As a huge cartoon nerd, The Powerpuff Girls sits up there at the top as one of my favorites. Not only was the show funny, but it sported a sharp artstyle and hair-raising action and adventure. Growing up, all I ever would’ve wanted was a competent Powerpuff action game, and now it looks like we’ve got one in the form of The Powerpuff Girls: Defenders of Townsville.
For those who didn’t know, The Powerpuff Girls recently turned just about 15 years old since it first aired. To celebrate, Cartoon Network aired a brand new special starring the powered up girls while sporting a brand new modern look for the show. Could this rebranding possibly be a signal of a comeback for the classic cartoon? Maybe, but it’s definitely given us this brand new PC game.
Defenders of Townsville delivers on what fans of the show would want in a Powerpuff Girls game. Players can switch between the three girls, Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup, on the fly. Which speaking of, their entire arsenal of powers are available to use, including elemental projectile attacks, rushing charges, and the trademark high-speed flying complete with the trademark luminous trails.
Movement is controlled with the left stick while shooting and attacking can be done in two directions using two of the face buttons. Every attack that isn’t punching uses up a power meter which doesn’t go down too fast, but will surprisingly run out on you when you least suspect it. Each girl has a specific special power, with Blossom sporting fireballs, Bubbles getting ice breath, and Buttercup getting super-sonic waves that pass through walls and enemies.
So basically, it sounds like all the tools to make a perfect Powerpuff experience, right? Surprisingly, yes, but that only goes as far as the controls and moves. Everything else in the game lacks any real defining character.
It all starts with the story—Mojo Jojo has created a weapon that makes the Powerpuff Girls forget how to use their powers… and that’s it. Yeah, really. The game touts itself as a “metroidvania” in which you have to explore and massive map to find the other girls, starting with Buttercup, and all the powers in the game. With incredibly generic stages and rooms that lack any defining features, it’s very very easy to get lost just trying to navigate around. Fortunately, there is a map that lets you know where the exits and entrances to every room are, but expect to pull it up every five seconds just so you can even know where you’re headed.
Almost every room is filled with enemies, many of which must be cleared out of a room to get power-ups that raise the health bar, power meter, and offer stat buffing boosters. Every enemy in the game is a simple circle that shoots out basic shoot-em-up bullet patterns. When a room is absolutely filled with the enemies, expect a curtain of bullets to literally fill the screen. This may offer challenge in the game for more older players, but a lack of precision control and response means players may find themselves acting as bullet sponges more often than not.
Also, you may have noticed in that last paragraph I said every character was a circle. That is not an exaggeration. Every enemy in the game is just a circle. Even in the final showdown with Mojo Jojo, he too is piloting a circle.
Between this incredibly lazy enemy design and shallow level layout, the game reeks of feeling rushed. It’s fun enough to play, but with its running time of about two hours, expect to get nothing more out of the game than you would with a browser flash game.
I know what else you’re thinking— I said “metroidvania” a while ago too, so naturally fans of the genre will find something to love there. Once again, you’d think that, but no. Due to the confusing level layout, all this simply comes down to are constant new blockades and doors that can only be taken down with powers that player’s don’t receive until later. Combine this with rooms lacking any discernable trademarks, and you’ve got yourself one utterly confusing game.
For the low entry price, I’m sure a lot of you may pick up the game on a whim. Some of you may have already done that on the Powerpuff brand name alone. If you do, you won’t be receiving a disappointing package, but you won’t be getting a particularly good one either. There are some neat features, such as the fact that the game features voices from the original show, a new game+ mode available after the game is beaten once, and the option to choose the new artstyle or stick to the classic art of the show.
Defenders of Townsville just really could’ve used a bit more to really make it feel like a Powerpuff Girls game. Things like stages other than caves and sewers mostly, enemies from the show, and more action-heavy linear stages. If this served as a prototype for a possible game in the future, Defenders of Townsville would be surprisingly promising. But as a complete product, it fails to deliver in a way that some of the best licensed titles of the past few years have.
I’ve had a lot of people mention to me that Defenders of Townsville looks cool, especially from old fans of the show. I’m sorry to tell you that this isn’t the game many of you have been waiting for, but it’s just barely okay enough to warrant an impulse buy at a low price. It’s got all the ingredients of a perfect little game, but it’s missing a certain extra ingredient to take it to the next level.
[+Simple pick-up-and-play controls] [+Lots of powers to collect] [+Voices from the original show] [+Being able to choose between new and old artstyles is a nice feature] [-Bland presentation] [-Very few features to tie it to the show][-Sloppy level design] [-A little too short]