In The Powerpuff Girls: Defenders of Townsville, the City of Townsville is once again under siege by the simian-genius, Mojo Jojo. Although thwarted by the Power Puff Girls time and time again in battles before, he's finally devised a plot to stop them once and for all. His weapon of choice? A giant robot that wipes their minds, and takes away any memory of their powers, thus rendering them simple little girls! With the three super powered heroins out of commission, Mojo is free to pursue his conquest of Townsville.
After losing any memory of their powers, you begin the game with Buttercup. Blossom and Bubbles are missing. With no abilities, she can only walk left and right across the screen. No jumping. No punching. Not even running! Just walking. At least, not yet. It's like the Mega Man X scenario, where all your weapons and power-ups are stolen from you at the beginning of the game, and you must slowly traverse the world, gradually replenishing your absconded powers.
You begin this adventure in a cavern, filled with circular-shaped robots, that shoot missiles and lasers. These caverns are connected to each other via gray pipes. With only the ability to walk, you must avoid these hazards or risk dying in the first few minutes of the game. You're slow, vulnerable, with no way to defend yourself.
Each cave is a room unto itself, and in most there are power-ups to be found. The first one you find grants the ability to punch. Thank goodness! This standard attack allows you to bludgeon enemies to death, or destroy rocks. Soon after, you learn to fly, and it's at this point that the game truly opens up, and begins to pick up some steam.
Now that you can fly and punch things in the face, you venture from room to room, destroying enemies, and collecting orbs that grant you new abilities. Robots will zoom about, shoot rays, rockets, ring shaped bullets, or explode kamikaze style, and eventually shoot blasts that will track your every movement! Enemies are small in number in the beginning of the game. Yet, when you reach certain rooms, later on, this game truly becomes a “bullet hell” shooter. That's a term used for games where enemies fire an ungodly amount of bullets at you, thus filling the screen with a hail of gunfire that's almost impossible to dodge.
The H.U.D. is made up of two power bars in the top left corner. The first red bar, next to the icon of a heart, is your Powerpuff's health meter. The second, next to the golden star, is reserved for projectile attacks. Once you find them, of course. The menu screen opens up to a map, status, and bonus power-ups.
The map is the kind you'd find in any metroidvania type game. In that, I mean, you begin in one room, that shows up on the map as a box. As you progress, more and more boxes show up, linked by small squares, that represent doorways. This map soon turns into a complex, linking structure that etches a path through the world, allowing you to tell where you've been, and where you still need to explore.
There are two icons that show in the map rooms, during your trek to stop Mojo Jojo. The first is an exclamation mark, which means there's a power-up that you forgot to find in that area. Power-ups look like giant, glowing spheres, with rings of light pulsing around them. These power-ups can be found by destroying all the robots in any given room, or simply finding the right switch, to allow you access to the brightly flashing orb.
You'll eventually learn the Powerpuff Girls' signature dash, where a tail of their specific color follows them like a comet. Along with flight, they'll also learn how to fire blades from their fists, beams from their eyes, and be granted with powerful, signature moves. Buttercup unleashes sonic rings that can pass through walls, Blossom can shoot a trio of fireballs, while Bubbles can do the same, except with ice.
Aside from simply having different powers, each Powerpuff Girl can also be utilized to break through certain obstacles. Once Buttercup rescues her sisters, you can switch to them with a simple flick of a button, at any given time. Oh, and you eventually learn a flying dash that can break through certain barriers. Anyways, Buttercup can destroy switches behind walls, Blossom can melt ice blocks with her fire, and Bubbles can freeze and knock out laser barriers, with her ice blasts. So, you need to switch strategically to each girl in order to progress.
The tutorial for this game is freaking brilliant! While most games stop you before you start, and walk you through a dull, boring step by step of, “Here's how things work”, Powerpuff Girls: Defenders of Townsville lets you learn as you play. Like I said, you can only use what you've learned. So, you start off with basic punching and flight, and as you move forward and learn new techniques, you have time to get comfortable with them, without being overwhelmed. This allows you to experience the game, rather than having your hand held as you tediously try to remember all the details. It's woven into play so masterfully, that you'll never realize that the majority of the game is probably one, huge tutorial, teaching you as you gain, and explore new abilities.
And because of the tutorial aspect, the progression in the game is also great. Since you slowly gain your attacks over the course of the whole game, you gradually feel more powerful, without ever feeling too over powered. I loved exploring, and unlocking new techniques. It gave me incentive to obliterate every single robot in the vicinity, in order to, perhaps, unlock some new power. And with the addition of some upgrades, known as Boosters, that allow you to fly faster, up your damage or defense output, charge faster, or slowly recover energy over time, you have a pretty nice arsenal at your disposal by the end of the game.
I also really adore the art style! During the game, you can set the options to be classic, or modern. The modern look is a new, stylized version that looks sort of like minimalistic, children's illustrations. With muted colors to match! In this version, the Powerpuff Girls have an edgier look, with sharper hair, no linework, and meaner eyes. Classic is the original style, from the Cartoon Network show, with colors that are more vibrant than the modern version. Both work really well will this game.
Gameplay really surprised me. I wasn't expecting this to be a metroidvania/bullet hell, exploration-hybrid! The game can get pretty intense, with enemies firing from all directions, as you try to weave and dodge the chaos of things exploding all around you. Along with a decent soundtrack, excellent sound effects, and the original voices used for the characters, this game is a treat for all the senses.
Now, while I love the map system, I think it would have been nice to have color coded doorways on the map screen. I love to explore, and unlock every room there is. The joy of a metroidvania! However, there were some doors, that looked perfectly nice and explorable on the map, but in truth were inaccessible because I didn't have the right powers. Maybe have gray doors for rooms you had the power for, and maybe red doors for rooms you didn't have the power for? I don't know, I feel like this would have avoided some needless backtracking to a room that I wouldn't be able to get into. It just hampered progress.
And even though the game is really fun, the enemies left much to be desired. From beginning to end, you are only assailed by different variations of Mojo's robots. I do wish that there were more enemies inspired by the show. And bosses, too. What's in the game is all right, but it could have reached epic proportions with the inclusion of Sedusa, the Rowdyruff Boys, Him, the Ganggreen Gang, and the rest of the Powerpuff rouges gallery. Oh, and maybe more punching and combos, and darting around at lightning speed.
PowerPuff Girls: Defenders of Townsville really surprised me. It's a fast paced, metroidvania/bullet hell hybrid that you won't expect. It's lacking in enemies inspired by the show, but it has wonderful progression, power-ups, action, and lots of charm. That's rare for a game based on a show, since those usually suck. It only clocks in around 3 hours, if you marathon through the game. It's short, but very sweet, filled with sugar, spice, and everything nice! Okay, that was bad. Definitely give this game a try!
Review copy courtesy of Cartoon Network Games & Radiangames