Start with a second-rate cartoon license. Add a dash of a bargain-bin party game, then stuff it inside half-baked 3D roaming combat and stir well. Finally, let the mix rot in the sun for a week. What do you get? You’d be half right if you said “something really icky,” but you’d be totally on the mark if you said Xiaolin Showdown on the PS2.
Xiaolin Showdown is a four-player, free-roaming competitive fighting game (though you’d be hard-pressed to tell by reading the blurb on the game’s packaging). You select one of the show’s characters to play as against up to 3 other competitors in various arenas. Your goal in each arena is to beat up both enemies and other players while collecting items, money, and pieces of a scroll that show up at regular intervals.
Once three scroll pieces are snatched up, it’s off to a special minigame finale. Perform well, and you’ll earn points to make your character stronger, as well as earn money and attack items. Along the way you’ll also be encountering familiar series environments, artifacts, and characters (all voiced by the original actors from the cartoon).
This doesn’t sound so bad, right? The problem is, combat in Xiaolin Showdown is amazingly, astoundingly boring. The scroll pieces take forever to appear on the map, and while you wait for them to show up, you’re stuck doing nothing but running around and pounding on the other fighters to try and get some extra energy.
Every now and then enemies will pop in, but fighting the same robot for the umpteenth time gets old fast. The assorted combat backdrops don’t help any, either. Their design is utterly bland, and they have few unique features and hazards that would make them fun to fight on.
Confounding this is the weak fighting engine. The characters have different sizes and specialties, but they all handle the same. Planning combo strings offers little benefit beyond what button mashing would accomplish. The powerful charge attack is slow and useless unless your character has earned enough points to increase their skill.
Targeting is a pain, and more often then not when you try to specify a target, you’ll wind up beating on the wrong person. Effects of the special attack items you earn seem to hit at random and are either extremely powerful or incredibly useless. Topping all of this off is a complete lack of any on-screen status display, leaving you clueless as to your current ranking and condition.
Xiaolin Showdown is a bad game, plain and simple. In a genre where speed and chaos is an important part of gameplay, Xiaolin Showdown’s fights are out and outright tedious. Even the parts that had potential, like the character strength building and the bonus minigames, are poorly implemented. If whatever martial art you’re studying considers monotony a character-building exercise, this will do the trick. Otherwise, stay far away.