O-Games’ recently released Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion XL hasn’t received the attention it deserves. Having launch on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii simultaneously (with the Nintendo 3DS title of the same name delivered by a different publisher) Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion XL is the kind of videogame we see all too few of on high-definition (HD) formats; if you truly believe that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, than Super Smash Bros. Melee would be blushing right about now. Nearly every aspect of Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion XL is influenced by the GameCube’s finest, and for good reason: with such a mixture of characters, backgrounds and venues available, the Cartoon Network roster is perfect for such homage.
Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion XL follows the rules established by Super Smash Bros. Melee to the letter. Every character shares the same command template, though their strengths, weaknesses, range and speed vary greatly. Every character has a jump extending move available after the double jump, though it’s usefulness is a measurement taken into account when learning that specific character. For those inclined, there’s a degree of familiarity that can only be learnt with many hours of invested play. Just like Super Smash Bros. Melee, those who give Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion XL enough time will find an engaging, strategic fighter experience.
As would be expected by those familiar with the Super Smash Bros. series, Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion XL requires players to defeat other character by knocking them off the screen in any direction. This can be done by brute force, skilful timing or simply attrition. As each player takes damage a percentage meter will increase, and this higher this number the further and faster the player will travel from the point of damaging impact. Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion XL offers dynamic environments, mid-level weaponry and assist moves, but also features PTE moves. As players are hit they drop crystals, which when collected fill your PTE meter. Once full, a quick pull of the trigger will execute a potentially devastating special move in a fashion obviously inspired by Street Fighter IV’s Ultra Combos. Any player can pick up the crystals – not just those who knock them from their opponent – so strategic players will quickly learn to use this to their advantage.
One of the biggest problems with Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion XL is that as the current-generation consoles don’t deliver such extreme precision in their analogue control as the GameCube, there is still clearly some room to tighten things up here. What’s more, the default button layout tries to replicate that of Super Smash Bros. Melee on a control pads that are of an almost completely different ergonomic design, and as such most players will need to spend some time determining their own, more suitable arrangement.
Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion XL features a Story Mode that players similarly to the Adventure Mode seen in Super Smash Bros. Melee. The story isn’t delivered quite as well as the animated shows, using still images and in-game graphics, but it’s no less enjoyable. Players will venture through an assortment of 2D platform levels, endurance fights, shooting galleries and more, just to add a little flavour to the experience. What’s more, the whole thing can be player co-operatively, given you reason to return when trying to earn enough credits to purchase items from the in-game store. And here even the unlockables take influence from Super Smash Bros., with some earned via Story Mode, others by completing unspecified tasks and some available for purchase via the in-game store.
Sadly, with a number of the characters it seems the developers have tried to replicate the likes of Kirby and Jigglypuff far too much. One or two of these curiously difficult-to-master characters are welcome, but when they’re thrown at you near the start of the Story Mode they can only stand confuse new players, and deter them from penetrating that hard outer shell. Despite being a multiplayer orientated videogame, it would be advisable to complete a run through of the Story Mode – therefore unlocking some of the more accessible characters – before inviting any less perseverant friends over to join you.
The multiplayer mode – also available to play solo with AI opponents – is of course where most players will spend most of their time with Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion XL. Customisable to the nth degree, Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion XL comes into its own when four highly skilled, highly competitive players come together. Though the weak links in the design are easy to see, Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion XL provides just as many tense moments, screams of anguish and elative victories as Super Smash Bros. Melee, and simply in that respect many gamers will find it worth investing in. Unfortunately, the one area in which Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion XL could trump its inspiration has been entirely overlooked: there is no online gameplay whatsoever.
Many have overlooked Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion XL simply due to the franchise it bears or its childish appearance, but to do so is decidedly foolish. Just as Nintendo’s videogames are deceptively deep and finely tuned, Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion XL provides many hidden moments for those truly skilled gamers. It wears it’s inspiration on its sleeve: Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion XL is little more than a reiteration of Super Smash Bros. for platforms which don’t already have a version of their own (and a Wii version thrown in for good measure). And considering just how entertaining, and downright addictive the Super Smash Bros. formula is, that’s certainly no bad thing.