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Johnny Impossible - 3DS Download Review

Game Info
Johnny Impossible

3DS Download | UFO Interactive | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | $5.99
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27th December 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

More than all else, UFO Interactive has been especially hit-and-miss with their relatively new 'Johnny' series. Underneath each title's approachable nature lies a design model that often plays it safe through its lack of originality, and often offends with blameworthy gameplay that's flawed in some form or another. Fooling someone once and then a second time, it's highly unlikely that same person would be prone to accepting anything new that comes along under the same name. And yet, here is Johnny Impossible, continuing after Johnny Hotshot in materializing an archetypal role for the hero, this time focusing on stealth. While the game's level of productivity is highly suspect, fans of this gameplay style might find a morsel of enjoyment here. But if I'm being completely honest, it's hard to say either way.

    The game kicks off by briefing you in on a perilous predicament. Johnny's archfoe has created a device capable of destroying the entire city from outer space, and Johnny is pulled in to stop this from happening. As any other spy, Johnny is equipped with a series of gadgets to help him complete his mission in one piece, but much of his survival is dependent upon him not making rash movements and going about things at a tactful pace. Unlike previous iterations, what makes Johnny Impossible different is that while it is still governed by the same 30-minute time restriction as Johnny Kung Fu, it is no longer shackled by limited movement or gameplay capable of being influenced only on a small scale. The three areas you're tasked with exploring are fashioned in an old-school, exploration-based style, with chambers that can only be accessed after retrieving an item found in another area of the respective level. Thus in the convention of an adventure-style platformer, Johnny Impossible automatically rises above its spiritual predecessors with its slightly more expanded design. But then it comes back down.

    With everything taking place on the top screen, gameplay flow involves locating a terminal that Johnny can hack into to retrieve a code for a security door. These, in actuality, are the final steps in the process. You'll have to explore all other areas to pick up items necessary for even reaching these points, which are often at an elevated height or preceded by a gate requiring a security pass to move past. Areas are guarded by copter drones, robots on wheels, laser traps, and other obstacles such as these. Metal doors provide safe zones for you to enter and escape danger or to wait until a moving threat goes off in the opposite direction before proceeding. While often obtuse, the arrangement of these traps and the surrounding difficulty never bridges on being unreasonable or incoherent. 

    Most of these aren't readily discernible by nature, due to the imposition that darkness presents at all times. To counter this, you have a set of Night Vision Goggles mapped to the X Button. But like with other gadgets, the duration is rather short and can only be extended by collecting identical versions of the same pick-up in subsequent levels. And between that principle and the built-in cooldown attached to the item's usage, there is a need for light to be shed on a lot of things over the course of the game.

    Speaking of other gadgets, there's also a grapple that can be used to pull yourself up towards ceiling hooks, the presence of which is made clear by way of small arrow icons pasted onto the floor. Magnet Gloves (and later, Glass Gloves) can be used at certain parts as well, but the metal line that you can latch onto is indistinct, and as such, it takes a bit of looking around to see where this can be used -- again calling for the need to use the Night Vision Goggles.

    If you trip any of the aforementioned triggers, a 10-second phase will commence where, if you don't secure safety either by running to a metal door or another room, a security bird will chase after and zap you upon collision. The surprise threat becomes active at the five-second mark, making little sense as to why the ten-second window lasts such a length. Furthermore, just triggering this phrase will instantly shave two minutes off the countdown clock, with an additional two seconds taken off for any additional triggers activated while still under heavy suspicion. The game is somewhat punishing in this respect, but you do have 30 minutes to go around; plus, the conditions of this system and how disadvantaged you become will prod you not to adopt a hurried pace. Reasons for upset, however, do not stem in large part from this setup, but rather, the game's principles and design.

    There are several counts of poorly-tailored execution with the level design, and much of this surfaces with you immediately crossing paths with an enemy's spotlight on the other side of openings leading to other rooms. You do have a Stun Gun on you, but as this all transpires with little-to-no time to think about how to proceed and with these lights shining directly on the path you need to follow, it ends up being that this temporary move of disabling enemies isn't a valid means to offset really silly design, which, truthfully, there are a startling number of cases of.

    Additionally, the use of certain gadgets can already be annoying in the limitations they have applied to them, but there are times where the controls fumble or the rules these tools abide by don't make much sense. Trying to use the Magnet Gloves in the way that you must, which requires pressing A in the mid-air, isn't a very reliable method of execution, and oftentimes you end up triggering a trap instead or pressing the button one more time than is necessary, concluding you didn't stick the landing when you, in fact, did. This is made all the more frustrating in tight passages or when the magnetized line you can walk across isn't extended as far as it should be. I also don't understand why activating your grapple in the middle of a jump, as you might do to try and reach a ledge that you can't seem to get to, automatically cuts the length of the rope in half. The only thing I can think of on why this might've been done was to discourage the use of the strategy just described instead of picking up a provided level-up tucked away in some other part of the level.

    After finally reaching the computer terminal, Johnny will need to complete two brief mini-games designed as a firewall protection measure. The first is a very simple side-scrolling activity that finds Johnny in a fixed position, with an anti-virus protocol on his tail. All you must do is press B to jump over crates, with the three levels adding a different obstacle each time you play. Unfortunately, besides just being very primitive in design, they're also susceptible to provoking frustration as they develop a pattern of demanding late, last-second jumps across a minute-long extension, with only a small margin for failure. Following this is a mini-game in the style of Game & Watch, more shoehorned than the last. The three different versions are renditions of Vermin, Greenhouse, and Octopus -- unamusing ones, at that. And beyond me raising an eyebrow to this apparent obsession the developers have of trying to replicate this style -- to largely unsuccessful outcomes -- I don't have much more to add.

    Visually, Johnny Impossible is very much in line with Johnny Kung Fu in having an average look, with the exception this time being that the animations aren't the smoothest, there's a somewhat blurry quality to Johnny's character model, and there are cases of occasional slowdown and even a few, small glitches to be observed. On a more positive side, the music, while predictable, works for what it is.

I can't go without talking about the terrible achievements in this game. I mean, really, why are players rewarded for using Night Vision Goggles? And entering an incorrect password 50 times? How is that even something to be praised? Moronic achievements aside, the length of the game isn't that long if you know what you're doing and know how to get around, but seeing as you'll have to dig around in search of the right route to the exit, don't be too surprised if you get to around two or three hours in playtime.

    Deep down, Johnny Impossible, while having poor design and ineffective execution in places, can be relatively bearable. That doesn't make it a good game by any stretch, and it still might not even be worth your time. But given the outcome of previous iterations, that can be taken as an excused positive. The flaws and the general mediocrity don't allow enough room for a recommendation, but purely from the perspective of how everything's been communicated, it doesn't deserve to be harped on at length.

14/30 - Very Poor

Gameplay 5/10 - Old-school model with freedom to explore, poor design and silly mechanics in a number of places, gadgets can present complications
Presentation 6/10 - Performs to an average standard, predictable music but works, some animations could be better, other minor technical faults
Enjoyment 2/5 - Game & Watch references are shoehorned, difficulty isn't unreasonable but design flaws do upset, can be a bit fun if you look hard
Extra Content 1/5 - Relatively short but can last around two hours, no desire present to continue playing, worthless achievements

Equivalent to a score of 47% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Johnny Impossible
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