The game’s main single-player adventure is split into six separate stages (the last of which is not available until the previous five have been completed). Each stage is based on a particular cartoon, for example SpongeBob SquarePants’ Bikini Bottom, The Fairly OddParents’ Fairy World, and so on. It is the player’s job to traverse each stage and perform a number of tasks in order to bring down the evil Dr. Calamitous, Jimmy Neutron’s arch nemesis from The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius television series. You see, the Dr. has taken it upon himself to create a series of evil-toy producing factories in yet another attempt to “take over the world”, etc, etc.
Before entering a stage players must choose two characters – which can be switched between on the fly - from the game’s hefty roster. Initial characters include the likes of SpongeBob, Tak and Danny Phantom, but many more can be unlocked later on. Each stages is split into three distinct sections; an Action Area, a Ride Area and a Boss Area. The Action Area is extremely combat-heavy, and ultimately makes up the bulk of the game. Unfortunately, it soon becomes extremely repetitive and rather dull. Players only have access to a single attack and no defensive or combo options. Whilst each attack can be charged up or combined with a jump, the end result doesn’t change much, so it’s rarely worth the effort. Plus, just to make things even more ‘fun’, the game forces you to destroy each and every enemy before it lets you progress.
Despite the game’s rather impressive character roster, there isn’t a great deal of variety between characters’ attacks. When combined with limited combat options, this soon results in constant button-mashing affair that quickly becomes tiresome. There are a few touch screen mini-games scattered throughout to keep things interesting, but these are generally brief and prove to be little more than quick distractions that feel a little out of place. The Action Area’s repetitive nature is further enhanced by extremely linear level design, which almost never deviates from its: fight enemies, complete mini-game, fight enemies, find Mech-Suit, fight more enemies and an end-of-area factory machine, formula.
Mech-Suit, you say? Alas, it isn’t nearly as interesting as it sounds. Simply put, each stage contains one of these battle-ready robots and will offer it to players as they near the end of the level. Unfortunately, the suits don’t add any interesting combat options, but simply allow for more powerful button-mashing. They’re also necessary to destroy the end-of-area factory machines, which can fire lasers and spawn enemies, but which also end up as little more than punching bags for your button-mashing. When combined with collision detection problems that are the result of mixing a 3D Mech with 2D enemies, the Action Areas will ultimately leave a sour taste in all but the most easily-pleased mouths.
We won’t give up on the game just yet, though. After all, there are two additional Areas to discuss, not to mention multiplayer. So, let’s start with the Ride Areas, which, as you might expect, are simply racing sections. Unfortunately, they’re pretty basic too. Players ride around in the Mech from the previous area, whilst trying to collect Nuts and Bolts (which are needed for Boss encounters), painting icons (which unlock portraits of non-playable characters) and avoiding obstacles. Nuts and Bolts are gradually depleted over time and when a collision occurs, although the latter can be avoided by boosting. Controls aren’t particularly tight, and levels are rather short, but it’s mildly enjoyable, and certainly less mind-numbing than the Action Areas.
Boss Areas are entirely 3D and take place from a first-person perspective. The goal of each Boss encounter is to deplete an enemy Mech’s health whilst retaining sufficient Nuts and Bolts to keep your own Mech up and running. Players have access to a quick-fire attack and a slower, more powerful blast, both of which are needed not only to pummel the enemy Mech, but also to damage certain level-specific objects such as turrets, which can also damage your Mech if left unchecked. Once again, these encounters are mildly entertaining, but suffer from being to repetitive. Plus, difficulty is all but a non-issue because of the mass of Nuts and Bolts that most players will have accumulated in the previous two areas.
Before we come to a conclusion, it’s worth noting that this game has clearly been designed with co-operative play in mind. The dual-character Action Areas and the second Mech you can see lurking in the background of Boss encounters are testament to that. Thankfully the game offers both single- and multi-card support for multiplayer, although the former has some limits in the form of no cut-scenes, a more limited character roster, and increased load times. It’s also easier to overlook some of the game’s flaws if you have a friend playing along with you, but length becomes more of a problem because enemies are being dispatched more quickly.