I feel I can open this review with a bold statement; two statements, in fact. Firstly, Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers is the worst game I have played this year. Secondly, I cannot understand how a developer can take such beloved and well recognised Cartoon Network characters and utilise them badly. Finn and Jake, Gumball, and Steven Universe are all savvy and witty cast members from the lineup and each of them is utterly wasted. There are no moments of joy throughout this repetitive and tiresome side-scrolling brawler which entirely undermines the mission statement of such a game.
If I had to find any positives in this Algebraic mess it would be the art. Cartoon Network is known for bold lines and eye-popping colour which sit nicely alongside surreal features and artistic expression. Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers captures that aesthetic very nicely as Finn wields Jake in the form of a sledgehammer or as Uncle Grandpa unleashes a wave of fire from his weapon. And that, sadly, is where the fun ended.
Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers is a beat ’em up in the vein of Streets of Rage. A hero is chosen and the player walks from left to right defeating all enemies they face. The stages are littered with breakable items that spew forth gems which – though the game neglects to inform you early on – help to level up your chosen hero. As you progress, you’ll meet various other characters from the famous shows who will give you pointless fetch quests with the goal of moving onto the next level where you’ll do exactly the same things, but with a different backdrop.
When the cast increase in levels new abilities are unlocked but they make very little difference in the grand scheme of things because the combat itself is dull and lifeless. Enemies are cookie cutter repeats and environmental hazards – nullified by certain character moves – can be easily navigated, so there is no real challenge. There are harder difficulties to attempt, but I honestly cannot see why anyone would bother.
It’s a frustrating melting pot of bad ideas linked by no interesting sense of a storyline. This is accompanied by scruffy controls which causes more anger than joy. Why am I scrolling through characters one by one on the shoulder buttons when the Nintendo Switch offers a touchscreen? Why is it so awkward to line up jumps onto pieces of scenery? Why is the game extended by tracking back and forth through past levels and fighting the same exact enemies when Cartoon Network supplies such a wealth of creative content? Most importantly, why should I play this when so many other games exist?
At one point I assumed that it’s likely I’m not the target audience, so I gave the game to my daughters – aged eight and ten – to play. They love Cartoon Network, so I thought that Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers would give them something new to experience. While both of them enjoyed the visual spectacle and the set pieces of special moves, they each gave up citing that it simply wasn’t fun, ironically choosing to watch The Regular Show instead. So, if my thoughts don’t nail what I want to say, I’ll leave it to my eight-year-old daughter – “This is boring, can we play Mario Kart instead?”