Reviewed: October 13, 2004
Reviewed by: Arend Hart
Released: September 7, 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 Game Chronicles approached me with Fairly Odd Parents: Shadow Showdown, 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 was I thinking". Well, kind of…
Fairly Odd Parents is a show about a pre-teen Timmy Turner, who lives in the cartoon town of Dimmsdale with his two absent-minded parents, an evil babysitter named Vicky (…that’s “icky” with a “V”…), and two very special fairy god parents named Cosmo and Wanda. Week after week, the show’s theme is follows the same formula – Timmy’s eventual triumph in the face of adversity. That’s fancy talk for Timmy using his fairy godparents to keep from getting his butt kicked by bullies, while constantly dodging a pesky school principal who suspects fairy godparents are at work in Timmy’s success.
The game starts with Timmy getting ready to watch the finale of his favorite television show, Crash Nebula. Timmy’s heart is broken when he discovers that his television is on the fritz. What’s a boy with pair of fairy godparents to do? Well, put their asses to work, of course! Timmy “wishes” that his godparents would fix the TV – yet for some unknown reason, neither godparent’s magical wand seem to have any effect.
Deeming this situation an “emergency”, Timmy commands his fairies to use their extra-special “open only in case of..” emergency wands. This initiates a long, tedious training mission where you, as Timmy, learn the slim variety of actions and maneuvers afforded to you, as well as the method of employing the “wish” system, with which Timmy gains powerups and necessary weapons.
Timmy and friends are then skirted off to Fairyland where they learn that the fairies have been left powerless by invading forces. As the human, this leaves only Timmy to restore order – a job he enthusiastically accepts, not so much to help his fairies, but to ensure that the TV is fixed before the repeat broadcast of the Crash Nebula finale scheduled for the following night.
Not surprisingly, Fairly Odd Parents: Shadow Showdown follows the standard licensed-release formula of equal parts hop-and-bop platforming and simplistic puzzle work, with a dash of requisite boss battles. Very little about Fairly Odd Parents is new or even different from any of the other licensed fare, save for the “wish” system which affords Timmy a number of puzzle-specific tools and/or weapons. Still, all said and done, the premise is the same – enter world, collect coins to purchase powerups, use powerups to reach high platforms, collect stars from high platforms to get “wishes” granted, use granted wishes to solve puzzles, solve puzzles to open next level, and every so often fight a boss to move on.
The controls are sufficient, but not nearly as fluid as in, say Ratchet and Clank or Jak and Daxter. Worse yet, with Timmy’s balloon head bobbing around freakishly and often concealing the rest of his body from the camera, movement and positioning were more difficult than they should have been. This was especially the case when lining up for big platform jumps, which often ended with Jimmy plummeting diagonally to his death instead of straight-ahead. Thankfully, it’s fairly easy to keep ahead of the health bars, so dying isn’t much of a issue.
To be completely honest, I have to admit that I didn’t enter this review totally unbiased – every reviewer knows what to expect from a licensed platformer, and generally does all they can to avoid having to review said titles – I expected the worst from Fairly Odd Parents: Shadow Showdown. And while I will say that my initial impressions were not too far off the mark – all said and done, Fairly Odd Parents: Shadow Showdown is not a total loss. Regardless of the cookie-cutter licensed gameplay, there was a smattering of originality; the chance to play a part in a good ‘ole game of pinball, or the ability to fly a glider – both of which were a nice (albeit short) change from the mediocrity.
Still, there wasn’t a whole lot in Fairly Odd Parents: Shadow Showdown to really hold my attention for more than two or three very uncomfortable hours, and even my kids lost interest after fifteen minutes or so – the same kids who have watched Fairly Odd Parents marathons without batting an eye – this games is just not very exciting, period.
Graphically, Fairly Odd Parents: Shadow Showdown could easily port over to the PSone with nary a scratch. True, that may sound like a backhanded way to say that the graphics are not up-to-snuff, but there is a certain charm to the old PSone 3D platformers of yore –and for us older fellas, there’s definitely the old-school nostalgic feel. Fairly Odd Parents is a great example of how the lines can blur between the definitions of “outdated 3D” and “cell shading” – I’m not quite sure which we are getting here. I’m leaning on the latter, as the game looks very much like the show – heavy outlines, flatter characters, etc – however, the textures, animations and shadowing (or lack thereof) just scream last-generation. Nevertheless, the graphics are tolerable and save for some frequent slowdown, they get the job done.
Thankfully, the developers refrained from bringing Timmy and pals into true animated 3D. Recent attempts at 3D-ifying Spongebob Squarepants and the Simpsons have proved to be, er…, downright creepy with their cadaver-like appearances. And having seen what Timmy’s creators already approved with the big Jimmy Neutron/Timmy Turner crossover episodes aired on Nick a few months back, Timmy in 3D would make perfect Halloween fare.
All of the shows actors play their roles in voicing for Fairly Odd Parents: Shadow Showdown, yet come across a somewhat uninspired. As with the show, Cosmo is truly the shining star, with a bevy of great gag lines and a very distinct voice.
The music was the sleeper high point for Fairly Odd Parents: Shadow Showdown, expressing an unexpected level of quality and situation-specific tone. The use of organic sounding instrumentation and orchestrations was definitely a surprise for the licensed fare which could have easily inherited the standard singsong MIDI bleeps and bloops that usually accompany licensed titles.
Fairly Odd Parents: Shadow Showdown is one of THOSE games. Yes, like many of the licensed platformers before it – Tarzan, Emperor’s New Groove, Aladdin, Monsters Inc. – Fairly Odd Parents: Shadow Showdown starts out slow, and tedious, and repetitive, and that is exactly what it is until the end. But for some reason, no matter how stagnant the gameplay, you still feel compelled to continue and complete.
But let me warn you that when all is said and done, you are not getting your forty dollars worth – there just isn’t a whole lot of depth in the kiddie pool, people. Forty clams is way too much to pay for a licensed platformer, especially when there are (relatively) better – and equally as new – Nickelodeon games like The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius: Attack of the Twonkies available for half the cost…new.
If, like me, you have a couple of kids, even teens, prancing around the house – go ahead and rent Fairly Odd Parents: Shadow Showdown for a weekend. They’re sure to get a kick out of seeing familiar characters onscreen, even if only for a few minutes. For seasoned adults, the gameplay will prove to be a bit tired, yet strangely addictive.
I would not recommend a full-priced purchase in lieu of the scores of infinitely better (and cheaper) platformers already available for the PS2. Heck, you could take the same forty dollars and buy both Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando and Jak 2, which just made it to the Greatest Hits line, or wait for the third iterations of either and be much, much happier.