Developer: Blue Tongue
Release Date: October 23, 2007
When it comes to kids' franchises, THQ really seems to know how to milk the Nicktoons cow, with games ranging from SpongeBob Squarepants to the Fairly Oddparents, Danny Phantom, El Tigre, and so on. It shouldn't be too surprising to see a title that features the whole lot of them, Nicktoons: Attack of the Toybots. It's not the first game to do this, but while it's obviously a simple cash-in, Attack of the Toybots isn't entirely without merit.
At the heart of the game is platforming, which has you using popular characters from the Nicktoons stable. You start off with head honcho SpongeBob, lead into the somewhat-newer Tak (yes, that Tak), go with Danny Phantom, and so on. The plot features a robot invasion that our heroes have to face off against, and the gameplay is spread out across the various "worlds" that these different characters inhabit.
The Toybots are being led by a villain, the aptly named Dr. Calamitous, who plans on going the often-used and never-aging route of complete world domination, by using his evil genius to unleash a horde of robots among an unprepared populace of Nicktoons denizens. A few of the heroes fall prey to the takeover, and they get replaced with robotic versions of themselves, but a few heroes also manage to escape, and these are the guys you get to control throughout the game.
As with most kid's titles, the difficulty level in Attack of the Toybots isn't too high, with only five levels to play through and a slight difficulty for more experienced players. While the majority of the gameplay is definitely focused on platforming, there are also a few action elements, allowing most characters some basic attacks to battle the various robotic creatures you encounter. Unfortunately, while there are quite a few different characters that you'll end up playing as, they really don't play all that differently from each other, and outside of a basic appearance change and a special skill or two, there isn't enough to set them apart to make the various characters seem necessary, other than trying to appeal to fans of that particular franchise.
Obviously, Attack of the Toybots is geared toward kids, so I don't really fault it for the easy difficulty or including every familiar franchise character, but it is frustrating that each level is far too lengthy. It would have served the target audience a bit better if they had broken up the five levels into something a bit better-paced; while playing through the game with a nephew, I could see his interest begin to wane after a short while. I was right there with him, though, since the level design is repetitive, with the same idea of hydraulic lifts and platforms, bundled with gears you need to shoot to activate other platforms. You round things out with instant death obstacles that you need to dodge or hop over. You can take this design and apply it to every level you encounter, and while the background and setting might change, the overall style of gameplay doesn't.
The title tries to put a partner system into play, where most stages will have an AI-controlled buddy that tags along with the character you're controlling, and with a simple button press, you can opt to switch over to that character. However, the actual AI of your partner is pretty horrible, and he'll often fall into pits, miss jumps, or allow himself to get bashed by whatever enemy you encounter. I never felt like the AI was hindering my progress, since you don't need your partner to actually make the jumps with you, but it never helps you out against the enemies, at least not in a reliable fashion.
Attack of the Toybots does a decent job of bringing each Nicktoon world to life, with bright, colorful graphics that should appeal to most kids, and the characters are modeled well enough, if maybe a bit too small to really pick out much detail during gameplay. The cut scenes are all modeled in 3-D as opposed to the traditional 2-D animation that most of these shows use, and it's not particularly well done, compared to something like Jimmy Neutron (who also shows up here).
The voice acting for each character consists of a few one-liners during levels, but the cut scene stuff is spot-on and instantly familiar to anyone who's watched the shows. Each level has music that matches the theme, and it sounds like it's probably been ripped right out of an episode or two, but once again, that works for the game in keeping everything nice and familiar for the target audience.
The controls all work well enough, with the majority of your abilities being mapped to buttons instead of being forced into some strange movements with the Wiimote. It's easy enough to pull off double jumps, rolls and attacks, and anyone can get the hang of the control scheme in just a few minutes, making it easily accessible to the younger crowd.
For parents looking to play something with their kids or anyone with multiple children under one roof, there is a little bit of multiplayer in Attack of the Toybots in form of a few co-op levels that let two players control both of the characters at once. These are a bit different from what you'll encounter in the single-player game, and while it's nice to see some form of multiplayer available, it's hardly going to take up more than an hour or two of time to see everything you need to see.
While I appreciate any game that employs some decent platforming elements, you have to realize that Nicktoons: Attack of the Toybots is strictly intended for the younger crowd. In no way will it appeal to teenagers or anyone older, unless you happen to be a giant fan of any of these characters. Even then, kids will most likely see through the repetitive gameplay after a while, and I can't see it holding the attention span of kids and adults for longer than a few hours. Thankfully, that's about how long this game lasts, and for $20 nowadays, it's not the worst way to pass a few hours with a kid, but don't expect it to get much more than a few days of playtime.