We were really hoping we could start this review with the
following sentence: “If you’re looking for a mediocre Super Smash Bros. clone
with your favorite Cartoon Network characters, look no further than Cartoon Network:
Punch Time Explosion XL!” but, after playing Crave Entertainment’s cartoony
brawler, we can’t bring ourselves to give it even that amount of acclaim.
XL is an upgraded version of the 3DS Punch Time Explosion
from a few months back, and bumps the roster from 18 to 26. For many, the
roster is going to be the biggest selling point, as it typically is in games
that look to mash franchises together, and to that point it basically does its
job. Characters like Johnny Bravo, Samurai Jack, and Captain Planet will be
great for fans of ‘80s and ‘90s cartoons, while Mac and Bloo from Foster’s Home
for Imaginary Friends and a number of characters from Ben 10 will give younger
gamers some faces they recognize. But while it covers a wide variety of series,
it certainly feels like it should cover even more – especially considering how
much double dipping takes place. Sure, the Power Puff Girls could all have
their own move sets, but making them pallet-swaps in favor of adding two more
varied characters would have definitely upped the value.
XL also cleans up the 3DS version’s story mode a bit and
adds new enemies and bosses to the campaign, which models itself closely after
Brawl’s Subspace Emissary by mashing together a bunch of Cartoon Network’s
properties into one big, sloppy story.
And beyond being sloppy, it isn’t very fun. Players are
thrown into different worlds and asked to fight against uninteresting enemies
in uninteresting locations that only barely draw inspiration from the
television shows they’re referencing. Platforming through the world of Kids
Next Door should be much different than jumping along the rooftops of
Townsville, but… it isn’t.
Above: Check out a developer diary and spot if you can guess where it all went wrong
Only some of the levels are actually interesting, using
unique mechanics to separate them from the other worlds, but the platforming
and combat is too weak to fully take advantage of it. Even narration from George
Lowe – the voice of Space Ghost – didn’t make us want to play through the
entire campaign, and we’d listen to him read a phone book.
Though we’d have been more accepting of the lackluster story
and less-than-stellar roster if the game was actually any fun to play. Brawlers
should at least be dumb fun, but even without holding it up in comparison to
Smash Bros. the combat is really weak and unfulfilling. Characters’ moves
aren’t very creative, the controls feel sluggish, and the timing is all over
the place. Once we saw all of the characters and got over the initial nostalgia
of seeing Johnny Bravo riding a motorcycle we simply didn’t want to play
anymore, even with friends.
Frustration with controls and poor gameplay meant that our main
enjoyment came from rushing to use the game’s Assist Characters, who drop like
items (think the Assist Trophies or Pokeballs from Smash Bros.), but even that
fun was short lived – especially considering a majority of them aren’t very
good, and some are actually just annoying. Cheese from Foster’s Home for
Imaginary Friends, for instance, runs around and screams when he’s unlocked,
and the noise is so annoying that it actually made us stop playing.
As fans of most of the games featured in the roster and big
fans of the genre in general we desperately wanted to like this game, and from
the description it sounded like there was a chance. There are unlockables,
multiple game modes, and all of the typical bonuses you’d expect from a
brawler, but the cool characters and interesting items do little to dig Punch
Time XL out of the hole its poor gameplay burrows – not even Space Ghost, and we love that guy.