Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion is a 2D brawler game on the 3DS, which shares more than just a passing similarity to Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros.
Players can choose from 26 playable characters from 11 different Cartoon Network shows, with the likes of Ben 10, Dexter from Dexter’s Lab and the ever-annoying Powerpuff Girls. For the fans of past and present Cartoon Network shows, there is a lot here to like. The similarities with SSB are plentiful as each of the characters have their own special abilities and moves. It may not be as polished as the Nintendo title, but is certainly crammed full of personality with plenty of fast paced action in the form of button mashing combat.
Once you begin brawling and fighting your way through the 2D environments, you will soon begin to learn various standard attacks and a series of signatures moves. Engaging in combat is pretty straight forward and there are various mini games that have been injected into the game. Once you’ve beaten up an enemy, they will drop glowing orbs and if you manage to collect enough of these it will fill up a special meter, which when full will go on to unleash a mighty punch time explosion.
As you negotiate the fighting across the animated environment, the action will occasionally be interrupted by some short cut-scenes to keep you entertained along the way. But the vast majority of the time is spent engaging in melee and the series of challenges to complete the full Cartoon Network experience. Where the actual gameplay is concerned, I found it sometimes difficult to determine well timed jumps and in places things felt a bit fiddly. Also, the checkpoints were too spaced out, which means if you mucked up the first time, you were forced to repeat lengthy sections again.
You’ll find yourself jumping rolling barrels, leaping from platforms that crumble beneath you and fire boulders that spring into the air. Other times you’ll be avoiding pits and explosions over your head as you desperately clamber to a much needed safe place. The game does feel like you’re constantly moving from one dangerous situation to the next, which resulted in a feeling of being rushed from section to section. Occasionally it felt like the characters moved slowly and were unresponsive, which made some of the melee fighting a little bit drawn out. You can utilize various items along the way to use against your opposition and even ask for help from other Cartoon Network characters in a series of defensive or offensive roles.
The game is packed full of color and visually appealing, so it doesn’t take too long to get immersed in the gameplay. The narrator can be amusing and the environments look really good on the 3DS. The story mode manages to pack in a nice selection of villains and heroes to fight with from the Cartoon Network Universe. However, the gameplay itself can be repetitive and the environments, although detailed, offer very little variety. The sound effects in the game are great, and it is actually surprising how many different effects they have mnanaged to fit into the game. Punch Time Brawl may not be the best fighting game on the Nintendo handheld, and is by no way the best example of the sub-genre, but it does manage to offer a hint of nostalgia to anyone who has watched a Cartoon network show in their lives.
There are plenty of special bonus unlockables and hidden characters throughout the game. In Battle mode you pick your own battles, facing off against up to three Cartoon Network characters with customisable rules, across any of the unlocked levels. The game is filled with a number of challenges, along with some puzzle solving stages to keep you on your feet.
Multiplayer allows four players to fight it out for fun and bragging rights with their favorite characters, as long as each player has their own copy of the game. The game also makes use of Download Play, which means friends can join the fun without needing to purchase the game. However, the features using this method are very limited. The lack of online multiplayer is perhaps the games biggest weakness, which is a real shame as Punch Time explosion would have suited online play perfectly.
From Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends to the world of Billy and Mandy, the core mechanics remain the same throughout and it is mostly simple button-mashing that will get you to the end. Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion is a good game, if perhaps not original, and has a great selection of favorite Cartoon Network characters that many have come to love over the years. However, the repetitive nature of the game and the lack of online multiplayer does leave the game with a short lifespan.