China Toy Fair


COMMENTARY: D3Publisher’s Upcoming Slate Captures What Makes Cartoons Great

Licensed video games can be a risky proposition. After all, a recognizable title doesn’t necessarily mean high quality. Having personally experienced some lows in licensed games over the years, I felt it was my duty to attend D3Publisher of America Inc.’s showcase ahead of the holidays, though I had my share of reservations. But despite my trepidation, a few hours later, I walked out suitably impressed. Each licensed game’s creative team seemed to get what makes their respective source material unique, resulting in a product likely to please even hardcore fans. Here’s a rundown of the games:

Oct4.Ben10Ben 10 Omniverse 2: This title is based on a cartoon franchise that has been on TV since 2005, and revolves around Ben Tennyson, who in the most recent series, Ben 10: Omniverse, is a teenage superhero who can transform into 10 different alien forms. What makes the character interesting is that he must select the appropriate guise for any given situation, as each form has its own advantages and disadvantages. D3’s new game takes this basic characteristic and combines it with the “endless running” genre: For about half the game, Ben hurtles down a series of corridors, encountering one obstacle after another, with a very limited time to react.

Oct4.Ben10.HopperWith each impediment, players have up to three different aliens they can turn into, but must choose correctly or else they suffer damage. For example, if there’s an oncoming wall, changing into the red hulking creature lets Ben smash through, while the tiny lizard-like form gets pulverized. The game play occasionally shifts to a more straightforward beat-’em-up style, but even then the key is thinking on your feet. From my own brief experience, I quickly learned that I should keep my day job as opposed to pursuing a new career as a shape-changing superhero.

Ben 10 Omniverse 2 will be available November 5 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS, Wii, and Wii U.

Oct4.AdventureTime.stillAdventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW!: The cartoon Adventure Time is popular with kids and adults, thanks to its juxtaposition of a cute art style full of candy coloring, but the writing and sense of humor are often suitable for adults. The same can be said of D3’s new licensed game: It looks like a simple dungeon-crawler, with game play on par with old-school titles like Gauntlet. However, it packs the same irreverent tone as the cartoon. For example, players can choose to go to battle as Cinnamon Bun, who is essentially a large, anthropomorphic cinnamon bun that fights. Meanwhile, each character has a range of special attacks that segue to funny, animated cut sequences. Playing as Marceline, the Vampire Queen, my level one special attack involved a heartfelt—and rocking—musical number starring Marceline and her trusty ax bass.

Oct4.AdventureTime.SpecialAttackThe game’s dungeon levels, which change with every visit, also reflect the spirit of the cartoon. According to D3, they are intended to increase the game’s replay value; but I prefer to view them as an extension of the life philosophy of Adventure Time‘s two main characters, Jake and Finn, each of whom is fairly impulsive in his adventuring. (Anyone else remember the episode in which Finn throws himself into the fangs of Lumpy Space creatures, in order to be infected with the Lumpy Space curse so that he can become a monster capable of floating across an abyss?) It’s possible to imagine them charging half-cocked into a dungeon filled with monsters and/or treasure, and thanks to the randomizing aspect of the game, players must do the same. After all, there’s precious little preparing one can do for an unpredictable situation, though like Jake and Finn, you can at least bring a buddy along to watch your back.

Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW! will be available November 19 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS, and Wii U.

Oct4.RegularShowRegular Show: Mordecai & Rigby in 8-bit Land: The hapless slackers of Regular Show, Mordecai and Rigby, find themselves trapped in an old-school video game, where the play style alternates between that of side-scrolling platform games, shooters, and games of chance. Interestingly, that premise wouldn’t sound out of place in the actual cartoon, where the protagonists frequently find themselves in parallel dimensions or reality-warping situations, at times related to video games.

But beyond that, the game captures an important aspect of the cartoon through its depiction of Mordecai and Rigby as complementary characters. Players must consider the strengths and weaknesses of each and utilize them as a team. For example, they’ll need to use Mordecai, who can jump high—after all, he is a Blue Jay—in order to reach certain items. Similarly, they’ll have to switch to Rigby, who is a raccoon, to crawl into passages that Mordecai can’t fit into. For better or worse, the two characters must work together to get through their video game adventures, which is no different from the cartoon.

Regular Show: Mordecai & Rigby in 8-bit Land will be available on October 29 for Nintendo 3DS.

For more commentary from Phil, check back often. Views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Toy Book as a whole. We hope that you will share your comments and feedback below. Until next time!