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Fairly OddParents: Shadow Showdown Package Art
 GENRE
  Platformer
 DEVELOPER
  Blitz Games
 PUBLISHER
  THQ
 NUMBER OF PLAYERS
  1
 CONNECTIVITY
  No
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Fairly OddParents: Shadow Showdown

Fairly OddParents, as you most likely already know, is one of Nickelodeon’s more profitable properties, and more importantly, one of its funniest and most popular NickToons. Previous toon-to-game conversions for the franchise have left much to be desired. Fairly OddParents: Shadow Showdown is the latest in the series of these lackluster Fairly OddParents platforming titles for the GBA. Does Shadow Showdown pull itself out of the shadow of its predecessors and do the show justice?

visuals

It’s hard to describe the visuals as anything more than mediocre. On the one hand, the colorful character designs and animations are pretty funny and though simple, are effective at replicating the feel of the series. Seeing a heavily armored gorilla stray from his guard to messily devour a banana is truly funny stuff. Seeing Timmy’s head inflate to ridiculous proportions so that he can float upwards is also pretty amusing. Some of the locales are also visually interesting to some degree, as is the case with the jungle level which takes place within a city of banana houses and filled with vines and shrubbery.

That said, the level designs on the whole are pretty boring. Though they feature some good use of color here and there, the palette for the level usually consists of only a couple colors, and backgrounds have very little depth to them. The levels don’t contain a whole lot of variety within their various subsections, what you see the first subsection is pretty much what you’ll get for the other five or so.

One aspect of the visual presentation that is a particular eyesore is the terrible cut scene work. You’d think that a show based off of a cartoon would have animated cut scenes, right? Wrong. The cut scenes make what appears to be a simple story almost unintelligible. I had to go to the instruction book to figure out what was supposed to be going on. The problems here are two-fold. One: the scenes are fast-moving still montages that are meant to illustrate a storyline but fly by so fast that you have no idea what’s going on. The fact that they completely lack any sort of speech or text doesn’t help either. Two: the stills are heavily artifacted. It looks almost like they just took low quality jpeg stills from a digital picture of a TV and plopped it in there to confuse you even further.

audio

The audio is poor overall. Sound effects get the job done decently but don’t add much to the game, which, being based off of a cartoon, should have some lively sound effects. Music tracks are tolerable but can sometimes become annoying. An exception to this is the music for the “Scary Christmas” level, one of the better levels in the game. The music is comprised mostly of a goofy medley of Christmas carol remixes, featuring the likes of “Jingle Bells”, “Deck the Halls”, and “O come all ye faithful” which adds a lot to the levels atmosphere.

gameplay

While the game features some high spots, such as the Christmas level mentioned above, it falls firmly within to the realm of tired platformer design. The levels all feature a theme and are broken up into five or more subsections, each with the goal of getting from point A to the door at point B. This is accomplished mainly through jumping and moving blocks to allow yourself to get to higher spots. Occasionally you’ll also be privy to a less than stellar boss battle, all involving the Shadow villain of the title.

Timmy’s life is represented by four-leaf clovers, where a hit takes away one leaf. Horseshoes are scattered about the levels, and if you grab one, it adds another precious clover to your life meter. Also present is a large star to the left of the life meter. By collecting stars scattered throughout the levels, you can fill up the star meter, which then fills up one full clover’s worth of life. The only true danger of dying comes not from challenge, but rather from poor hit detection on enemies. Timmy can stun enemies (you can’t ever kill them or make them disappear) by jumping on top of them or butt stomping the ground, but the hit detection for jumping on them is terribly and often leads to you just injuring yourself, an inexcusable oversight for a 2D platformer.

The wish system attempts to liven up this rather simple system by allowing Timmy to use his grandparents for wishes. This carries with it some interesting possibilities. The player controls Timmy most of the time, running and jumping, but can switch to either of the fairy godparents with R or L when needed, though control goes back to Timmy if he gets attacked.

Wanda can be selected with R, at which point you control her, and the other two stay put, though an invisible leash binds her so that she can’t stray too far. She can use her wand to change enemies into other enemies, which is a cool concept. Unfortunately each enemy can only be changed into one other thing (sometimes another, easier enemy and sometimes an anvil, which you can use to reach higher areas). This makes it really obvious what you have to do to progress further. If you see a dog standing next to a high ledge, and you know that the dog turns into an anvil with a smack of the wand, there you go, problem solved. That’s about as complicated as the puzzling gets. Any clever puzzle is quickly made boring by repeated use of the mechanic later in the level.

Cosmo will change into an object at key moments in the level, and when you tap L, you also change into that object. The objects can be pretty creative. You can change into a light bulb to fend off shadows, a gopher so that macaws swoop down and pick you up to take you to higher areas, you can don a cat suit to lure dogs, and more. Most of these are accompanied by funny specific animations that liven up the gameplay a little. However, the problem of gimmicky and overused linear puzzle design is still present here.

The best gameplay moments come from the combined use of both fairy godparents’ powers. One instance has you donning a cat suit to lure a dog over to a ledge, where you quickly switch to Wanda and change him into an anvil so you can jump up to the ledge. Some enemies also spice things up a bit, like a TV camera that captures you and sends you to a TV world where you have to escape before time runs out, and laser-shooting robots who you can trick into shooting themselves or opening up new areas by dodging their blasts in front of angled metallic walls. These moments add a good amount of fun, but are unfortunately few and far between.

multiplayer

N/A

overall

THQ and Blitz Games have once again missed the mark. A potentially lively and creative gameplay experience with some funny wishes has instead become a mediocre-at-best platformer that only clocks in at around 5 hours of playtime. It fails to recreate the humor and fun of the cartoon series, and doesn’t give you much reason to pick it back up once you beat it. Other gripes, like poor cut scenes, and an archaic password save system keep the title from escaping lower-end mediocrity, and eclipse the few truly fun moments. If you happened to find it lying around on the sidewalk, you might pick it up and give it a shot, otherwise, leave it to the hardcore fans of the series.

final score 5.0/10





WRITER INFORMATION
Staff Avatar Mike Spaulding
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"The only thing better than a giant squid is a giant squid with katanas."


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