boxes, the voices that are present sound like they should and add to the game well. Most games don’t have even the level of voice acting to be found in this game, so its presence is a definite plus to this game.

So far as gameplay is concerned, this game is vastly superior to last year’s Nicktoons Unite, but, surprisingly, it fails to surpass the GBA version of this year’s game in many areas. First of all, compared to last year’s DS version, the game has been switched from a 3D platformer to a 2D platformer. As well, Jimmy Neutron has been removed as a playable character, although he does play a cameo role in the storyline of this game. This reduces the character count to three, as none of the new faces in this year’s console version made the cut for the DS version. This also means that the DS version has one less playable character than the GBA version.

But that’s not the main thing that makes the DS version inferior to the GBA version. In the GBA version, each character had special abilities that were required to get through the levels, while in this game, Danny is the best battler in most situations and SpongeBob is easily the best for platforming sections with his ability to float. The only reason to use Timmy is either for those rare sections where his quite bad second jump is necessary to reach a platform just a little bit out of the others’ reach or when the others are both almost dead. This creates a situation where the balance between character use is significantly imbalanced against Timmy, whereas the GBA version is more balanced.

Unlike the GBA version, however, each of the three characters has his own life bar, so when a character is weak, you can switch to another one. Whenever a character dies, however, you lose, even though the other characters may be at full strength. This will necessitate you paying attention to how much life your characters have and often will require you to switch characters in the middle of boss battles.

The level designs are reasonably varied, with each of the five levels based on a different environmental theme, all of which are appropriate considering that this game takes place on an island. The battle system doesn’t get too repetitive either, as most often each environment has its own set of enemies. Each of the five levels contains three sections: an exploration section, where the objective is to retrieve three crystals and bring them back to a gate; an action section, where the objective is simply to get from one end of the area to the other; and a boss battle.

In terms of difficulty, this game’s difficulty level is pretty good for the type of game that it is. It is neither so easy as to be a cakewalk nor is it so hard that beginners to the platformer genre will have significant trouble. The boss battles execute well and carry some challenge, but they are not anywhere near impossible. There are also few sections in the levels themselves that are too difficult, although there might be a section or two that will make you think a bit.

At the end of each level, you will receive a rank based on how quickly you completed each of the three sections and how many coins you collected in the exploration and action areas. Unfortunately, attempts to increase this rank are the only semblance of replay value to be found in this game, other than one minigame that has been put in and which probably won’t be the type of thing to inspire much play time.

However, both this minigame and the game itself can be played in multiplayer. Multiplayer in the minigame can be done through single-card play, which is a nice touch, but this minigame isn’t exciting enough to be worth playing much, even against an opponent. The main game can also be played multiplayer, but this requires each of the two players to have a game card. Still, there aren’t many platformers out there that have multiplayer, especially for the DS.

Overall, this game is only a couple hours long, and it doesn’t even feature any sort of progressive abilities aspect since you start with all three characters and there are no ability upgrades to be found either. So, despite the fact that this game is pretty good, and is certainly a far cry from last year’s game, the GBA version is longer, has more variation in the abilities of the characters, and has a progressive element that the DS version lacks. For those reasons, although I normally would recommend this game, and still do with reservation, I would recommend the GBA version before the DS one in this case.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 7
Creativity: 5
Replay Value/Game Length: 5
Final: 6.3
Written by Martin Review Guide