As a child of the 90’s, I have witnessed the rise in popularity of ‘cartoons for adults’. One of the things I’ve noticed is; at some point just after a sharp rise in popularity, the show usually gets a shot at being a video game. Cartoons can often be difficult to transfer to gaming media, but even more so for this genre. South Park’s FPS, the Celebrity Deathmatch fighter and the Aqua Teen Hunger Force Zombie Ninja Pro-Am games come to mind. Okay games, but sometimes struggling to keep with the same humor and aesthetic of the show. However, the recently released Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon, downloadable from the PSN and XBLA, seeks to entertain players with a nice balance of simple but challenging gameplay blended with the offbeat appeal of the show.
Presented as a side scrolling shooter, players control one of four main characters from the show: level-headed therapist Mark Lily, his drunken wizard co-worker Leonard Powers, the seductive demonic girlfriend Callie Maggotbone or the grizzled Frank Grimes. Controls are simple, taking the Smash TV approach of controlling character movement with the left analog stick and the direction of fire with the right. Players can switch between weapons revealed by breaking the environment with R1 and use a special attack with R2. Stages consist of wave after wave of enemies such as foul-mouthed manbirds, zombies and demons. Characters level up as they kill enemies, netting experience points that can add to various attributes.
The story is, well, something you’d expect from the writers of this colorfully bizarre show. Choppy cutscenes bookend the handful of boss fights, providing a meager plot to drive the action. The lack of animated cutscenes is somewhat disappointing considering that a full episode is unlockable in the extras menu. That being said the voice acting is solid, with voice cast from the show reprising their roles.
It’s rare for a game of this type to place specific focus on character abilities, shy of unique special attacks. Each of the four heroes has their own strengths and weaknesses, some lending themselves better at attacking, while others are more agile or have greater defenses. From the character select screen, you can see the maximum point value for the upgradeable attributes. Characters also have affinities for certain weapons as well, allowing for stun effects or piercing multiple enemies. Unlocked weapons can also be re-equipped at any time from the weapon select menu. The menu does a good job by showing the stat bonus of each weapon, with character-specific graphics highlighting preferred weapons.
Supporting up to four players both online and locally, this is a game best played with others. The difficulty steps up significantly as the game progresses, with stronger and greater numbers of enemies in each following level. To offset the difficulty, any experience points accrued in a level are kept even if all the players die. One of the other nice things about the game is that even though there are four characters, multiple players can play as the same character. This prevents frustrating situations of players being stuck controlling a character they haven’t leveled up yet. Power-ups like increased speed, strength or defense appear at random, providing an edge when the going gets tough and enemies come out of the woodwork.
The game encourages previously completed levels to be replayed in order to find hidden orphaned mutant babies. Once unlocked, these cute creatures provide unique bonuses like additional experience, longer lasting power-ups or shields that damage attacking enemies. Much the same way as weapons, babies can be equipped from the orphanage sub-menu just before entering a level.
All in all, I have to say that I was more then slightly impressed. As far as games based on television shows go, Ugly Americans does a fine job of being a fun and engaging title without losing the charm that sure to attract fans of the show. I definitely recommend this downloadable title.Note: Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon was reviewed on PlayStation 3. A digital copy of the game was purchased by SelectButton.