Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Daffy Duck and Wile E. Coyote are just some of the classic characters to be found in Looney Tunes: Cartoon Conductor, Amaze Entertainment's rhythm game for the Nintendo DS. The basic setup of the game is about as you'd expect: the Tasmanian Devil has broken into the Warner Bros. vault and shredded all the animated shorts. It's up to you to help score all the re-shot footage using the stylus. Cartoon Conductor is simple, entertaining, and a fun way to spend some time with some of the greatest cartoon characters ever created.
If you were anything like me when you were growing up, pretty much every hour was Looney Tunes hour. These classic characters and their animated shorts have entertained and endured throughout the years to become a staple of my generation's childhood. So by my standards, this game has a bit to live up to if it doesn't want to tarnish the hours upon hours of fond memories I have of cartoon slapstick mayhem. And it's safe to say that it doesn't disappoint.
The gameplay is fairly straightforward. The goal is to tap the note on the bottom screen as the shrinking circle around it is closest to the border of the note. There are also combinations where you cannot lift the stylus off the screen, but have to drag it to the next note at the appropriate time. It's fairly quick to learn the basic skill of tapping a note but the combinations may take a few minutes to get used to. Luckily, before you start any of the stages, there's an extensive tutorial with an animated stylus that shows you everything you need to know.
After the tutorial, you'll be presented three difficulty levels: Apprentice (Easy), Conductor (Medium) and Maestro (Hard). There's also a bonus Looney difficulty level after completing all three. To survive a level without being booed off stage, you need to keep the Audience Meter on the left hand side of the bottom screen from dropping all the way down by hitting your notes. Accurate timing is an important element to keep in mind, but the game is lenient about this. As long as you're not too early or obviously late hitting a note, it won't count as a miss. This all might sound like a breeze, but on a fast music track at a high difficulty level, the game does get challenging. After completing a stage, you are graded on your performance. If you earn a 'C' - the lowest grade - the performance was acceptable and you are greeted at the end with either a cat and wolf howling or a single audience member's yawn and politely subdued applause. A 'B' grants you scattered clapping, an 'A' gives you some cheers, 'S' gives you a little more love from the audience while an 'S+' means you didn't miss a single note. There are no rewards for earning a higher degree of success, just personal satisfaction.
The musical stages are inspired by the actual animated shorts. With the 3D animated sequences playing out on the top screen, Looney Tunes buffs will recognize re-enacted scenes from classics such as: What's Opera Doc, Robin Hood Daffy and Hyde and Go Tweet, among others. With the current excess of political correctness, it's refreshing to see these re-enacted scenes remain true to the slapstick nature of Looney Tunes with none of the cartoon violence being toned down. The character models in the game are all recognizably rendered in 3-D, with voice acting an acceptable approximation of Mel Blanc's originations. Although, as a purist, I would've liked to have seen it all in the classic 2D animation style of old.
The actual music tracks that comprise the game are recognizable classical pieces. To give you an idea of what you'll be hearing, Wagner's Ride of The Valkyries, Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, and the Mexican Hat Dance are the tracks for the first three stages. Ultimately, out of the eighteen total tracks, twelve are original tracks while six are remixes of the original twelve. The twelve original tracks are solid but unremarkable reproductions of the original pieces. The remixes on the other hand are dreadful. Not only are they poor interpretations of the originals, the tracks themselves sound like they came out of the 8-bit Nintendo. So if you plan on completing a difficulty level in one sitting, be prepared to listen to six out of eighteen songs basically twice; one decent, one horrific.
Besides the remixes, there are a couple of features to mention that detract from the overall enjoyment of the game. The practice mode allows a player to play through a stage without the chance of failing. It's something that I didn't find personally useful since you can always retry a stage if you fail. Another feature that seems completely pointless is the save and replay function after completing a stage. Essentially, you can re-watch what you just did or save it for posterity. Other than saving an 'S+' performance for bragging rights, I don't see much point in watching yourself play through a stage.
As you complete more and more of the game, you begin to unlock extra content. One of these unlockable features is a bio section which offers interesting behind-the-scenes information of each cartoon character. There's also a jukebox section that details some of the history of the music and their composers. It also allows you to listen to the tracks again without playing the game. But as far as extra content goes, these are all one-off type bonuses that don't demand any revisiting.
All in all, Looney Tunes: Cartoon Conductor is a pleasing rhythm game that honors the legacy of its classic characters. The animated segments, character models and voices are well produced. The gameplay - while nothing special - does hold your attention, but gets repetitive. It's definitely worth a play through despite the atrocious remixes, some useless features and bland extras. It should easily please younger kids or even beginners looking for their first taste of a rhythm game.