The Cartoon Network has often had assorted hits on their hands: shows that appeal to younger kids and the kids in all of us. Over the last few years in particular, they have had a number of successes; shows like Adventure Time, The Regular Show and Steven Universe easily come to mind. The shows have likable characters, are generally well-written, and designs that appeal to kids but often have humour that’s made for adults as well. With the selection of characters and universes, you would think that these shows would lend themselves to making for a great beat’em up adventure type game like Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers. Sadly, you would be wrong.
What little story there is in Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers goes down as follows. Uncle Grandpa, who is easily the character that I knew the least about, somehow manages to road trip through different dimensions. As he goes through these different dimensions, which are essentially the different Cartoon Network shows, he manages to wrangle up other characters to join him on his trip. You have Finn and Jake from Adventure Time, Steven Universe, Gumball, Clarence and Mordecai and Rigby from the Regular Show. After your team has been assembled, you go and fight a number of enemies, in order to get back home. That’s basically the extent of it, and I feel like I expanded more on the story than the game often seemed to do.
At its core, Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers is a classic beat’em up. You walk from left to right, just hitting waves and waves of assorted enemies with your basic attacks and a couple other special moves. There’s a bit of an experience system in place that levels up your characters at the end of the level based on how much they were used, but after a few levels, there’s not much else to unlock. You’ll also encounter a couple of other characters that again, are unlockable after a few levels, and then that’s it. The worlds are generally two levels and then a boss level, and often you have to replay some levels a few times to get items needed to take on the boss. This seemed like a pretty uninteresting way to extend the life of the game, by forcing you to play through these mundane levels over and over. The characters all have some unique aspect to them, but if I didn’t need to specifically use any of them, I would just use Finn and Jake as they seemed to be a fair bit more powerful than the others. While this game is a beat’em up, it’s also a pretty bad one, as in it just felt pretty bland. The combat was pretty stale, and I usually just wanted the levels to be over and done with so I could move on.
The graphics in Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers are pretty good. The levels are generally fairly vibrant, and evoke the tone of the appropriate shows. The characters and enemies also look decent, and there’s a nice bit of scaling so if you’re in the foreground, the characters are bigger than in the background. It’s not much, but it’s something that gives you a hint that maybe someone in development cared about this game at some point.
However, the most glaring omission is easily the general lack of voice work. There’s basically none at all in the entire game, not while fighting or even in cutscenes. It’s a game based on these animated characters, and they look like they do on the shows, so why in the world would they not spend any time or money on getting the voice actors to do some voice work? It’s just mind-boggling honestly and feels like a total copout by the developers and Cartoon Network to just push out a budget title to capitalize on the popularity of the shows.
While playing the game however, I did get to play a bit of it with my son. He often plays games on the Switch and loves using the Joy Cons as little controllers whenever he can. He’s 5, but he’s familiar with some of the shows represented here, especially Adventure Time. He often wanted to be Finn and Jake, which was fine, and that led to me using the other characters to take on the few little challenges the game throws at you. In general though, even he got bored after playing for a little while, and would maybe laugh at some of the characters here or there, but otherwise didn’t seem to be enjoying the game that much.
When all is said and done, Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers is just a terrible game, and a poor use of a license. The game could easily be so much better, with some tweaks to the upgrade system and some voice work, but as it is, the game is too short, too bland, and just has no soul. It will take you a few hours to beat it, but there is little reason to go back to it. In the end, you’re better spending a few hours just watching some episodes of Adventure Time or Steven Universe instead of playing this uninspired use of fantastic contemporary cartoons.
A review copy of Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers was provided via digital code from Maximum Games and GameMill Entertainment for the purpose of this review.