NINTENDO DS REVIEW: NICKTOONS UNITE!

If the DS had channels, I'd be flipping all over the dials instead of trying to force this one down my entertainment-hole. by Cole Smith

February 9, 2006 - What do you do when you produce a game featuring one of Nickelodeon's biggest star, and you realize that it basically sucks? Add three more of Nickelodeon's biggest stars and hope the kids are too distracted to notice how bad it really is. After all, four heads are better than one - aren't they?

It wouldn't matter if Brad Pitt and a naked Angelina Jolie starred in this game, it's just not very good. It's a stale platformer in which every element has been dumbed down to its basic component and just barely manages to make use of the touch and dual screen. The control system seems like an added afterthought, which would explain why it's so loose, making the game unplayable in some situations and at the very least, frustrating for the rest of it.

 

In a bid to take over the world, Professor Calamitous has recruited Vlad, Crocker and Plankton to form the Evil Syndicate. They have built a Doomesday machine that can be used to destroy the entire planet. When Jimmy Neutron gets word of this evil plan he enlists the aid of his cartoon pals, Spongebob, Danny Phantom and Timmy Turner to help him shut the Evil Syndicate down.

Each character is represented by an icon located in each corner of the lower screen. You can play as any of the four characters by simply selecting them and dragging the icon to the middle of the screen with the stylus. Each character has different abilities that you can exploit to get past certain areas and enemies in each level. You can change characters instantly at any time during the gameplay.

Spongebob can shoot bubbles at the enemy and he can even encase himself in one and float in the air to avoid booby traps and enemies on the ground. Danny Phanton can pass through solid objects and he is capable of shooting a plasma blast. Timmy Turner uses camouflage to hide from enemies and can call upon his fairy godparents to help him slow the enemy down. Jimmy Neutron has his jetpack to fly around with in addition to his shrinking ray. Each character also has one special move that is facilitated by a power-up. Once you pick it up you have to draw the corresponding design on the screen using the stylus in order to activate it. That's about the only unique feature that utilized the touch screen.

Only the platform levels will offer you much of a challenge, and most of it is due to the loose controls and wacky camera angles. Perspectives are difficult to judge at the best of times and just when you think you've got a bead on it the camera will suddenly decide to return to the default setting. You can adjust the camera manually but the controls are very sensitive and it's really easy to overshoot the angle that you need. To add insult to injury the characters aren't easy to control either. The controls are spongy which makes jumping a dangerous proposition. It's very difficult to have your character run to the very edge of the platform and perform a leap at the last moment. You will usually not make the jump in time and fall off the platform or you find that you have to jump before the ledge in which case you might not generate enough inertia to make it to the other side.

The enemy AI is way too weak. It wouldn't matter if your only weapon were an un-ripened banana, you could slap them into submission with the peel. They don't put up much of a fight and rarely will you find yourself in danger. Each playable character has the ability to shoot some kind of projectile and as long as you enter into a room shooting you'll be able to clear it of lame enemies in no time. In this case it's more like a shooting gallery than tangling with interactive enemies.

Looks can be deceiving because the characters in Nicktoons Unite are absolutely gorgeous. They look every bit as good as their cartoon counterparts and maybe even better because they're rendered in 3D. The game is very colorful and the animation is very smooth and fluid. It's disappointing that there are no voiceovers. The storyline is text driven and is somewhat lame. I know that most cartoon storylines are lame but they can be saved by visual gags and voiceovers, something that the developers have decided to overlook here. The inclusion of some animated cutscenes would not have saved this game but it would have certainly sweetened the bitter taste left in one's mouth.

Features

  • 1-4 players cooperative play featuring SpongeBob SquarePants, Timmy Turner, Jimmy Neutron or Danny Phantom
  • More than 15 explorable Nicktoons levels, including Retroville, Dimmsdale, and Amity Park and Bikini Bottom
  • Choose from over 16 upgradeable gadgets and powers.

By Cole Smith
CCC Staff Writer

Rating out of 5
Nicktoons Unite! (DS)
4.0
Graphics
Looks even better than some of the cartoons but some 3D perspectives are difficult to judge.
2.0
Control
Controls are loose and sloppy. The camera has a mind of its own and it's not a very smart one.
2.1
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
This is a cartoon, not a comic book. Voiceovers please.
2.3
Play Value
You'll probably play the four-player co-op mode once, but not much more than that.
2.4
Overall Rating - Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: DS
Dev: THQ
Pub: THQ
Released: Jan 2006
Players: 1 - 4
Review by Cole Smith

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best