Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: November 20, 2003
Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, even after all these years, still have some of the best character chemistry ever in the history of animation. They're great characters by themselves, but when put together, they play off of each other wonderfully, to the point where if you're not laughing within a matter of minutes, you're either deaf, or have a heart made of stone.
The creators remembered this, and, thankfully, the game is much better than it could have been for it.
The setup and plot for Back In Action is nonsensical at best-the evil head of the Acme Corporation wants to use the powers of a certain Mystical Blue Monkey Diamond (said power turns people into monkeys) to take over the world. Why? All of those old Looney Tunes cartoons featuring Acme products maiming people time and time again--anvils, for example--have given his company a bad name, and he wants RAH-VENGE!
(Hey, I chuckled.)
However, the monkeys have revolted, and stolen the diamond for themselves. Since the diamond is technically still dangerous in the wrong hands, Bugs and Daffy take it upon themselves to get the diamond back, recover all the people-turned-monkeys, and save the world as we know it.
Well, Bugs does, anyway. Daffy joins up hopes that he can sell he diamond once recovered, and become filthy stinking rich. After all, Hollywood stars have a budget just like everyone else, didn't you know.
The result is a platform/adventure game that isn't all that bad, as far as games of this genre go. It's a little on the easy side, and it will often go out of its way to walk you through exactly what you must do at any given time. This is most likely to make it accessible for its target audience, but a little ways in, it becomes just challenging enough for older, seasoned gamers. The goals aren't very complicated, and amount to mainly fetch quests, collection quests, and platform-hopping of the most basic and only slightly inventive variety, as you go about catching monkeys and interacting with Looney Tunes characters. A good number of boss fights and minigames are also present.
The action is somewhat hampered by the PS2's analog control stick. Perhaps it's just me but it feels like the loosest thing ever; and when I want to aim my character precisely or make a tight jump, it sometimes gets in the way. Luckily the game engine is fairly forgiving in this regard-both in the realms of platform detection and cliff-hanging.
The camera, too, also has a few problems: specifically, you follow its rules, and not the other way around. It's clear that Back in Action's camera is strictly for surveillance only. Should you manipulate this camera, and afterwards move your character even a single inch, the camera will gradually default back to its usual view behind your character. This can get very frustrating, especially if you're used to lockable cameras. If I want to convert a normally three-dimensional jump to a two-dimensional jump by giving myself a sideways point of view, I'm out of luck.
Still, again, the game is forgiving and easy enough in the long run for these issues not to matter too much. All in all, this is a definitively average platformer, which is hit-or-miss if you decide to pick it up.
At least, it would be, if it weren't for the Looney Factor. That changes just about everything.
With in-game graphics that fall between cel-shading and the traditional polygon rendering style (nothing incredibly classy, in fact, it's blocky in some places, but it gets the job done), a ton of CG-rendered cutscenes, and a smattering of visual fourth-wall-breaking jokes, the game easily captures the Looney Tunes look and brings it home to you. Pretty much every character you can think of from the old cartoons is here as well, though some of them seem to be simply thrown into certain roles at the last second (Elmer as a security guard out to get Bugs, I can understand, and perhaps even Porky. But Deputy Speedy Gonzalez? Yosemite Sam runs a casino? Pepe LePew chases paintings instead of chronically-scared cats? Where am I?)
The two main characters, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, switch off with tag-team play. Each have their own abilities which allow you to proceed through the game as you best see fit. For example, Bugs can jump higher and burrow into the ground to reach hidden places or find buried treasure. If he tries to jump in bodies of water, though, it's an instant death. Only Daffy can swim, as well as flap his arms to float across long gaps. In other words, there are some sequences that can only be done by either character, or costumes (yes, Bugs and Daffy's vast array of joke costumes are here as well, yielding special powers) that can only be worn by a certain character. Sadly, I noted nothing in the way of team-up techniques during play or in the instruction booklet.
The rabbit and the duck never, ever stop talking; which is, for the most part, a good thing. They're great jokesters alone, but together, they're nigh-unstoppable; they trade insults back and forth, taunt each other and the player, and bat out one-liners about everything from videogaming to the gameplay mechanics to life as a working stiff to whatever scenario in the game you're playing through at that exact moment. Just when you wonder if the game's run out of sound bites, it throws you fresh new material-provided you go through the game at a quick enough pace.
One minor gripe goes to the fact that the sound bites being played are always queued, one after another, no matter what. Perform enough actions that trigger enough one-liners and you'll soon get a huge backlog of sounded-off responses to actions that you performed up to fifteen seconds ago. It makes the game sound a little off, at times, but it's forgivable, I think; not to mention fixable.
The game's background music, tried-and-true cartoonish sound effects, and banter from the supporting characters all do their part to make sure that you're actually playing a cartoon starring Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, live and uncut.
Looney Tunes: Back in Action is a more-than-perfect gift for the kiddies, and a solid rental at the very least for older people who, like me, still love the Looney Tunes characters. By itself, it would be an average--if somewhat fun--game, worth perhaps a single glance at best. But with the Looney Tunes license on its side, it becomes something downright charming and special. Try it. You just might like it.