Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal Review
Looney Tunes has always been about madcap fun loaded down with genuine old-fashioned slapstick humor. Therefore, one would assume a title like Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal would be the perfect game for kids, considering the legendary cartoon characters have always managed to entertain youngsters for decades. However, if you have access to a car, a little bit of cash, and are aware of a location that sells DVDs, you're better off locating a DVD collection of Looney Tunes. They'll probably be much more satisfied with the classics, because this video game adaptation does little to entertain and a lot more to irritate and frustrate. With lame-duck visuals, repetitive and even annoying sound, a truly wacky camera and gameplay that only gets better after a very bad start, Acme Arsenal fails to deliver in just about every aspect. Of course, very young children who don't know any better might have fun for a while, but it won't be long before the Legos suddenly seem more appealing.
We realize this is a new generation and PS2 graphics may appear worse than normal to us, but we're relatively certain we saw better visual presentations during the first six months of the PS2's existence. The graphics are just plain bland, uninspired, and lack any real detail. The various characters don't look too bad and there's some intriguing level design, but the endless supply of robotic enemies look like the blocky foes we grew accustomed to in the original PlayStation era. There's some decent environmental and landscape diversity, but that completely ridiculous Coyote/Roadrunner racing game is almost entirely devoid of anything we'd call "graphical quality." Granted, its target audience may not care, but there are plenty of other video games geared towards a younger age group that look halfway decent. These visuals aren't even average; the coloring is bad, there's a ton of clipping and other imperfections, and the graininess is so overwhelming it's nigh-on comical. Yeah, we're supposed to laugh a bit at Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal, but we're not supposed to be laughing at its less-than-mediocre technicals.
The sound is marginally better, if only because the zany effects and some of the recognizable character sayings give the game a warmer feel. The soundtrack really hurts it, though, as it's both wildly repetitive and mind-numbingly irritating. We understand the cartoon atmosphere needs to permeate a title such as this, but why couldn't we at least have had a couple different tracks? Every "new" beat is clearly cut from the very same mold, and it isn't long before you'll start searching for a way to turn off the music. Furthermore, too many of the effects simply don't match the action on screen; why does a giant gun make a popping sound? And why does that gun sound like a boxing glove on impact? Bugs and Co. have their customary catch phrases, but they too get repeated far too often, despite being relatively well implemented. Thing is, we've heard far better sound effects and music in other children's games in the last generation, and this one just grates. But while the graphics and sound fall far short, we knew all it needed was some appropriately addictive gameplay.
Yeah, well, we didn't get that, either. What we got was an outrageously linear experience that actually limits the different game modes and forces the player to suffer before giving us some passable fun. Like we said before, there's some surprisingly decent level design, but we really couldn't enjoy much of it due to the poor controls and even worse camera. You'll know you're in for a bumpy ride the instant you start the tutorial, and while the actual Story mode is better than that horrendous tutorial (thankfully), it's not a lot better...and it needed to be. There's virtually no plot to speak of, and while we didn't really need one, it would've been nice to know our purpose in each level. We couldn't even figure out what the goal was, so we just kept jumping around and attacking. Eventually, we'd reach our desired destination, but not after far too many of the same battles and other "battles" that should never have been fought. The camera, for example. Why exactly did that need to be a battle?
You do have control over this very loose camera, but that's not really the issue. The problem centers on where the default camera settles while jumping around the level; you'll often find yourself staring at a wall (or worse, inside a wall), or getting beat over the head by invisible enemies. And unfortunately, when you do finally get your bearings, you'll almost wish you hadn't. Bugs and his cohorts can attack in three different ways, and that includes flying slams and sliding spin kicks, but there's never any real reason to switch off between the standard (Square) attack, and any other style. Besides, once you realize that the jump attack pretty much works throughout the entire game, any depth the combat mechanic had disappears entirely. We do get an assortment of projectile weapons, like special guns and the Martian's extendable boxing glove, but they're also largely unnecessary. The worst part is, this game isn't that easy on the Normal difficulty setting, and it has nothing to do with how you approach the battle. You just get hit every now and then, and your health bar isn't very long.
For a game designed for kids, this seems very strange. Granted, you won't really be dying that often, and if you do, you can replay from the last checkpoint, anyway, but it's still bizarre. However, there is some good news. The game gets a lot better as you play, and as you progress through levels where you play as Daffy, Foghorn Leghorn, and Taz, you will soon get a little smile on your face. Despite everything Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal has going against it, there's a smidgen of that hilarious flair hiding beneath the surface. Sometimes, it gets buried under a sea of bad control and programming issues (Bugs once floated in mid-air near a box we were trying to grab onto), but when you jack bad dudes up with Foghorn's minigun or just go off the wall with Daffy, a smile will start to crease the corners of your lips. It goes into hiding whenever those critical problems rear their ugly heads, but it'll emerge here and there. There's enough diversity in the levels and enough non-stop action fused with barely average platforming to provide moderate entertainment, and that's the best that can be said for this game. If you were hoping for something a trifle more robust or accomplished, bear in mind this is just a budget title for kids.
But if there's one thing we couldn't stand, it was having to complete each and every level in succession before being allowed to do anything else, and that includes the Battle mode. We told you about the Coyote-chasing-Roadrunner racing game, but it's so silly, it's not really worth mentioning. Therefore, you're stuck with the primary Story mode, which you must tackle one tedious level at a time. Still, if you can make it through the first few missions, chances are, you'll keep playing just because the game adds much more with time. If you've gone so far as to rent or purchase this title, we have to recommend you give it more of a chance; it takes a little while to get going. Unfortunately, unless you're either a diehard Looney Tunes fan or no older than seven, you probably won't play long enough to reach the semi-fun stuff. There's a significant amount of good-hearted Tunes humor, and that may be enough to keep your hands on the controller, but the technical issues get to be too overwhelming. It's too bad, but the lack of effort is painfully obvious.
Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal is a seriously flawed game that continually stops the player from reveling in old-time cartoon entertainment. It has more going for it later on, but even that doesn't make it worth the price of admission. There are plenty of great titles out there, expressly designed for the younger audiences, and we just can't say that this is one of them. It may seem appealing on the surface, and that smile we talked about will definitely surface at some point, but the overall production is irretrievably crippled.
11/3/2007 Ben Dutka