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Johnny Test

Platform(s): Nintendo DS
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: 505 Games
Release Date: March 29, 2011

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


NDS Review - 'Johnny Test'

by Brian Dumlao on April 29, 2011 @ 4:00 a.m. PDT

Strap on your turbo-charged backpack in the series' first ever full-length video game,and pushing the limits of reality with Johnny Test and all of your favorite friends and foes from the show.

The world of Johnny Test seems like perfect fodder for a video game. During each episode, Johnny either messes around with or becomes the test subject of one of his sisters' latest inventions. The tweaking of said experiments often goes awry, and it's up to Johnny, twin sisters Susan and Mary, and their talking dog Dukey to save the town of Porkbelly and the world from doom. It's a formula that makes for an interesting cartoon series, but it's also one that gamers have seen countless times. After four seasons on the air, the series finally gets its own video game on the Nintendo DS, and while it isn't perfect, it's good enough for fans of the series.

The plot for Johnny Test sounds very much like an extended episode of the TV series. Trying to take his video games to the next level, Johnny decides to mess around with his sisters' latest invention, a reality generator. As things are wont to do, he tweaked the machine so badly that three of the world's villains — Bling Bling Boy, Brain Freezer and Wacko — used it for nefarious purposes against the town of Porkbelly. It's up to Johnny to set things right and rescue his neighbor, Gil Nexdor, in the process.

As expected for a licensed title, the game is a side-scrolling platformer where you play as Johnny as well as his various alter-egos, depending on the level. For example, when Porkbelly is transformed into a medieval town, you play as regular ol' Johnny. When under the threat of eternal winter, you play as the super hero Johnny X, and when you finally find Bling Bling Kid's lair, you become J Trooper. Each one of the forms has a special ability, such as a cyclone punch from Johnny X and a laser pistol for J Trooper, but for the most part, the game plays the same. Johnny has to traverse each level, using transporters to find the exit. Along the way, he picks up nacho chips for extra points, lightning icons to boost his overall health, and dog bones to call upon his dog Dukey to provide him with flight or invincibility for a short amount of time. He can also jump on enemies to get rid of them and pick up radioactive symbols, which give him other special abilities, such as a backside burner, jetpack or super soaker.

From a platforming perspective, the game's levels are done right. Like classic platforming games, each level gives you multiple paths to get to the end, leaving it up to you to determine how you want to tackle each level. What's more, there are areas that are only accessible if you have certain powers available. Players have a reason to go back and replay the levels with the promise of collecting more power icons and nachos. It's a good technique in practice, and the fact that it isn't overdone makes the backtracking fun instead of tiring.

Johnny Test does suffer from one fatal flaw: its length. With only 12 levels, the game is quite short, and when you begin to factor in the idea that each level has at least one short path from the beginning to the end, it becomes even shorter. As mentioned before, the basic level design encourages players to revisit areas once they have the appropriate tools at their disposal, but that will only appeal to those who want to squeeze the most out of their gaming experience. For those who simply move on from a title once they see the end credits, there isn't enough content here to engage an average player beyond an afternoon.

The graphics are done well enough most of the time. The environments carry out the same simple style of the cartoon series, with a good mix of both bright and muted colors painted over the landscape. The enemies might not have many distinctive features, but they animate well enough, especially during their death scenes. The camera is somewhat dynamic in that it zooms in and pulls back at just the right times, letting you focus on tricky jumps and enemy movement when needed. As for Johnny, he looks fine in his alter egos but disappointing when he's normal. The lines that define his face can barely be seen during gameplay, and combined with his small stature because of the camera, it seems like he's a faceless entity when you play. Thankfully, the cut scenes are stills from the show, and that should please fans until they notice that all of the scenes are the same regardless of the scenario.

There's really not much to say as far as the audio is concerned. The music sounds both generic and like something you'd expect to hear on a typical episode of the show. It doesn't necessarily stand out from any other platforming soundtrack you'd hear, but it doesn't feel that out of place, either. It's annoying that the soundtrack selection is limited enough that all of the cut scenes only play one track, and the same goes for all of the game levels. It is noticeable but not exactly ear-grating. The same sense of indifference goes toward the sound effects as well. They work well enough but aren't exactly outstanding. Fans will be disappointed by the lack of voice samples for Johnny and the rest of the cast. While it would've been too much to expect that every cut scene be fully voiced, having some catchphrases would've been a nice nod to fans, Instead, players can only read the phrases; this shouldn't necessarily be done considering the power of the DS.

If you can get over the length of the game, Johnny Test isn't that bad of a platforming game. It looks decent despite Johnny's lack of detail, the music is fairly reminiscent of what you'd hear in the series, and the general platforming and difficulty level are fine for the intended audience. Despite giving players the ability to revisit areas with their newfound powers and gadgets, the game still feels rather short, and players will finish the story in an afternoon if they don't go for those extras. It's a good choice for fans of the series, but other platforming fans will certainly want to rent this between their bouts with other, longer games.

Score: 7.0/10

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