Handheld Naked Mole-Rat
You’re quite bright for a cheerleader.
51; Monkey Fist
Ever want to be a cheerleader that moonlights as a super-spy? Yeah, that one didn’t occur to me either, but that fun combination is the inspiration behind Kim Possible, the Disney Channel animated series that serves the basis for Kim Possible 3: Team Possible.
Between Spy Kids, Agent Cody Banks, and Totally Spies, there’s been a glut of teen espionage properties over the last few years, a fact not lost on Disney. The mega-corporation spawned Kim Possible in 2002, one of the better animated series on the Disney Channel that year, and like Lilo & Stitch, That’s So Raven, and Lizzie McGuire, it wasn’t long before Kim Possible showed up on the GameBoy Advance.
As with the previous installments, KP3 is not meant to innovate or revolutionize gameplay, merely attract tween-and-younger consumers to the lucrative video game market. Québec-based Artificial Mind & Movement (A2M) has become something of a go-to developer for games based on existing children’s properties. The company’s entire GameBoy résumé consists of Disney, Dreamworks, and Cartoon Network shows and movies. That said they have improved slightly on their previous Possible outing, Kim Possible 2: Drakken’s Demise, and continued to advance far past the rather mundane Kim Possible: Revenge of Monkey Fist, developed by Digital Eclipse Software. Who puts “revenge” in the title of a first installment anyway? Everyone knows you wait until the second or third game for that.
Game-wise, KP3 is a fairly standard platformer, but it does something I wish more platformer’s did—it allows players to return to previously completed levels to explore and find hidden areas. Admittedly, the hidden areas aren’t much different from the non-hidden areas, and the secrets that can be unlocked are, well, not that secret. Still, it’s the thought that counts and replayability is a welcome treat for this or any platformer.
Players can control two-and-a-half characters in the game. There’s Kim, the star with acrobatic skills and a trademark hair dryer-like grappling hook, Ron, the side-kick who knows ninjutsu and occasionally manifests super-powers, and Rufus, the naked mole-rat that serves as a secret weapon in Ron’s pants. (Why does that sound dirty?)
Rufus, of course, steals the cartoon show on a regular basis, so it’s surprising his role is marginalized in the game. He has the ability to run and bite, but he can’t attack enemies. He unlocks doors for Ron and Kim by running on hamster wheels that bad guys conveniently hook up to locked doors, unfortunately there’s a time limit on how long the naked mole-rat can be out of Ron’s pants, and some Rufus missions can take the entire time. By the time you reach Rufus’ destination, you are mystically transported back to Ron’s pants. (Man, that still sounds dirty!)
The bad guys are fairly standard. There are less than a handful of goons to fight, including ninja-monkeys and guys in jumpsuits. The inclusion of ninja-monkeys should be enough to give any game a chance, but it would be nice to have more variety. It is good to see all of Kim’s most regular baddies as bosses one last time though.
There is also a lot of talking in the game. I left the game to my siblings (in the prime demographic) and they were bored after the first minute—manly because it took that long to get past all of the dialogue. What’s more, it’s just talking heads. When I first turned on the game and saw the fairly crisp opening sequence, I thought, “Wow, they might even animate cutscenes.” No such luck. The designers stuck to the tried and true still images with words above them. At least they alternate backgrounds.
The dialogue really becomes a problem when it precedes a boss battle. Whenever a character dies in battle, the game restarts the player just before entering the boss chamber. Unfortunately that means seeing lengthy dialogue sections again without the ability to skip through them.
As mentioned, both Kim and Ron earn power-ups as the game progresses, some more interesting than others. Aside from a grappling hook, Kim earns sonic mines, a holographic projector, and a boomerang comb. The holographic projector is almost useless as there are only a few areas that “need” it to be unlocked, seems like a waste. Ron has, aside from Rufus, rocket shoes, a “life raft shield,” and hot sauce. Like Kim’s holoprojector, Ron’s life raft has no real purpose. In the time it takes you to pull the boat out and use it to deflect a laser, you could have found another way around the device. Rocket shoes seem like an obvious power for a video game, but “hot sauce” is interesting in that, thanks to the spicy concoctions of Bueno Taco, give Ron the ability to breathe fire. Ron’s other super-power is the Monkey Combo, a mystical move Ron learned in one of the cartoon episodes.
Minigames are included as well, although they consist of a few simple puzzle challenges and a series of rollerblade race tracks. Not every video game has to be completely focused on minigames like WarioWare or Mario Party, but every game seems to need them these days, even sophisticated Tom Clancy adventures. It would be nice to see A2M put a little more work into them for the KP franchise, at least those might keep children entertained.
The game does have a two-player feature, but it can only be used if both players have the handheld and separate copies of Kim Possible 3. That may have been well and good for the early days of portable gaming, but newer multiplayer handheld games allow for at least some play with only one cartridge. Plus, as much as Disney would like to think otherwise, I doubt two friends that watch the show together are actually going to buy two copies of the game just to connect their systems.
Since Kim Possible has officially ended, this will likely be the last game about the carrot-topped hero, barring a movie. It’s a shame too, because the concept’s good, it just needs a little more work to be worthwhile in game form (or maybe I’m just asking for too much). Buena Vista seems to be one of the few developers actively pursuing the young female consumer, and it’d be nice to see the same level of planning in these games that goes into blockbuster first-person shooters.