Review: Johnny Impossible

Johnny’s had a busy year in 2012. He’s been in LCD and beat-em up adventures, had Western shootouts, and now has to do the impossible — stop Dr. Wang from unleashing his giant laser upon the world. In order to stop a laser-guided doomsday, Johnny becomes a spy and goes through a variety of levels with a slew of gadgets at his disposal. Grappling hooks, night vision goggles and magnet gloves are just a few of the items you’ll use to progress. The core game is basically an action-platformer with a few minor twists thrown in.

One is a time limit. Like Johnny’s first adventure, there’s only a short period of time to complete the game, making replaying stages a must so they can be moved through as efficiently as possible. There’s a lot of trial and error involved as stages must be moved through stealthily to avoid being seen by either robots or detected by lasers, and the only way to avoid them is to use the gadgets well and combine them with some puzzle-platforming. If there’s a robot with a giant flashlight on patrol, you’ll need to duck into a door, wait for it to not face you, hop out, then blast it with your stun gun to move past. Moving past a laser trap might require using the grappling hook carefully to stop right before a point where a laser will eventually shoot out, and then making sure that there’s enough time left on the item to complete the task.

Every gadget found has a little meter attached to it and can’t be used when it runs out. For some items, like the grappling hook, this works fairly well, but it seems to drain really quickly for the magnet gloves, and even faster for the night vision goggles. Not using them means they’ll only be a small pocket of light around Johnny, making stages much harder to traverse when shrouded in darkness. It also ironically means that you’re more open to being seen, and if you’re detected, death is a near-certainty unless a door or entrance/exit is nearby. Being hit by anything takes two seconds away, and at about the halfway mark, a robot comes after you and snatches you like that giant hand in the Batman: Animated Series episode.

Outside of the things that are different, Johnny Impossible feels like a Kim Possible game — a theme furthered by the spy theme and music, but it doesn’t play as well, or even look as good as KP’s GBA adventures. Much of that is due to the controls, which are  functional, but not quite as precise they should be. Jumping is also a bit stiff, and having to press up to get out of a crawling position seems a bit needless. Jumping off of the grappling hook is also a pain — sometimes you’ll go where you want to, but many times you won’t. The controls as a whole just feel off and constantly give a sense for how much better they could be.

Visually, Johnny Impossible looks fine, but doesn’t impress in any way. The graphical style is true to Johnny’s other games, but the limited animation doesn’t work very well for a platformer. Johnny Impossible’s animation is incredibly limited and the game itself doesn’t look as good as it could.  Everything looks fairly generic, including Johnny since he’s just out to look like Bond, and the environments are your standard genre fare too. There’s little to separate it from the pack aestetically, and that’s never a good thing. Similarly, the music sounds like B-level Kim Possible background music, and while that fits the genre, it isn’t very memorable while playing the game, let alone outside of it. There’s nothing here you’ll be humming later.

Closing Comments:

Johnny Impossible deserves some commendation for mixing things up by putting limits on the gadgetry, but even that has some caveats to it. Some of them really make the game less fun, and the wholly generic look and feel of things doesn’t help matters either. It stands out the least of the Johnny ____ series, and is hard to recommend given how few things it does well compared to other games in its genre.

 Platform: 3DS (eShop)