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Johnny Test - DS Review

Game Info
Johnny Test

DS | 505 Games | 1 Player | Out Now (North America)
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20th April 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

While much of the writing talent that was once present in animated TV programs has gone to the dogs in the last decade, there have been some refreshing kids shows that have managed to hold their own. One such show is the American/Canadian series Johnny Test which comes out surprisingly well given all the junk kids are fed on television these days. I'm sure you're well aware that whenever a developer decides to make a game out of a TV show like this, usually it doesn't turn out very good. But this is one case where the resulting inspired game actually isn't that bad. Johnny Test for the Nintendo DS is an average effort that parents can consider picking up for their kids. But there are still some notable concerns that make it fated for the bargain bin.

    The game will take you on an adventure that has you travelling to three different worlds. You'll start off in Porkbelly as Johnny Test, then take on the role of Johnny X as you go after Brain Freezer, and finish off by journeying to Bling-Bling Boy's headquarters as J Trooper. Each world has a handful of stages, with the entire quest featuring more than 10 different stages in all. The storyline features the usual cast of characters from the show, including Johnny's two siblings and their pretty boy neighbour, Gil. Johnny Test uses the tried-and-true "go save the hostage from the evil villains" formula, keeping things really safe. 

    The controls are mapped to a basic setup, keeping things easy to get into. The D-Pad is used to move Johnny around the game space, while the B Button is used for both single and double jumps. Sticking to your traditional platformer template, pressing Down whilst in mid-air will get Johnny to perform a Stomp that can be used to break open crates. Once you unlock the Speed Boost ability, you can hold the Y Button to make Johnny run at a faster speed. Camera control can be manually adjusted by holding L and pressing buttons on the D-Pad, but you won't really need to use this that often (which is a good thing since the execution is a bit rough anyway). As you venture to worlds two and three and take on new character roles, the moveset changes a bit. As Johnny X, pressing A will activate the Backside Fire Blast while the X Button can be used to activate your Cyclone Hands move. When using J Trooper, you can fire lasers from your futuristic gun by pressing X or slide underneath narrow gaps by pressing Down on the D-Pad twice. Even with the switching of roles that takes place, the controls aren't hard to wrap your head around which is definitely helpful for the audience this game is targeted towards.

Gameplay takes the form of your typical run-of-the-mill platformer set in the Johnny Test world. Basic enemies include snowmen, penguins, bats, jet fighters, and robots that can be killed simply by jumping on their heads. You also have end-of-world bosses that put up more of a fight, but generally these don't provide that much challenge either. Aside from enemy kills, points can also be accumulated by collecting shiny pizza slices that are found in each level you visit. There are also comic books that can grant you an extra life, "red gush" snacks that replenish your health, and thunderbolts that permanently increase your maximum health. Probably the most interesting of these items is the dog bone which will summon Dukey, your talking dog friend, to grant you temporary invincibility. When playing as Johnny X, you can actually ride on Dukey's back and fly around like a superhero. 

    In addition to all of these power-ups, players will also find teleportation doors that will either take you to another part of a level or, in the case of the red doors, bring you to a special area. Each level also contains a series of yellow Power Cells that can be collected to unlock new abilities and gadgets. Some paths cannot be accessed until later on, so the gadgets do serve a purpose of bringing you back to earlier levels to uncover more Power Cells, even if it is a bit shallow. The actual gadgets themselves, like the Jet Pack accessory, are mildly amusing, but it's not like you'll be using these on a regular basis. Besides, these don't make the game more fun to play nor do they make the prospect of going back to levels you already cleared any more appealing.

    I found the level design in this game was uninventive as a whole. Aside from a couple interesting stages, there's nothing that really stands out. Not that this surprised me in the slightest. Considering the mediocre welcoming I was given when I first started out. And don't go in expecting puzzles of any kind either. Aside from the odd pair of weight scales, it's pretty much just platforming with the only variety existing in the different settings you find yourself in. Having a slight mix of gameplay does make the game more enjoyable though. In fact, had the game focused solely on using the normal Johnny Test character, I doubt the game would have turned out the way it did. Case in point: J Trooper's stages were definitely the best of the bunch. Not only were these slightly more challenging and longer in length, but there was just something fun about firing lasers at robots both big and small. But having said all that, in this day and age, I truly think it's hard for anyone to get enthused about a copy-and-paste job that doesn't strive for anything above the bar. 

Fans of the animated program will feel right at home here which is one thing the developers got right. Between the cast of characters that are present and the different Johnny forms you can play as, everything is consistent with the nature of the actual show. When you lose all your health, a Power Cell icon covers the screen -- something that's also true to the show, even if it's not as fast-paced. Although the story sequences and the dialogue contained therein are lifeless, there is some humor to gathered during some moments.

    On the subject of presentation, I'd say the developers did an okay job with the simple backgrounds in each of the levels. However, the actual story is presented using still images and dialogue bubbles which really sets itself up to be of the "lazy way out" approach. It's a shame they couldn't include any actual voice acting from the show as that would have made things much more lively. As it stands, these scenes do little to connect the player with the game. Additionally, the music in this game is all mediocre affair. Add in a healthy does of repetition, and you can be assured that the songs you'll encounter are nothing short of forgettable. 

    Honestly, I really don't think Johnny Test is worth it at full price. The game will last you around two hours, and there's almost nothing to keep you playing afterwards. I suppose the developers hoped the idea of aiming for all 100 Power Cells would keep players playing long after they beat the final boss, but this really isn't enough to motivate you to keep going, even if you do unlock two gadgets out of it. Adding the fact that the score-tracking in this game is basically useless, and it becomes really easy to see there's nothing worthwhile here. 

    You know, I think this is one scenario where a video game adaptation of a children's show actually turned out to be not so bad. Still, considering you can beat this game pretty quickly and there's no source of motivation to keep playing afterwards, the idea of paying $30 for this game is ridiculous in my eyes. I'd only recommend parents buying Johnny Test for their kids when it hits the bargain bin for $10 or $15. Even if the game does have its moments, paying anything more than that would just be a waste of money.

17/30 - Okay/Average

Gameplay 7/10 - Easy-to-understand control system, mediocre platforming and basic level design, the different characters keep things interesting 
Presentation 5/10 - Simple backgrounds, lazy story sequences, forgettable music, contains elements that are true to the show, no voice acting
Enjoyment 3/5 - Kids will find it has some moments of fun, final world is the most enjoyable, end-of-world bosses, having three different roles is a nice mix
Extra Content 2/5 - Unlockable gadgets and collectable Power Cells, not very good value considering you can beat it in about two hours, worthless scores

Equivalent to a score of 57% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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