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GBA Review - 'Teen Titans'

by Geson Hatchett on Nov. 13, 2005 @ 1:02 a.m. PST

Play as one of the five Teen Titans, testing their superhuman strength and attack moves across multiple levels in hostile environments filled with notorious enemies from the show. Enjoy “super-deformed” characters, power-ups, hidden collectibles and non-stop adventure in this side-scrolling thriller for Teen Titans fans and action gamers alike.

Genre: Action
Publisher: Majesco Games
Developer: A2M
Release Date: October 16, 2005

It's taken a bit of waiting on the fans' part, but the highly successful Teen Titans cartoon series is finally coming to consoles.

The big boys get their fun in '06, but first up on the list is the Game Boy Advance.

However, given the product we've been presented with, it begs the question … why did they bother? Another question is, why did the house which has been working steadily on increasing the quality of its Kim Possible games take such a step backward with this license?

When the backstory is the most clich├ęd thing you've ever come across, you know you're in for problems. Brother Blood (a villain from the cartoon's third season) controls an organization known as the HIVE, and its affiliated Academy For Gifted Youngsters (in other words, supervillains-in-training). He and his robot army break into Titans Tower and somehow steal the DNA of our heroes. His goal? To take over the world using clones of them.

I told you it was bad.

What follows is quite possibly the worst example of a blatant license/franchise cash-in I've seen in my life, and this is coming from someone who's played Disney Princesses, for crying out loud. (Don't ask. I was curious. We'll leave it at that.) I'll be covering things more in-depth, but the game as a whole is plagued by horrific stage design, boring and repetitive gameplay, and places where it looks like the designers just didn't care anymore.

…but hey, those Titans look pretty darned nice with their hair and capes blowing in the wind, don't they?

The big hook is being able to play as all five Titans at the same time… sort of. You'll be able to switch between them on the fly, playing as only one of them at any time. Their powers are actually faithful to the series. Robin has his martial arts, Cyborg has cannons and can punch the ground, Starfire has green stuff, Raven can hurl debris and create a force field around herself – that sort of thing. Each character also has a secondary ability triggered by their primary ones. For example, Starfire can energize reactors with her powers, Cyborg's ground pound will break weak spots in the terrain, and Robin… Robin hacks computers. It's okay, I don't get it either.

All of these wonderful powers, sadly, will be spent fighting through stages consisting of the same few types of robot enemies for 30 to 45 minutes (seriously, some of the stages are that long). Sometimes, a cloned Titan will join the fray. All of this fighting is slow and clunky, and you will be forced to take many, many hits. It doesn't help that there seems to be no strength differences between the Titans; they all do the same piddly damage to any enemy they encounter. Finally, just as you're about to fall asleep, you'll find your way to the end of a stage, and a boss fight will occur. Then you repeat the whole process all over again. The puzzles involving the Titans' powers are obvious and not implemented very well at all (especially since the game prompts you with color-coded hints as to how to solve them every chance it gets). There's very little creativity going on here.

The game does have a few other saving graces besides the power design. First off is the dialogue in the cut scenes, which consist of still drawings and comic bubbles in between missions. It's pretty much spot-on for all the characters. Everyone talks like they should, the comedy works, and for better or worse, Starfire is still Starfire. The other silver lining is that while the main stages are the most repetitive thing ever, the boss fights are inventive and true to the characters. You certainly expect for Jinx to be able to cartwheel around the room and be able to reverse your controls. You'd also expect Mammoth to not be able to be scratched by anything save for his own attacks, or for Gizmo to fly all over the place and make his own combination-lock force-fields.

Those things I can give the game respect for. Everything else… no. Just, no.

Wait, there is one more thing. The visuals, for the most part, are really clean stuff. You can tell they blew a decent wad of money on the animation because each Titan has lots of sprites to their names, and fluid animations for everything — punching, kicking, special moves. There will be times when you think you've stepped into a Teen Titans rendition of Street Fighter 3: Third Strike.
Even the portraits of the characters next to the energy bars change expression based on how much damage the character has taken overall.

It's a shame the rest of the graphics took such a hit. In order for the Titans to look so good (barring a few strangely drawn sprite sets such as Cyborg, who just looks so out of proportion it's ridiculous), the rest of the game ended up consisting of differently sized palette-swaps of the exact same enemy robot sprite, over and over again. Seriously, there are about four unique enemies in the game, not counting the bosses. The more challenging fights consist of, as mentioned before, clones of the Titans. Monotony doesn't begin to describe the experience.

The background music is also forgettable, as are the sound effects. The developers packed some sound bites in for all the characters, and they're all high-quality and can be heard quite cleanly, as opposed to the super-compressed sound bites that normally plague the GBA hardware. Still, before long, you'll wish they used more, because the same one gets used for anything significant that each Titan does, from winning a big fight, to finding a secret item, to performing their signature special move. I never thought it was actually possible for me to get sick of hearing Raven's "Azarath, Metrion, Zinthos!" chant, but this game made it possible. Thanks, guys!

I don't know… maybe it's because I'm an older fan of the series, and the game was obviously designed for kids. It was also clearly created on a budget that either wasn't large enough for the game's ambitions, or was blown early on the extra character sprites. But even looking it from that angle, the game's definitely a scooch on the tough side for the kiddie crowd. The enemies may be uninspired, but there are a lot of them, they're tough, and they don't stop coming. Plus, I'm sure the maze-like stages would go over a lot of heads, at least at first.

If you've got a kid that's really into Teen Titans, you could probably do a whole lot worse than this game for them, but honestly, not by much. Anyone else, avoid this thing like the plague. The small pits of positively realized potential are buried in bad design decisions and textbook examples of corner-cutting all over the place due to the game's huge (yet faltered) emphasis on presentation. Overall, a huge disappointment.

On second thought … just buy the little tykes Kim Possible 3 instead.

Score: 5.0/10

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