Reviewed: November 4, 2005
Released: October 11, 2005
Teen Titans is based on the hit Cartoon Network program of the same name. Featuring the adventures of this five member group of teen heroes, A2M’s “Teen Titans” aims to make you part of the action. Will Teen Titans be a faithful, and fun, translation of the subject matter to the GBA?
Teen Titans is a side scrolling beat-em’up. That should lay out pretty much the entire game. You advance from stage to stage, beating people up and putting the hurt on any bosses that cross your path. The experience will be linear and pretty repetitive. That’s the box the genre finds itself in and not something many games break out of.
Teen Titans is no exception. You’re given the five main Titan members, Beast Boy, Cyborg, Raven, Robin and Starfire. Each character has their own distinct traits, which (outside of their special ability) are usually shared by one or more members of the team. For example, both Robin and Beast Boy can jump kick, Cyborg and Robin can both double jump, while Beast Boy, Raven, and Starfire can all fly.
In addition to the standard moves, each Titan gets a couple special attacks, one on the ground and one in the air. Here there is a little more creativity, but Starfire and Cyborg still get saddled with the same ground ability, though it does remain true to the source material. The special moves do a lot to distinguish the Titans. It also helps that all the stages have areas only certain Titans can get through, be it energy beams that Raven has to use her magic shield to get bypass or air vents that only Beast Boy (in bird form) can fit through. These special abilities and attacks use up your power meter, which can run out, and you must wait for it to recharge or stumble across power-ups that refill it.
Character selection is simple and doesn’t take you out of the action in any meaningful way. You simply hold down the L button and move to the character of your choice, release the button and you’re then that character. Each character has their own life bar so you’re essentially walking around with five full lives making the game pretty easy. Even more so when you realize that health auto regenerates when that character is not in use, same goes for the special ability bar.
In an interesting twist, while I bemoan the fields of identical enemies. The fact each different color corresponds to a Titan, thus making certain Titans the best choice for taking out certain enemies is an interesting twist and one that frequently leads to Titan switching. The same could’ve been done with *different* enemies though so it doesn’t make up for the massive amount of palette swapping.
The stages, of which there are six, are pretty long, taking you about 20-30 minutes to run though. Luckily, there is a save option, so you can put the game down and come back if things get too boring or frustrating. Frustrating not really because of the difficulty, but because of the shocking number of graphical hiccups including stodgy scenery and frequent slowdown, but more on those later.
The actual game difficulty isn’t exactly punishing most likely so the children, for whom the game is aimed, won’t get frustrated. It also comes with two difficulty settings in addition to the ones you start with in case you want a bigger challenge. Unfortunately, to make then selectable, you must beat the game under normal mode and one play through was pretty much all I wanted to experience.
While the gameplay may be standard, the graphics certainly aren’t. And I don’t mean that in a good way. Outside of boss characters, you’ll be fighting the three henchmen the entire game. Sure, some of them are palette swapped, but that’s the only difference. It’s still “guy, big guy, and guy with gun” throughout the entire game. Even the mid-bosses are palette swaps of other characters. The bosses themselves are of the H.I.V.E. team and do get their own distinct art.
Outside of the henchmen, there are other obstacles but not that many. Even some of them are palette swapped as well. If you’re wondering what the team did with all this extra time they didn’t spend on making new characters, the answer is in the character animation. It’s some of the best I’ve seen on the GBA. The characters themselves look incredibly smooth in motion and the style does strongly invoke the cartoon. Sadly, most of the cut scene interpretations of the characters are slightly off model.
The stages themselves are nicely done, but they’re too similar, the second and the fourth really feel like the same stage and the first and sixth are also very similar (they take place in the same area.) It seems a trade-off was made between characters and looks and I can’t say I entirely agree that tradeoff was the best decision for the game.
Another of the major problems has to do with optimization. Numerous henchmen and bosses were stuck into the scenery where they couldn’t be hit. I even had to play through the final stage a second time (with a run time of around 38 minutes) because the final boss got stuck in the background. The frequent slowdowns must also be mentioned. It happens, not every frame but more then I think a game should.
After the almost complete disaster the graphics were, the sound is a relatively bright spot for the game. The main menu has a portion of the TV theme (complete with spoken “TEEN TITANS”) the stage music is pretty diverse and occasionally the character themselves speak, nothing new, just recycled clips from the show. Raven even speaks her special attack.
The game only has six stages, but each takes around 20-30 minutes to fight through. There is an entire “extras” section available. The more of the game you complete, the more bonuses you unlock. The great majority of these are bio cards as well as an asset viewer and music test.
The challenged the bio cards pose are pretty interesting, some more the others. Most of it is either beating a stage under a time limit, collecting on the Titans cards scattered around the stages or beating a stage under a certain difficulty level.
Beat-em‘ups, by their nature, are largely repetitive affairs. It’s often hard to spice up simple combat, but Teen Titans really drops the ball. Palette swapping two underlings for six stages makes things very boring. The boss characters were better, the game does sometimes make use of patterns and strategy, but the fact most of the game blurs together is a real black mark.
The numerous and repeating graphical errors along with slowdown in certain points just do further to sink the game. The game does have a lot for you to unlock, by completing stages under different difficulties and conditions, but the core game itself is so boring there’s nothing there to really WANT to make you unlock anything.
If you’re a fan of the genre I would hesitantly suggest a rental, provided you’ve played the majority of the available GBA beat-em’ups and want to try something different. Even for fans of the show, I’d advise them to go elsewhere for their Titan fix. The GBA has a pretty wide selection of brawlers and some have to be better then this.