When I was told I'd be reviewing The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, a game based on a cartoon that I've only seen a few times, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Not having much background on the game, I was preparing myself for a platformer of sorts, but what I didn't really expect was a 1-to-4 player brawler. What I did expect, however, was the sub-par level of gameplay that's within the game.
The story is about as random as the show, and involves the theft of Grim's, ahem, 'mojo balls', glowing purple orbs filled with dark energy. From there the plot is really just a poor excuse to string together a series of battles as you fight people who have been corrupted with rage from the dark energy within. Here's the rest of the game: "Hey lets go to this location." "Oh no, they're corrupted!" Fight commences. Rinse and repeat. Then again, it's a fighting game, so putting any stock in plot isn't really recommended.
First and foremost, to play this game and have any sort of enjoyment, you'll probably want to actually know what the show is. Otherwise, you might be questioning why the Grim Reaper is hanging out with a couple kids (something about a dead hamster and a battle for souls that Grim lost...or something...), who the characters are, what their relation to anything could possibly be, and so forth. The fighters have been picked up from every corner of the show, from the well-known to some of the more obscure. As far as I could tell, there wasn't much difference between the characters in how they fought so when it comes to character selection, it's all about whom you like the most.
The actual game itself is an isometric beat-em-up, with fights between up to four participants taking place in a variety of arenas. There's not a whole lot to the battles, at least when it comes to the gameplay. There's a weak attack, a strong attack, the ability to pick up weapons and, when the opportunity presents itself, other combatants. Also, when you pick up enough of the 'mojo', you'll be able to unleash a powerful combo or super attack. This all mostly leads to button mashing to get simple combos. There's not even much reason to use a powerful attack, which is slow and leaves you open to a faster attack, since weak attacks will stun your opponent long enough to finish a combo and do some decent damage.
The fighting system is fairly shallow, there's no denying that. Luckily, the game keeps itself fresh in a variety of ways. First are the arenas themselves. Filled with AI baddies, turrets, traps, destructible objects, and a variety of weapons to play with, the arenas are filled with the same kind of humor as the rest of the game. There's nothing quite like taking control of a pink, three-headed giant dog as it breathes fire and bites at your opponents, or using a pig-turret - a spit pig that fires apples from its mouth - to take out opponents in Valhalla.
The arenas are also multi-leveled, allowing you and your opponents to, after a certain time or trigger, move on to another part of the arena. For example, after fighting on a platform of stone in the Underworld for a little while, a giant snake comes along, tears it apart, and then its back becomes the next fighting ring as it careens through the lava.
The biggest problem I found with these arenas is that, though they emulate the chaotic feeling of the show, they emulate it far too well. It's too easy to lose track of where your character is, who you're fighting, what's going on, and what's the nearest threat. The fact that you can regularly get knocked off screen or across the level doesn't help this at all.
There're a lot of modes of play as well. You can battle out in Crush the Horde, where you battle the little AI enemies that flood every level; Capture and Hold, which is sort of like a multi-point king of the hill with flags; a weird one called Bask-eye-Ball, where you have to color an eyeball in your teams color before tossing it to a Cyclops's head, and a bevy more. Of course, if you just want to duke it out, there's always the classic Last Man Standing to satisfy your need for bleed.
There's also a host of unlockables. As you complete modes, whether in single player or the mission mode of the game, you'll unlock more and more content. This ranges from adding new costumes for the characters, to adding weapons to play with in VS mode, to even adding entirely new battle modes. There's a lot to acquire, and a lot to do to get it all.
All in all, the game's a pretty weak beat-em-up. A lack of any intelligence devolves into some simple button mashing most of the time, and you'll often be wondering what's happened to your character in the chaos. Even so, the interesting battle modes and arenas are enjoyable enough to warrant play. Additionally, the humor and style of the show is obviously present, so if you like that, this game will probably be more to your liking.