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GBA Review - 'Teen Titans 2'

by Geson Hatchett on Nov. 10, 2006 @ 2:58 a.m. PST

The Brotherhood is back and once again it's up to the Teen Titans to stop them from taking over Titan city. Play as Robin, Cyborg, Raven, Beast Boy and Starfire in this action-packed sequel to the popular Game Boy Advance game.

Genre: Action
Publisher: Majesco Games
Developer: A2M
Release Date: October 23, 2006

Last year's GBA Teen Titans game was, how shall we put this … less than stellar.

Okay, fine. It was sludge.

I played through the whole sordid affair myself, and while it had a few redeeming points, it was ultimately a boring, tedious affair. A lot of people — including A2M themselves — must have agreed, because for Teen Titans 2, they went back to the drawing board, and after a complete redesign of their current franchise's formula, they've finally come up with something that works rather well. Who'd have thought?

The plot this time is that the Titans have been captured by the Brotherhood of Evil, which are the main villains featured in the fifth and final season of the show. One by one, they have to break each other out. Give this a bit of thought, and you'll realize that this means that the whole "team" aspect of the last game has gone the way of the dodo. This time, each of the Titans goes after a separate faction of the Brotherhood alone. There's no more swapping.

Crazy as it sounds, however, this is actually the best decision the developers could have made. Going with the "one character at a time" approach meant that A2M was now free to concentrate on each Titan as an individual and see what makes them tick. There are a few benefits to this that are readily apparent.

The first is the adaptation of the Titans' abilities. Far more than the small smattering of abilities we had in the last game, each Titan now has a true move list to call their own. Most of the Titans also control exceptionally well with their new move sets; the lone exception would be Cyborg, who's a bit of a clunker. Expect his missions to be the most tedious, though his cannons and hover-jets still get the job done. Robin's control is solid, reminiscent, ironically enough, of Batman in his old self-titled NES game, with his melee attacks and explosive projectiles. Starfire does everything you'd expect her to, starbolting like a madwoman, and Beast Boy has a creative amount of powers at his disposal, including a rhino charge and a monkey's wall-climb. (He doesn't have any bird-flight, however, which is somewhat strange.)

The standout amongst all of these, however, would be Raven. Much like Nightcrawler in X-Men: The Official Game, A2M has designed her move list so well that I would gladly enjoy a solo Raven game. Telekinesis of both enemies and inanimate objects, flight, teleportation (including through walls that would normally take puzzle-solving to overcome) and projectile fighting combine into a cohesive whole that's a blast to play — and still in two dimensions, no less! It's a shame that she gets so few levels to play, while Cyborg, in comparison, gets so many.

The other benefit of A2M's new approach is with regards to the level design, which is leaps and bounds above the first game. Before, you went around generic locations, all of which contained environmental hazards. In their place were scores of the same exact enemies, endlessly palette swapped in a crude attempt at variety. This was because you used all five Titans at once (all of which controlled in basically the same way) and were expected to make your own adventure with them.

This time, with one level per Titan, the levels have been designed around the character tackling them. Play a Cyborg level, and you'll be getting creative with your jump jets to get over gaps and climb buildings. Robin has plenty of places to use his wall-jumping to great asset, and Beast Boy will find plenty of girders to get his climb on. Play a Raven level, and you'll have to use your powers to the limit because so many things will be flying toward you at once. It doesn't let up, and unless you use your teleports and telekinesis to their full extent, you'll be dead in minutes. This, my friends, is a game that contains challenge. The levels aren't perfect, and often (again, using Cyborg) you'll end up taking some cheap deaths on the chin, but for the most part, it's very fulfilling. It's reminiscent of the old Capcom/Disney platformers of the 8- and 16-bit days, and frankly, that sort of feeling is always welcome.

All of this innovation, mind you, seems to have come at the cost of some production values. The animation, for instance, has taken a hit. Having more sprites spread across more moves means that the characters don't quite move as smoothly as they once did. While I miss being able to drool at the idle and walking animations of the Titans in the first game, it is true that these animations were wisely sacrificed for the sake of gameplay. Thus, I can't really hold it against them.

The sound has also taken a hit. Every stage shares the same three pieces of background music. Said pieces of music aren't badly composed, but still noticeable. However, the sound bites that each character had in the first game have also been excised.

I have to give props to A2M on this one — after a series of frustrating exercises in missed potential, this is their best product since Kim Possible 2 and 3. Hopefully, they'll continue along this path. If you're a fan of the Titans, looking for something to keep the kids busy or a decent side-scroller for yourself, Teen Titans 2 actually isn't a bad buy. You'll find yourself wanting to use the Titans' myriad moves over and over again (though more so in some cases than others), and the gameplay is solid.

Just … hang in there through those Cyborg levels.

Score: 7.5/10

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