Long long ago, when I dreamed of heroic gelflings and transforming ambulances, there were a few cartoons I eagerly anticipated each morning. On the weekdays, Starblazers and G.I. Joe. On Saturdays, Muppet Babies. For Sunday, it was Thundarr. Packed in and around those gems were a bunch of sappy dullards that I’ve long since forgotten.
If Konami’s Xiaolin Showdown PSP game is any indication, then its namesake cartoon falls squarely into the “sappy dullards” heap. Aside from the villains, the characters lack any distinguishable personality; the big Texan monk and the token Asian girl may as well be clones. They don’t behave differently and they don’t control differently. They’re just there because, well, I guess they’re in the cartoon.
I’ve seen this game (negatively) compared to stuff like Power Stone. Since it involves arena battles against multiple characters, I suppose I can see why people would do that . . . but there’s still a world of difference. There’s no appropriate comparison for the droning repetition unfortunate reviewers (or anyone crazy enough to actually buy the game) will endure.
1) Beat up two robots.
2) Beat up two robots.
3) Beat up two robots.
4) Beat up two robots.
5) Beat up two robots.
6) Beat up two robots.
7) Fight a boss who looks suspiciously like an upscaled version of the robots you’ve already been fighting.
8) Play a mini-game.
9) Return to step one.
I wouldn’t call Dynasty Warriors the most diverse game around, but at least Koei had the decency to give some enemies spears and some enemies swords. And they let you kill dozens of them at once while roaming an expansive map. Xiaolin Showdown makes you fight the same damn robots over and over, again and again, but only two at a time. Play long enough and you’ll get to kill something other than robots, but why bother?
If you do bother, then you’ve got to deal with the most annoying “allies” in existence. Your three robot-smashing buddies have an annoying tendency to pick up all the powerups that appear. They also like to cast “whirlwind” spells. This spell briefly traps all on-screen enemies in a miniature tornado, incapacitating them for a few seconds.
The spell also traps you. So, for a few seconds, you can’t move because you’re stuck in a dumb tornado. Even worse, your “friend” often won’t try to beat up the robots while you’re busy being paralyzed. He’ll just run around the screen. Laughing at you, no doubt. And once you’re free, he’ll trap you in another tornado. He grabbed all the energy-replenishing powerups while you were incapacitated, after all!
If you can get past the repetitive game design and annoying allies, then you can probably get past the choppy animation and slow, unresponsive controls, too. Or maybe you’re just planning to foist this dud off on your least favorite child. Don’t do it! As I’ve said before, games for children don’t have to be bad.
Between this and Pocket Racers, Konami apparently made the mistake of assuming little kids are clamoring for bad PSP games. Or perhaps Konami harbors a cruel vendetta against Sony. Either way, Xiaolin Showdown is yet another example of how North American publishers prematurely tanked the PSP.