Reviewed: October 14, 2004
Reviewed by: Arend Hart
Released: September 13, 2004
With two kids under four, and a third just about to arrive – you can imagine that I end up watching a lot of kids shows at home. Of all of the children’s shows available, there’s only a handful I can stand to watch for any length of time, and most of those air on Nickelodeon – Spongebob Squarepants, Little Bill, Jimmy Neutron, According to Ginger and Fairly Odd Parents.
I think the reason I can stand these shows is that they, for the most part, seem to go out of their way to include content that can be appreciated by children and parents alike. Some shows intelligently address family and social issues – Little Bill’s message of sharing and love, or Ginger’s coming-of-age tales of teen woe. Others cleverly disguise their messages of kindness, acceptance and tolerance under layers of multi-tiered comedy – Spongebob, Jimmy Neutron and FAIRLY ODD PARENTS all feature “inside” humor that only a parent would understand or value. When it’s all said and done, these shows consider the parent in one way or another. And as a parent myself, that is greatly appreciated.
So, when GameChronicles approached me with a couple of Nickelodeon releases, I thought about how much I liked the shows, put aside my fears of licensed kiddie-games and kindly accepted their offer. Now, four days later, I wonder what in the hell I was thinking. Well, kind of…
If you are at all familiar with The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, you know that each show follows basically the same format; Jimmy, the brainy inventor, builds a wild contraption which eventually goes awry, leaving Jimmy to destroy the contraption and bring life back to normal. It’s simple, it’s fun, and there are enough real-deal scientific facts thrown in to make it a learning experience for kids. The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius: Attack of the Twonkies follows the exact same formula, and it proves to be a fun little romp into the world of Jimmy Neutron.
Before I go any further, could this be the longest title in the history of gaming? The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius: Attack of the Twonkies (yes, that’s the full name) follows the exploits of the big-headed uber-geek, Jimmy, as he tries to rid the world of an evil band of aliens – the Twonkies – who Jimmy accidentally brought back during a mining trip to their homeland comet, Twonkus 3 (man, do I feel silly writing this stuff). The game is a budget-priced precursor to the upcoming TV movie of the same name.
Jimmy, armed only with a colossal-sized brain, must use his superior intelligence – and a handful of items strewn about the world – to develop a series of progressively more-useful inventions which act and/or interact to, in one way or another, get the job done. This mechanic of creating inventions – albeit with little-to-no choice other than the predetermined combinations – is what gives this game a sense of freshness over most of the other licensed tripe out there.
The way it works is as follows: You collect the items scattered about each room, and they are immediately stored in your Inventorface inventory. Once you collect enough useful items, an icon appear on the screen. You then go into the Inventorface and pick whether you will be making a Gizmo, Invention or Super Invention. You can then dial-up a combination of items (much like the combination dials on a briefcase) into the right order, and wallah – instant object. This completed object is then stored in a second, easy-access inventory called the Inventosphere (think: Ratchet and Clank’s “Quick Select Menu”). As you progress through the game, you can call up the Inventosphere to draw off any completed inventions. Some inventions have a battery-powered time limit, which is reset each time you collect and of the dozens of batteries scattered around.
Now it may sound a bit complicated – but this game is made for nine year olds, people. Everything you pick up is immediately classified and displayed for only the type of item it will produce – Gizmos require two items, Inventions need three, and Super Inventions need four. There is no cross-pollinating here – things placed in the world to make Gizmos will only show up in the Gizmo inventory, and so on – and if you ever get stumped, there are blueprints scattered about to help.
Most of the gameplay is simple hunt-and-fetch, but there are some neat side projects: flying Jimmy’s spacecraft (with a great meteor shower scenes), and commanding Jimmy’s robotic pet Goddard (more Swiss Army knife than dog) to do some of the difficult digging, wall breaking and switch handling jobs jimmy will encounter in his travels from Twonkus 3 to Retroville and back again.
Gameplay is relatively formulaic, which is to be expected from a game developed for the grammar school crowd, and the story awfully short – but overall, the game is far more bearable and fresh-feeling than most of the other licensed Nickelodeon titles. Sure, Twonkies has you collecting things – but at least these things seem somewhat useful. Having the ability to forge out a pair of magnetic boots (a nod to Ratchet and Clank, no doubt) or any one of the other 24 Gizmos, 11 Inventions or 4 Super Inventions available makes it seem a bit more enjoyable than, well…collecting golden stars for the bazillionth time. In fact, all this inventing really distracts you from the fact that you really aren’t doing a whole lot else.
I couldn’t help noticing– whether intentional or not – the resemblance to last year’s under-appreciated Dr. Muto; maybe it comes with the subject matter, but the bobble heads, the mad scientists, the pseudo psychedelic worlds…it’s all here – but much better. In fact, I was quite impressed with the graphical quality of this budget title. This really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise – the Jimmy Neutron television series is a CG work of art in its own right – but you don’t expect to see this quality in a $20.
The character modeling is a near-perfect reproduction of the television show, with only a minor amount of faceting about the heads during close-up views. The faces and facial expressions are dead-on, and without a hint of slowdown or pop-up.
All of the original actors voice their parts, and all of the sound effects and cool neo-retro background music are stripped straight from the show. Overall, Attack of the Twonkies is solid in the audio department.
The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius: Attack of the Twonkies is not a long game – clocking in at maybe a weekend of leisure gaming – half that if you account for the hyperactive target audience this game is designed for – but hey, for $20 – at least you’re getting some enjoyment for your money. Recent Nickelodeon games have sold at $40, and were maybe one-third the quality of Attack of the Twonkies.
Still, with the first two Ratchet and Clank, the first two Jak and Daxter, and the first Sly Cooper titles all already on Greatest Hits – and selling for $20 as well – I would be inclined to steer you towards those titles first, as Twonkies – or any other Nickelodeon game - isn’t even on the same playing field.
By far, the best Nickelodeon game available, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius: Attack of the Twonkies sports some interesting gameplay and beautiful graphics and sound. No doubt, this is a result of already having CG subject matter and all of the tools to transfer much of the content seamlessly from the TV to the game. Twonkies is swimming in top-notch production quality…too bad the pool is much too shallow for us big boys and girls.
For $20, there are a number of ways you could better spend your money, but it’s not going to break your bank to give it a try. Still, you must remember that Twonkies is targeted for a very young crowd. A solid weekend rental, for sure – a purchase only if you’ve already exhausted the Greatest Hits platformers.