My hat goes off to Cartoon Network’s gaming department, which has followed on from ‘Steven Universe’ their first foray into the RPG genre with an equally impressive miniature slice of action in Teeny Titans, this time based on the popular modern series ‘Teen Titans GO!’
‘Teen Titans GO!’ is a series of short animated comedy skits based on an older animated property simply titled ‘Teen Titans’ which was well known for having an off-beat sense of humor and was itself based on the ‘Teen Titans’ super group comics from DC, consisting initially of sidekicks but eventually opening up its roster to include wholly original characters as well. The show in both forms focuses on Robin (Dick Grayson), Raven, Starfire, Beastboy and Cyborg and the game puts you squarely in control of Robin.
Graphically the game strives to recreate the flashy, stylized look of the show and manages to accomplish this with a great deal of visual polish that seamlessly mashes 3D assets with 2D elements. Exploring the city and battling look good, but the real visual polish comes when you’re shopping for figures. Being able to rummage through piles of figures handing on shelves in real-time 3D, tossing aside the ones you want and jamming those you do into your basket captures perfectly the feel of searching for toys in a shop as a child and shows a level of attention unseen in many titles. You can even flip and explore the figure and its package in 3D, reading the stats off the back and checking to see what you’re buying. The 3D model work is of a good level, with multiple animations for each ‘figure’ and these run smoothly and seamlessly. The games world map initially seems small but expands exponentially as you play to encompass new areas that surround Titans Tower. An animated intro in the style of the show also helps set the scene.
Sound is a fine addition to the title, and though the original (and highly catchy) Teen Titans theme doesn’t make an appearance, the game has made ample use of voice work from all of the original actors, especially Robin whose comments constantly accompany your actions. Sound effects in battle represent the cartoony nature of the show and match attacks as out-there as ‘fling waffle’ perfectly. The music is energetic and upbeat, with some samples more interesting than others. The world map theme as you explore the city is background fodder, enabling you to better head the quips of passing characters but lacking a voice of its own, whilst in comparison the battle-ready screen remixes the GO! theme in interesting ways as if a DJ were scratching at the record. Everything is clear and crisp, showing a high level of attention.
In-keeping with the off-beat nature of the show’s comedy, the game opens with the Titans learning of a new sensation sweeping the city. A miniature battling game not unlike ‘Skylanders’ featuring familiar faces from the DC library and the Titans themselves. Dubbed ‘Teeny Titans’, the games creator (voiced superbly by George Takei!) announces a massive competition that will be taking place in the location around Titans Tower and before the player can even blink the team are at each other’s throats in an effort to ‘be the very best’ and ‘buy them all!’ There’s satire laid on for recent figure collecting games, as well as for the monster collection genre overall, especially ‘Pokemon’ but this doesn’t stop the game from having its own style and flavor. The overall premise if to get all the trophies by qualifying for and defeating each tournament, but mini-missions such as collect targets, fetch quests and scavenger hunts all get passed out by characters around town. A particular highlight are the emails Robin receives, which range from scams he legitimately falls for to notes from Batman that are sure to make you laugh. Aquaman gets a laugh-out-loud cameo that serves to poke fun at his more daft image, which continues to prevail in popular culture despite the sheer power of his character in the comics.
Gameplay, much like in ‘Steven Universe’ is a lesson in simplicity. Robin negotiates the cityscape by auto-running and you change his direction with a flick of a finger. He’ll pause at the end of a route or at a crossroad automatically, but stop early if you click on a point of interest such as a shop or character. Shiny glimmers indicate hidden treasure such as cash or blink-bags with a random figure in them scattered around the landscape and these are procedural generated so you can explore for them every new period of the games day/night cycle which affects which shops are open and where NPCs are at any given moment. Using said cash you’ll buy or find up to 70 figures, each with their own move-sets and visual style that pulls from the show. These also include DC legends such as Darkside and the Joker, with rare variants also available. You can carry six of these around at a time (the rest go into storage at Titans Tower) and 3 of them can be taken into each battle. Battles use a timer bar that ticks up and can be triggered at certain way-points to trigger progressively more powerful attacks, so the longer you wait the better your action, but you’re obviously also racing your opponent’s bar too.You can freely swap between your three figures in battle as they share the same timer, and doing so allows for deeper tactics as well as class advantages over different opponents. Occasionally a hit will spawn coins on screen to tap and nab, but sometimes Tofu also appears which acts in a similar manner to an item block in the ‘Mario Cart’ series. Tapping it starts a reel spinning and where you stop it decides the type of item (or tofu) you receive. These range from speed boosts modeled on the Flash, Power bonuses to attacks and healing. Outside of battle you can feed spare figures into the grinder to level up attacks for your favourite figures and slot a chip into their base that gives a specific boost depending on its type. Characters all level 1-20 and a random stat from a choice of 3 can be chosen each time you do to add further customisation. This means that you can’t max out all your stats for every figure, but instead need to pick a style and run with it, or push for an all-round type. Personally I brought a rare Raven figure dressed as Wonder Woman in the games first five minutes and leveled her with a focus on attack power and health, leaving me with a character I almost always used to win battles. This doesn’t imply that the game is broken however, merely that I put in the work early to afford her, train and level her up properly. The balance on this title is surprisingly good for such a broad range of individuals to call on in battle.
Overall, Teeny Titans is a fantastic game that you purchase once and never pay for again, being devoid of in-app purchases or adverts of any kind. It feels like a full quality DS game, the kind you’d easily pay £30 for, here presented for £2.69 instead. Drawing on comedy and action to lay its foundations, this is a game that will give any fan of RPGs hours of enjoyment. Buy it immediately!