Our initial thoughts upon receiving review code for The Power Puff Girls: Defenders of Townsville were “This show finished 10 years ago” and “This is going to be shit, isn’t it?”. As it turns out, Cartoon Network are rebooting the series, with a new look, for a new generation of kids. Oh, and yes, this game is shit. Really shit.
In the decade since the show ended Mojo Jojo has been up to his usual capers; i.e. being an arsehole and trying to take over Townsville. We didn’t pay much attention to the story of the game, primarily because there isn’t much of a story anyway, but some uninteresting events leave The Powerpuff Girls trapped within a series of dull environments with amnesia. Initially, you take control of Buttercup and set about freeing her sisters, while trying to find their superpowers along the way.
The game starts off simple enough. You wander from room to room sloppily punching generic robots, collecting health and power upgrades, and trying to stave off boredom as it slowly envelopes you. We were instantly struck with just how basic the game is and how low its production values are. Environments are bare and lifeless, and enemies are nondescript. For all we knew, we were running around a cave made of shit dredged from Mojo Jojo’s arse.
When you aren’t aimlessly wandering from room to room, chances are you will be battling with Mojo Jojo’s minions. Surely that’s fun? After all, The Powerpuff Girls have all kinds of cool superpowers! All the powers in the world can’t make up for dis-interesting combat, unfortunately. The game is, at its core, a bullet-hell shooter-cum-metroidvania. True to the genre, enemies fire a hail of projectiles for you to dodge and knock back at them, and you can use laser beams and various other powers to destroy them. However, the whole experience is completely unrefined, instead of destroying enemies we found ourselves flying through rooms as quickly as we could, dodging every robot in sight.
Besides the poor aesthetics, we were also displeased with the game’s map screen. Usually in metroidvania games you are provided with a map showing areas you have been and areas not yet explored. The great thing about these maps is that they will let you know which abilities you need in order to get to new areas – usually via colour coding. The Powerpuff Girls lacks any such system. Instead, we found ourselves flying through room after room searching for where we were supposed to go next.
Inconsistent save point placement also makes the game more of a chore than it needs to be. In some sections there are save points every couple of rooms, but in others you will be hard-pressed to find one. Should you die at any point in the game, you will reload from your last save point. In theory this design is fine, so long as you take into account the difficulty of each room and place save points accordingly. The developers neglected to take note of this, however.
Simplistic and poor design choices permeate all aspects of The Powerpuff Girls: Defenders of Townsville. Its large empty environments, uninteresting enemy design, and repetitive action are a hallmark of a short development cycle.We wracked our brains trying to think of something nice to say about it, we really did, but there isn’t much good worth talking about. If you watched the show as a child you may be tempted to pick the game up anyway, but if you cherish those happy childhood memories we’d urge you to reconsider. This game isn’t fan-service, it’s fan-disservice.
The Powerpuff Girls: Defenders of Townsville is available to but on Steam