I’ve always enjoyed crossover fighting games, especially those that mimic the format of the Super Smash Bros. series. Even if the combat isn’t anything spectacular it’s always fun to watch characters that shouldn’t by any logic be in the same room together beating the crap out of each other for no reason. Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion XL (or PTE, as I’ll refer to it as) takes a decent shot at the genre, but is it worthwhile?
PTE started out as a 3DS title that was met with rather sub-par reviews. The “XL” version, released for Wii, Xbox 360 and PS3 (this review is based on the 360 version), promises a more updated and polished game. Honestly, the game looks more like an early XBLA title than a disc release. I normally don’t care very much about graphics, but at times the jerky animations and iffy hit detection get in the way.
Aside from the graphics, PTE has a pretty decent amount of content. The 32-level Story Mode turns the game into more of a beat-em-up than a platformer/fighter and can be beaten in a few hours but serves as a way to unlock a large portion of the character roster. Speaking of the character roster, it honestly blew me away. Sure, there are a few characters from recent cartoons like Ben 10, Flapjack and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, but being able to play as Aku from Samurai Jack (not to mention Jack himself), Monkey from Dexter’s Laboratory or Him from The Powerpuff Girls? Awesome. The cast of 26 characters (eight of which are new for the “XL” version, and each character has an unlockable alternate costume) ensure that just about anyone who grew up watching Cartoon Network will have a favorite character, including one especially classic cartoon character I’d rather not spoil for you.
In addition to the 26 playable characters there is a large roster of assist characters you can unleash through powerups found in-game, sort of like the Pokeballs and Assist Trophies from Super Smash Bros. Each playable character has a special combo attack to use with a specific assist character, so its always fun to watch how two completely random cartoon characters unleash some crazy mega attack.
Putting the nostalgia factor aside, PTE honestly isn’t that strong of a game. The combat works but isn’t as solid as most fighters, the graphics are sub-par and the physics can be problematic at times. But you know what? I still had fun with it. Being able to beat up Johnny Bravo with The Scotsman is awesome and four-player couch multiplayer is still damn fun despite the game’s shortcomings, including the inability to play online. Anyone who didn’t grow up with Cartoon Network might not see the draw in PTE, but those who grew up watching cartoons like Dexter’s Laboratory or Kids Next Door will have fun.